Karen is a slang term that is used to typify a person perceived to be entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is considered appropriate or necessary. One of the most common Karen stereotypes is that of a white middle-aged woman, typically American, who displays aggressive behavior when she is obstructed from getting her way; such women are often depicted as demanding to “speak to the manager” and sometimes have a variation of the bob cut.
American television personality Kate Gosselin is used in some Karen memes.
The Karen archetype carries several stereotypes that are common to “basic white women”; the most notable is the stereotype that a Karen will demand to “speak with the manager” of a hypothetical service provider. Further common stereotypes associated with the Karen pejorative include anti-vaccination beliefs and a bob haircut with blonde highlights—pictures of Kate Gosselin during the airing of Kate Plus 8 were used in earlier memes about a “can-I-speak-to-your-manager haircut”, and continue to be used in Karen memes—engagement in multi-level marketing schemes, and Facebook posts sharing trite motivational messages.
The stereotype saw greater prominence in mid-2019, when the formation of Tropical Storm Karen in the Atlantic hurricane basin led to memes likening the storm to the stereotype; several users made jokes about the storm wanting to “speak with the manager”, with images photoshopped to include the “Karen haircut” on either the hurricane or its forecasted path. At the same time, the term gained prominence in Hispanic and African-American communities as a way to describe suburban white women who would supposedly call the police on people of color for minor trespasses. The meme was also used during the COVID-19 pandemic to describe such women who would passively-aggressively enforce quarantine, as well as to describe women protesting quarantine restrictions and verbally abusing Asian-American health workers due to the virus’s origins in China.
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