You're probably aware of the development of a new stereotype called "Karen," a middle-aged white woman who acts from a position of tremendous cultural privilege. She's rude to workers, demands to see the manager and then chews them out because she isn't satisfied with the service, demands freebies and discounts and generally to be satisfied by someone else doing more for her.

I noticed today that both sides of the American virus discussion think that Karen is on the other side.

If you're on the keep-it-closed side, Karen is a woman who is ridiculously pushing for business to re-open even though it will endanger workers, because she wants those businesses to provide her with hairstyles and manicures and other luxuries, and to use shopping as an escape from her horribly-behaved children.

If you're on the open-it-up side, Karen is privileged enough to work from home or have a husband who supports her, and she is unconcerned with suffering and ruin being brought on business owners or workers put out of a job. Instead, she's calling the cops on you for letting your kids play at the neighbor's house, and leaving aggressive notes on your door if she noticed someone delivering groceries 'because quarantine means no visitors!'

Of course there are probably many tokens of both types in the real world, but it's amusing to me to see the disconnect. Both sides are sure Karen is a bad person, but they both think she's the other kind of person.


MikeD said...

"Karen" knows no political bounds. She's a universally reviled force. It is the perceptions of each side that sees the other in her. But at the end of the day, we all know a Karen when we see one. Oh, and "white" was never a requirement that I was aware of. Karen-hood is tied not to "privilege" but to entitlement.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I noted previously that "Karen" is a name for white girls from my generation and was particularly favored by American Scandinavians. The PC nature of current Lutheranism (Missouri Synod is holding on better) makes it inevitable that I regard the current Karen phenomenon as essentially liberal.

Texan99 said...

Off topic a bit, my County Judge observed ruefully today that he's already got people complaining that he lifted the lockdown order too soon. It's inescapable: his community is divided on the subject, so no matter what he does, at least one faction will complain. I think he'll be lucky if the same people don't accuse him of opening too soon AND too late, at the same time--that's what happens to the President. The best he can do is open cautiously and keep a sharp eye on whether the case rate shoots up.

Every few days I get what I call "Karen" complaints, which in my case is entirely on the side of "officious intermeddler who wants to tell other people how to lockdown more properly." Karen is shocked to find that there isn't a huge police force that will investigate everyone she sees engaged in an infraction. Karen also doesn't like my advice that she should call the sheriff, which is just as well, since I'd be amazed if the Sheriff did anything about her complaint. Karen doesn't want to be told, "If you think people out there aren't behaving safely enough, you may have to stay home yourself, take no chances." That's no fun. Now that we're mostly open again, I guess people will call me to report that some restaurant is at 52% capacity, 2% over the limit. My advice is going to be: (1) call the Sheriff, and/or (2) don't go to that restaurant. You can't be too careful! If you're worried, stay home!

Aggie said...

Even though I tend libertarian/conservative, I find the Karen stereotype more firmly rooted on the conservative side. It's the love of order uber alles that's the giveaway for me. We need another meme, in a different name, to pertain to the progressively-bent fascist women among us. Uma? Minnie? Frieda? Nancy?

Still Iadmire your suggestions that the safest place for the Karens of the world is to shelter in their own home, because one can't be too careful - this is best path to take, for all parties concerned - especially the rest of us.

douglas said...

But Karen's aren't about actual order- they're about whatever they think is right, which is often based only on emotion or a sense of belonging to the in-group.

MikeD said...

I find the Karen stereotype more firmly rooted on the conservative side. It's the love of order uber alles that's the giveaway for me.

It's not about "order" it's about "what I (Karen) want". The internet is full of examples of Karens berating some random shopper in a store to "find me the [insert grocery item here]" because they assume that shopper is an employee. And upon being told "ma'am, I don't work here" she demands to see their manager because she's going to have them fired.

That's NOT order. That's not respect for the rules. That's "give me what I want". That's what "being a Karen" is all about.

Texan99 said...

I think of it more as a demand for conformity: "Let's everyone get in line with the program, shall we, hmmm?" Someone who likes going around and identifying infractions. There's a strong flavor of tattle-tale and micromanager. Actually, Nurse Ratched: completely unable to balance a human value against the value of compliance with a system.

Anonymous said...

"Teacher, Teacher, Rickie's too close to Steve and I think they're cheating!"

Or "Sister, Sister, they're not leaving room for the Holy Spirit." (Slow dance at prom. "Sr. Scholastica" and I could both see light through the gap between the couple.)

The impulse knows no politics.


Grim said...

It's an impulse that enjoys substantial cultural support. Managers do in fact respond by giving them things. A substantial part of the economy exists to provide them goods and services; every strip mall in America has a salon or a manicure/pedicure shop or a boutique. They live in a world in which they are the customer, and the customer is always right.

It's small wonder, after a lifetime of that, that many of them come to believe it.