By: KADEN SCHARNOW
Before, when the name “Karen” was mentioned, people would register it in their minds as a familiar, generic name with nothing exceptional about it. It was one of the third most popular baby names in the 1960s, so many elderly or middle-aged women bear this name. Today, the term “Karen” has an avatar. A loud, white, middle-aged woman with a small blond bob for hair complained about the smallest things and asked for a manager. And for people acting this way, people deem them the nickname “Karen.” At a specific view, this nickname can be seen as disrespectful and hurtful to people who were legally named Karen, and to other people who are aware of the women who are in the wrong, just from their name. Why has the word “Karen” gone from the 3rd most popular name to the 635th? Does this internet meme influence American moms? Or is it just an “old” name?
Perhaps recent events are the reason. So many “Karen” incidents have been reported, news stations don’t even bother to use the woman’s real name anymore. “Whitefish Karen” (based off of her hometown in Montana) coughed on a couple after they called her out for not wearing a mask in a grocery store. “Kroger Karen” (based off of the grocery chain)
used her car to block off an African-American woman from leaving the grocery store parking lot. “San Francisco Karen” (based off of the city) called 911 on a Filipino man for presenting the phrase “Black Lives Matter” in front of his own house. These outrageous events could be what causes moms to think twice about deciding the name for their children. The events also affect women with the title, who don’t fit the stereotype. As Henry Goldblatt from the New York Times states, “For some women with the name ‘Karen,’ these videos have made them outraged, of course, and, at times, ashamed.”
Karen Chang, an Asian-American California Bay Area resident, had something to say about this attack on her name: “It was very upsetting, but I would sacrifice my name for the visibility and awareness that incident generated.” And she may just do that. She also mentioned that she’s considering changing her name to “KC.” In San Francisco, a city board of advisors member, Shamann Walton, introduced the CAREN (Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies) Act, which would change the city’s code to punish people who call 911 and file false, racially-based complaints. Across the country, a Boston-Area nurse named Karen Ortiz-Orb and wants the title changed, but has no objection with its purpose. She sent an email to the office asking Mr. Walton to “be mindful of the fact that there are women named Karen and people aren’t differentiating the two. And by naming this bill as he has, he’s doing exactly what the metaphorical “Karen” is doing — creating an opportunity for discrimination.” Mrs. Ortiz-Orband asks to imagine if it were your name: “It’s one thing to make memes,” she explains, “It’s another when you start applying it to laws. You’re villainizing a name that people have, and you’re putting these people at risk. When a woman acts like that name, you should use her correct name.” And she’s right! It’s common sense that it’s disrespectful to take an offensive internet meme as a name for the law taking care of the stereotype. That’ll only make it worse for the women who are being victimized by this nickname.
It’s become a rapid problem since this year took off. The pandemic only made the “Karen” stereotype worse since some women feel entitled to not wear a mask in public places, resulting in another outrageous event. People have to remember that there are victims in this whole internet meme, and that it’s very offensive to use that name for someone so angering. Though it’s not suggested to use hurtful words, it’s better to identify them as their name, and not just Karen. This will eradicate the phrase since nobody would automatically use that phrase like its slang. So when you find someone that’s visibly annoying to you and everyone around you, try to think twice before immediately resorting to a stereotype. People start thinking twice, and perhaps we can save the name “Karen” from disappearing from America’s names.