What Is a 'Karen'? If Somebody's Called You One Chances Are You Spoke to Their Manager

If you've noticed people calling each other Karen on the internet, you may have started wondering "Who is Karen, and what does everyone have against her?" The name has become a new, popular insult for a very specific type of person online.

According to Know Your Meme, the term can be used to describe someone "characterized as an irritating, entitled woman, sometimes as an ex-wife who took custody of 'the kids.'"

Karens are often described as annoyingly entitled, suburban women who would not hesitate to ask to speak to a manager if the sales person at Anne Taylor refuses to take their return three months after the return date expired.

In the Urban Dictionary definition, typical Karen behavior varies between benignly upsetting ("gives raisins to kids on Halloween") to eye-rollingly annoying ("drives an SUV to carpool her kids to soccer practice... better hope the ref doesn't make a wrong call because she will sue!").

Other common Karen traits are a bob-haircut, typically sported by suburban moms and a tendency towards entitlement. In a recent viral clip of a woman who was recently deemed a Karen, she asks to speak to a manager, because she won't wear a protective mask, despite the store's policy requiring all patrons to wear one. She claims that she has a medical condition, which won't allow her to wear a mask, but she also expresses concerns about her banking information and private purchases. When the manager explains that it's store policy, she threatens the supermarket with a lawsuit and claims she's being discriminated against.

Common "Karen behavior" often involves blowing a simple misunderstanding out of proportion. In one video, a woman blocked a man's car in after he realized he'd made a wrong turn and called the police, claiming he'd run her over.

Most recently, "Karen" is being used to describe women who feel entitled not to follow social distancing guidelines or stay at home orders. Another tweet described a man violating CostCo's policy by not wearing a mask as "Karen's little brother Kyle."

Alternatively, some people have used "Karen" to describe people that call out others for not following the regulations. One user said that a woman was a "Karen," when she tweeted that a second wave of coronavirus that may follow some restrictions being left.

According to Know Your Meme, the origin of the name isn't clear, with some citing characters in Goodfellas and Mean Girls as well as a joke from Dane Cook's Retaliation as possible starting points. The name has been used in various forms since 2016. One of the earliest jokes originated on Tumblr, after an ad for the Nintendo Switch was released. In 2017, the subreddit r/f**kyoukaren was started.

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Supporters of President Donald Trump rally to reopen California as the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen, on May 16, 2020 in Woodland Hills, California. "Karen" has been used to describe people that refuse to follow coronavirus restrictions. David McNew/Getty
What Is a 'Karen'? If Somebody's Called You One Chances Are You Spoke to Their Manager | Culture