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Is Karen the New N-Word?

Updated on May 4, 2020
Kyler J Falk profile image

Social issues can only be remedied by a collective acceptance of those opinions we view as opposing our own.

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There's a big debate on the internet right now, as there so often is regardless of how ignorant and silly the topic is, whether or not using the term, "Karen," is equivalent to using the "N-word."

I'm not one to take part in these, "debates," in any serious capacity. because I can't keep myself objective with such a subjective topic, but I can bring the topic into perspective.

Is referring to a woman as a, "Karen," equivalent to calling someone the N-word?

It absolutely, unarguably, can be.

Anecdotal History of Disparaging Language

Hopefully I don't have to go into the factual history of disparaging language, the formal semantics and etymology of it all, because I am not going to. I'm going to trust that you are educated and intelligent enough to find and understand all of that yourself, but for those of you who are not then you wouldn't understand if I listed it anyways. Luckily, I can explore the history of disparaging language in layman's terms, and offer an easy to read and comprehend perspective for everyone.

Throughout history disparaging language has been used for one purpose and one purpose only, to subjugate others deemed as less valuable to society. Going back to the earliest records of history, we can see that disparaging language is a powerful tool often used to unfairly marginalize minorities. Equally, disparaging language has also been used as performative cruelty which quickly destabilizes entire social systems.

Take for example how the Jews were treated within the Roman empire, they were often brought into the streets and made to do humiliating things for the entertainment of the Romans. All it took was telling everyone that, "Jew," meant something along the lines of, "less than human," or, "worthy of disdain," and the majority would soon agree. The title of, "Jew," much like the title of, "Karen," could be used as a disparaging term equivalent to the, "N-word."

Source

Karen vs the N-Word

Definition of Karen: "Karen is a mocking slang term for an entitled, obnoxious, middle-aged white woman. Especially as featured in memes, Karen is generally stereotyped as having a blonde bob haircut, asking to speak to retail and restaurant managers to voice complaints or make demands, and being a nagging, often divorced mother from Generation X."

Definition of "N-word": "A contemptuous term used to refer to a member of any dark-skinned people. A contemptuous term used to refer to a person of any racial or ethnic origin regarded as contemptible, inferior, ignorant, etc."

To put it simply for those who need it: Both the term, "Karen," and the, "N-word," can be held on an equal level. Both are contemptuous, hateful, ignorant, prejudice, and any other sort of buzzword we want to throw into the mix here. In most cases, these are the emotions and sentiments behind using the phrase.

Basically, if you're using the term to disparage someone then you're a problem. If you want to argue this, then I assume your comprehension skills are lacking and I'm not going to waste my time on you.

What's more important, intention or literal definition?

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Just Be Nice

It isn't hard, it doesn't cost you anything, and most definitely it is the better choice to not disparage people in the hopes of subjugating and/or hurting them. If any word that comes out of your mouth, any utterance whatsoever is meant to hurt someone else, then it is best to not say it. Of course, I'm referring to people in existence and not concepts.

There are times when disparaging is progressive, and for the good of all. We may all disparage concepts, especially those concepts that support calling people, "Karen," or the, "N-word."

Disparaging things such as racism, sexism, unfair discrimination such as name-calling, murder, lies, etc. that is when disparaging is for the good of all. Like when religion disparages evil, or when the law disparages criminals. However, generalizing people using such an unfair method like name-calling, well you're just asking and even begging for such a concept to be abused more than it is used for constructive progress.

Don't disparage others!

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    • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

      Kyler J Falk 

      4 weeks ago from Corona, CA

      I think I see now, we must all pardon my auditory/visual processing disorder. She hadn't read through the comments to see my explanation, and I automatically assumed she had read this entire dumpster fire.

      My bad!

      @Jo: Pardon my misunderstanding of your question. I had assumed you read my entire comment thread here where I had clarified when disparaging was progressive. In my mind everyone was on the same page, and that is due to a processing disorder which often sees me in these bungles of unfair associations with people who are otherwise uninvolved.

      Disparaging things such as racism, sexism, unfair discrimination such as name-calling, murder, lies, etc. that is when disparaging is for the good of all. Like when religion disparages evil, or when the law disparages criminals.

      Once again, I apologize for my unfair pre-associations, and the reason I could not find the quote was first because you left out the comma so ctrl+f couldn't find it and then I read Shauna's comment as "last sentence of the first paragraph."

