Written by Joyelle Ronan
2020 has been the year of the “Karens.” If you’re unfamiliar with the meme, a “Karen” is a difficult woman, usually with a choppy haircut, who wants to speak to the manager, call the cops and cause a scene in public. Everyone who has worked retail has met a Karen, but the recent trend is to film them amidst one of their outbursts. It doesn’t take much scrolling to come across one of these videos — a woman dialing 911 because she isn’t allowed to enter a store unmasked or because someone asked her to put a leash on her dog. These videos draw attention to the entitled, rude and often racist attitudes that some women have.
While we can probably all agree it’s great that these women are finally being called out, I think we are failing to have an important conversation here. Male Karens very much so exist. The difference is that when women are difficult it’s considered funny, but when men are difficult it is scary.
A year ago, a man stopped his car in the middle of the road to get out and scream at me for tailgating him despite my car being an appropriate length away. My first instinct was not to whip out my phone and hit record, despite this being total Karen behavior. No, even in my state of fear and shock, I immediately locked the doors. I began to worry if he could break my window or if he had weapons in his car. I didn’t argue. I just sat in silence. Terrified.
Had this been a woman, I probably would have yelled back. I would have pointed out how she could have just changed lanes. But, as a woman, I am trained to fear men. Not all men of course, but definitely the ones who shout obscenities at you in the middle of the road as you cry behind the wheel of your Honda Civic. A viral video wouldn’t have been worth the risk of agitating an already unhinged man.
What do we call these men? They could be Kevins or perhaps the portmanteau Marens? Maybe we just need a non-binary term. It’s great that as a society we have decided to call out the gross behavior of privilege, but we need to make sure we are calling out all offenders here. If we can laugh at female Karens then we can definitely be disgusted by toxic masculinity shown by male Karens. Being an awful human has no gender. End of feminist rant.