I’m a White Woman Named Karen and Don’t Find The Term Offensive

Karens have a lot of problems. Now some have a problem with the term "Karen."EXPAND
Karens have a lot of problems. Now some have a problem with the term "Karen."
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

I'll admit it. I've never been a lifelong fan of my moniker, but I damn sure wasn't going to change the name that my dear sweet mama gave me.

Lately though, it seems as if my particular tag has gone from bad to worse, and Karen has swiftly become a catchall phrase for just about everything negative under the sun — from an unreasonable, entitled complainer to a raging racist.

I first detected something was askew a few years back when I Googled my semiprecious name and an Urban Dictionary entry popped up defining it as something akin to a middle-aged white woman with horns. She's "part of the anti-vax crowd and relying on essential oils for the health of their children because of a Facebook post she saw," reads an updated version depicting "Karen" as pretty much a modern day brat whose hobbies include "reading erotica that makes 50 Shades of Grey look like Hamlet by comparison in public."

However interesting, I callously dismissed the slang because I knew the true meaning of Karen to be "pure in heart" and I was sticking with it, goddammit.

Later, however, while standing at a customer service counter filing a complaint about something I'm sure was legitimate, I noticed the crooked little smile that settled across the customer service rep's face after she asked my name and I replied "Karen."

I realized then that the whole world had caught on to this negative "Karen" assessment, and I could now very well be the equivalent of a one-eyed witch or some sort of boogey woman. But who actually cares anyhow, I reasoned, except for thousands of other Karens like myself?

Sometimes, I even wonder if karma hasn't come to visit as I recall when, as a youth, I once snickered at a young lady named Bertha who wasn't even that big. Now, here I am with a handle that is destined to become as unpopular as Hortense.

And how on round Earth did it even get like this? Well, for some reason, one doesn't even need to be named Karen to fit snugly into the category. Any ol' Sally, Bridgette or Natalie that noses into someone's business other than their own can easily be rebranded a "Karen," adding to the pool of those, perceived to be obnoxious, who give the genuine Karens an even worse rap.

The term is now prompting a countermovement, ironically mostly among white women complaining that "Karen" is a racist and derogatory term toward white women. But for now, it's here to stay. Dallas in particular boasts its fair share, and recently, we declared ourselves (however not proudly) the "Karen capital of the world."

Yet in a society that habitually vilifies clowns, statues and Karens, there's a glimmer of hope in the fact that next week the fickle crowd will move on and the latest mega-viral social media post of the day will prevail, perhaps leaving today's "Karens" in the dust.

Because of its association with slang, the name Karen may even go the way of the dinosaur and become extinct. But when the dust settles, it'll be remembered in the halls of history not simply as slang but also as a moniker derived from the name Catherine.

And if that's good enough for a former Queen of England as well as the lovely Duchess of Cambridge, I have no complaints.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.