      This occurs with me frequently, and I should probably self-identify sooner and more often.

    • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

      Kyler J Falk 

      4 weeks ago from Corona, CA

      I'll reiterate:

      No one has said anything about disparaging being progressive other than it can, "lead to constructive outcomes or deeper understanding" if presented tactfully and tastefully. Unless we consider disparaging things like racism, sexism, and other forms of unfair discrimination like name-calling to be an acceptable form of communication, which in most cases I do find disparaging those behaviors to be progressive.

      Did that not clarify the situation?

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      4 weeks ago from Central Florida

      Kyler, the sentence begins with, "There are times when...". Read the first sentence of your last paragraph.That is what Jo is referring to.

    • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

      Kyler J Falk 

      4 weeks ago from Corona, CA

      So what does that have to do with the quote she offered?

      No one has said anything about disparaging being progressive other than it can, "lead to constructive outcomes or deeper understanding" if presented tactfully and tastefully. Unless we consider disparaging things like racism, sexism, and other forms of unfair discrimination like name-calling to be an acceptable form of communication, which in most cases I do find disparaging those behaviors to be progressive.

      If anyone feels what anyone here has said is seeking to subjugate or hurt someone then it should be directly quoted so that the person can explain why they feel the way they do. Otherwise nothing can be clarified.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      4 weeks ago from Central Florida

      First sentence of the last paragraph.

    • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

      Kyler J Falk 

      4 weeks ago from Corona, CA

      If I copy paste that supposed quote and ctrl+f it, there is nowhere else on the page that it is found. Please elucidate on what you mean, because no one here but you has made this claim.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 

      4 weeks ago from Tennessee

      "disparaging is progressive and for the good of all". You'll have to explain that a little further.

    • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

      Kyler J Falk 

      4 weeks ago from Corona, CA

      As I said, if you want to call people names and present your views at the same time, I have articles made specifically for it. However, this is a sensitive topic, and someone could come by and take offense at such insensitive and unnecessary language. I'd prefer my readers not be negatively triggered on posts made to address very sensitive subjects, and this is what some people are claiming is very sensitive right now.

      I'm asking that no disparaging language be used, in any capacity for any reason, but all I'm getting is contrarian nonsense and humoring said nonsense to the best of my ability.

      Don't disparage people in these comments, and I won't have to make you feel as if you are being reprimanded.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 

      4 weeks ago from Southern Georgia

      "Hey, I use social media and I’m not offended."

      Like Jeff Foxworthy said John, "Here's your sign." :P

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      Are you saying there are no WEIRDOS on social media, Kyler? Maybe Paula’s comment was a bit of a generalisation but I am sure she wasn’t referring to everyone who uses social media....only the weirdos among them, of which there are plenty. Hey, I use social media and I’m not offended.

    • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

      Kyler J Falk 

      4 weeks ago from Corona, CA

      If people deliver their views tactfully, tastefully, and in a constructive fashion, then I accept disparaging statements because they lead to constructive outcomes or deeper understanding. Those comments that spiral out of control, like calling people weirdos without any constructive input, those will be discarded like the trash they are.

      If this is a problem to anyone here, you, Paula, anyone else, you are free to not interact, unfollow, and/or report my posts. I'm not about to argue my methods. I strive to be fair and impartial, and I won't tolerate direct, nor indirect, worthless insults.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      4 weeks ago from Texas

      But it's welcome on your political posts?

    • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

      Kyler J Falk 

      4 weeks ago from Corona, CA

      My closing statement to this article, "Don't disparage others!"

      The first thing she does is call others weirdos, for the sole purpose of disparaging them, whether anyone is offended or not does not matter to me.

      Ignorance, humor, whatever else we want to use to defend directly or indirectly disparaging people is not welcome here.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      4 weeks ago from Texas

      Kyler, I have to agree with Paula on this one. Not that she needs for would even want my defense. But I don't understand your reaction. Paula and I can't seem to get along for prolonged periods of time. I have been both directly and indirectly insulted by her on multiple occasions and even I know she wasn't insulting anyone here. If she insulted anyone. You even said it was a dumb issue to begin with so why are you suddenly so sensitivity to an initial reaction?

