Ask Answers: What is a Karen, and What Do We Do With Her?
She stomps down the store aisle, her rhinestone-emblazoned top glinting in the fluorescent lighting. Her nostrils flare with the fury of 1,000 dragons as her eyes narrow, but not a hair is out of place in her highlighted helmet of an A-line bob. A heady aroma of white privilege and drugstore perfume permeates the air. Suddenly you hear it — a rhythmic cascade of acrylic nails drumming the counter beyond your register. Her name is Karen, and she's here to speak with your manager.
The infamous "Karen" has actually become a popular internet and real-life villain, blowing up (literally) even more during the COVID-19 pandemic. But what exactly is a Karen, where did all these Karens come from and what do we do with them? We’ve got the answers. Here’s the story behind the internet’s loud, rude and self-centered enemy, Karen.
What Is a Karen?
"Karen" is a slang term often referring to a middle-aged white woman who acts entitled and rude, usually while expecting special treatment that she doesn’t actually deserve. Other common Karen behaviors include bullying retail and restaurant employees, having close-minded viewpoints and throwing public tantrums over the slightest inconveniences. She acts out with little respect for others, thinking whatever Karen wants, Karen gets.
Where Did “Karen” Come From?
Linguists searched far and wide, concluding Karen perhaps has more than one origin. The term has been sighted in an old Reddit post of a man complaining about his ex-wife Karen, Mean Girls and even a 2005 skit by comedian Dane Cook in which he jokes about the most hated friend in the group. Karen may have also began as "a Black meme used to describe white women who tattle on kids’ lemonade stands." Wherever Karen came from, it has evolved in digital culture through memes and social media platforms to the point where Karen is now notorious on Twitter and Tik Tok. The Karen phenomenon is also showing no signs of stopping, and Karens are evolving.
What to Do When You Run Into a Karen
With all the offensive and problematic things Karens do and say, who would want to run into one? Unfortunately, many people have already encountered Karens. If you haven’t, hopefully, you never will. But it’s always a good idea to be prepared for Karens in the wild.