Karens & their kind

When I first saw the name “Karen,” used in the plural, apparently for a whole class of women, I did not look it up. Context told me that I wouldn’t have to; that a Karen was simply the updated term for what I formerly knew as a Becky. There are related, more focused terms, such as “Trixie” for a Karen from upscale white Chicago, and so forth. It is one of many reasons to celebrate the black urban lexical culture from which it emerged. The image of a passive-aggressive blonde, with a pony tail, disputing her order at Starbucks, comes quickly to mind. She will be married to a “Chad” whom she met in law school.

I love stereotypes. They help us understand what the Greeks called syndromes, carrying them beyond the narrow world of medical jargon. “Karen” began as the stereotype for the woman who “wants to see the manager,” but was soon extended through a gallery of related traits. One thinks affectionately through a shortlist of the Karens one has known. For the Christian, it can impact one’s prayer life. (I found myself once praying for a certain Karen Surname, then spontaneously extending it to “Karens everywhere,” with a memorial for the Beckies. I noticed as I searched my memory that many of these Karens were biologically male.)

And today I wonder, as I have often done, at the genius of colloquial language, and the unerring way with which it uncovers fresh stereotypes, that enhance our perception of reality, in a way like painting and the other fine arts. (In a lost portrait, Leonardo depicted a Karen of the Renaissance.)

When, for instance, a Hurricane Karen tracked through wherever, a few years ago, “Karen” passed into meteorological science, then back into sociology. We could now speak of “the path of Karen,” knowingly. Though called a hurricane, it was really just a tropical storm; yet nevertheless, intensely annoying.

In politics, we might observe that progressive, female politicians, especially governors and mayors, are always Karens, and we need a companion term for the male ones. During the recent crisis with the Xi Jinping Batflu, they’ve been in our faces almost full time. To this day their oppression continues, as they regroup with new social distancing requirements — then demand that we ignore these to “peacefully protest” their natural enemies in the hair salons. The replacement of policemen with an Army of Karens is among current demands of the “congresswomen.” (An “AOC” is a kind of super-Karen; the Antifa are their quasi-military scolds.)

But again, this is not the full typhoon (such as might batter China), only an incredibly vexatious, essentially North American, summer holiday storm. I’m sure President Nixon’s “silent majority” will clear them all away in November.