      I wouldn't even be vaguely aware that this even existed in memes, social media, and elsewhere if I didn't have teenage kids who tend to do what every generation of teenage kids do - stereotype their parents into groups. My initial comments are based on hearing their jokes and comments. In that regard, I still disagree that it's equivalent to racial slurs. It probably all started because some obnoxious person went viral. Mostly, that's why I find the term so annoying. They overuse it. I think it will probably just be another pop culture phrase that will eventually go out of style like "Bye Felicia", even though this one didn't come from a movie, that I know of.

    • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

      Kyler J Falk 

      4 weeks ago from Corona, CA

      Paula: "However, I totally avoid and/or IGNORE the PC social media crowds of WEIRDOS..."

      Your reaction is unfortunate, and in lieu of kindness I'll enjoy your absence.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      4 weeks ago from UpstateWestern,New York

      Kyler.....Aren't you sweet to feel you must babysit an older woman such as me? Trust me, you'll not have that duty to attend to ever again.

      I insulted no one. How dare you suggest such bunk? THAT is what is uncalled for and unjustified.

      By all means, delete my comment since it has disturbed you so radically. Ya'll take care now, ya hear?

    • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

      Kyler J Falk 

      4 weeks ago from Corona, CA

      @Donna, Shauna: I'm happy that I could bring this problem to your attentions. It is causing many a great deal of distress, and creating quite the stir on all the social media platforms.

    • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

      Kyler J Falk 

      4 weeks ago from Corona, CA

      @Paula: I'm not one to want to limit the opinions and expression of others, but I'm going to have to ask from here on out that we don't insult people directly, nor indirectly regardless of the stances we choose to hold. Save that for my immediately political posts, this one is actually a serious issue causing people great distress.

      Please don't make me have to babysit my comments section, I won't have people invalidating and insulting others where it is uncalled for and unjustified.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      4 weeks ago from UpstateWestern,New York

      Jodah, Donna & Sha......Count me in with Ya'll.....never heard this either!

      Sha....different circles? Girlfriend, I must be roaming somewhere out in the wild blue yonder, just wandering aimlessly.

      However, I totally avoid and/or IGNORE the PC social media crowds of WEIRDOS, so how would I have ever heard the term?

      Furthermore, I AM an "entitled, obnoxious, (BEYOND) middle-aged white woman!!" That's suppose to be an insult? Well now, that's surely a matter of perception!

      Every day, I am more & more assured & comforted by my choice to be a loner and just always be ME.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      4 weeks ago from Central Florida

      I must walk in different circles, Kyler. I've never heard Karen as anything other than someone's name.

    • Donna-Rayne profile image

      Donna Rayne 

      4 weeks ago from Greenwood, In

      Kyler, I had no idea that the name "Karen" meant anything other than just a name. Thank you for writing an informative article and it's nice to learn something new every day!

      Blessings,

      Donna Rayne

    • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

      Kyler J Falk 

      4 weeks ago from Corona, CA

      It is doubtful, John, there is no, "agenda," if you can forgive me for being so insensitive with my phrasing, that would not also be equated to racism or invalidated as, "unimportant," as far as defending someone from this type of disparaging.

      Heck, even I have been called a Karen once, all because a server had sneezed directly on me and I asked for my entire meal to be comped or I'd leave without paying. It is an overall harassing term, one that has no real, "racial or gender," grounds except for usually white, and usually female.

      My best advice to anyone who feels invalidated, disparaged, and marginalized by the term would have to be to, "suck it up," because not enough people care; the majority in the debate does not care, I should say.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      5 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for enlightening me, Kyler. I had never heard about “Karen” being a disparaging term for an “entitled, obnoxious, middle aged white woman” so I am learning all the time. If that is the case I am sure before too long it will be simply referred to as the “k” word too.

    • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

      Kyler J Falk 

      5 weeks ago from Corona, CA

      I could easily equate it to racial slurs objectively, it's all in the intentions of the deliverer.

      Not to mention, if an individual says this makes them feel like they're being called an, "N-word," who decides other than them what the word makes them feel like? Also who defines what level of offense the, "N-word," has in the general populous?

      The argument is dumb to begin with, but it is unarguable that it can be equated to the, "N-word," in many cases.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      5 weeks ago from Texas

      I wouldn't equate it to any racial slurs, but I definitely think it's a bit insulting. More than just a general euphemism and much like saying someone is a negative Nancy or a positive Polly. In this case, I know several people named Karen who are wonderful individuals and who also do not fit the negative persona social media has attributed to that name.

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