Karen is My Name

Yes, They’re Ridiculing Women Named Karen

Some people claim that the “Karen” name-shame craze should have no effect on women who have the birth name Karen. “Everyone knows we aren’t talking about women who simply have the name Karen,” they say, “so as long as you don’t act like ‘a Karen’, you have nothing to worry about.” This flies in the face of common sense. The idea is that it’s harmless to turn a personal name into a joke-insult, because it won’t affect the way anyone thinks about or treats people with that identity. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that the “Karen” fad is changing how people view women who have the birth name Karen. Women named Karen have described many incidents of harassment and mockery by complete strangers (incidents in real life as well as online). And we have the words of participants in the fad: They ridicule women who have done nothing to deserve it, simply because they’re named Karen. Some talk about how they can barely even speak to a woman named Karen without laughing in her face, or say they wish they didn’t have to talk to anyone named Karen at all. Some make fun of their employees or co-workers.

Most disturbingly, they do this openly, publicly. Only one expresses any concern about the growing difficulty in interacting in an ordinary way with a woman named Karen. Mostly, they assume that everyone will approve and agree that simply being named Karen means you deserve to be mocked—and that treating innocent people as objects of ridicule is all just part of the “fun”. Take a look at some examples. They illustrate the damage done by using a personal name as an insult. If we want to be able to talk to one another with ordinary civility and respect—if we want to engage with other people as people at all—we cannot treat people’s birth names in this way.