We need to talk about Karen.

There is a problem with Karen. Karen is a white, but that is not the problem. Karen is female, straight and law abiding, but these are not problems. Karen is middle class, closer to middle age and is very literate and sassy, but these are not problems.  Karen is not particularly aware of all the woke things and is easily caught out in an argument. This is far from a problem and is in fact ideal, because you see, the main problem with Karen is that she votes wrong.  Karen is someone who needs to come into line, not much of her, just four or five percent would do the trick.  If Karen were at a nightclub in her tight pink dress, push up bra and blond bob, the progressive men would be snarling at her, but what they really want to do to her is quite obscene and imminently predictable.

When Donald Trump was elected president, I think we can all admit it was a shock.  At the political funerals for the left’s dreams the shovel was laid to the ground with shaking heads and disbelieving cries of whhhyyyy?.  Conservatives thought it was funny, memes were made. Then the numbers confirmed what had to be true and was hardly to be believed. More white women voted for Trump than for the white woman who ran against him.  Women didn’t vote for the person who looked like them.

It turns out 47% of white women voted for Trump, compared to 45% for Hillary. [1] These women skewed slightly to the non college graduates, they were older and mostly married. The numbers are not massive, only 2%. So only 1% swing is necessary to even out the percentages. 5% would have handed the election to the Democrats.

By 2018 we were seeing serious concern in left publications about conservative voting white women. “What’s wrong with them?” the Guardian lamented[2].  So we started to hear from these women.  The media was asking why, and women were answering a question they thought was being asked in earnest.  They were airing concerns about the left turn of the Democrats about Hillary Clintons character.  But the question wasn’t being asked in earnest. The American left and the left around the western world, could have taken a good hard look at themselves and their failures. But they chose another path.

The left doubled down in an attempt to shame that magic 5% of “white” women into voting the correct way, and things have since started to look like a familiar form of targeted misogyny.  We saw the emergence of the phrase “white women, white womening”. I always take notice of new incorrect use of language in political discourse.  “White womening” is the female version of “mansplaining”.  White women saying pretty much anything non-progressive could be framed as lecturing from an uneducated position of unearned power.  So, it became perfectly acceptable for wealthy powerful black men to publicly abuse and shame a white woman, solely on the basis of her gender, her colour and her political opinion.  In intersectional speak, conservative white women became part of the white supremacist patriarchal power structure, regardless of income, marital status, disability or social position. 

White women sharing political opinions, particularly were being told to educate themselves about why they couldn’t share an opinion. Critical race theory became a useful tool to provide an ideology to silence important demographics.  “White womening” became actual violence.  Should white women complain about bullying in the public sphere, this was because they were feigning fragility and using their tears as weapons of white supremacy[3]. White conservative women were then a fair target, not for political debate, but to be silenced, bullied, and harassed. The aim is never to treat a women as an equal and formidable target, but use old sexist forms of domination, control and tropes to terrify women into submission and proper voting. It’s an old fashioned protection racket in public debate.

An old game was reinvented with the ideas that have been crudely hacked from cultural theorist like Foucault.  But what they get from Foucault shouldn’t be underestimated.  Foucault saw the power in culture and the ability to govern culture as a way of managing populations. Foucault’s concept of “Governmentality” describes a kind of government that is not about law, but “the right disposition of things, arranged so as to lead to a convenient end” (Foucault 1991).  We are not talking about just “things”, but people in relations to things, including “customs, habits, ways of acting and thinking etc.”[4].  A major theme from the postmodernists, is the use of language, architecture and symbols in altering culture. That’s why there is constant pressure to change language, statues, bathrooms icons and anniversaries.  Through media and the management of local and state governments, we have seen some remarkable moves to invent, define, silence, and govern women’s cultural views of themselves, and their voting patterns. Karen is one such attempt.

Karen is the stigma, not of the woman, or even the white woman but the wrong voting white woman. Burdening the term “karen” with distasteful connotations, makes her not just the person nobody wants to be, but a target of legitimate harassment and violence.  A series of videos where recently circulated over the internet of mostly men of colour “calling out” racist Karen’s.  One of these showed a man pursuing a woman through the streets to her home, revealing her address and vehicle registration.  The man making the video accused this Karen of cutting him off and making a racist slur (not seen on the video).  She could be seen cowering in fear at his feet and begging him to leave her alone.  The woman became quite hysterical while the man continued to film and badger her.  He attempted to converse with her with the now familiar gaslighting tone of amused distain at her white tears. He said that he resisted feeling compassion for her distress because “without posting about the incident online, there would have been no “justice” for her alleged actions”.[5]  For the postmodern progressive, the law alone cannot fix a problem ground in culture, but like all authoritarians, the law and its use to force an agenda, is the goal.

In a disturbing and odd move, a California lawmaker has proposed legislation to remove legal assistance for a Karen in distress.[6]  The proposed legislation, Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies (CAREN), would make it a crime for someone to call the police when it could be demonstrated that the alleged offender is a minority and hadn’t committed a crime. How such legislation could be enacted in anything but a pernicious manner I have no clue. Such legislation would mean that a white woman, threatened by someone of another race, could not be secure of the protection of the police.

I am the worst type of Karen, I am a white female evangelical.  This week, Susan Carland (Muslim convert and wife of Waleed Ali) shared a chart on twitter that suggested that white evangelical voters in the US, had gone from “the community least tolerant of unethical politicians to the community most tolerant” in five short years[7]. The chart was posted by a professor at an American liberal arts college, Gerard Marti.  His twitter handle is @praxishabitus, suggesting that his academic allegiance is steeped in the belief of the ability to transform culture[8], other people’s culture obviously.  I suggested on Twitter, in my characteristically humble style, that maybe this evangelical trend was not due to RACISM, but because the Democrats had taken a hard-left turn. Evangelicals would prefer a philanderer to a Communist. This is because Communists are second only to Islamists in persecuting and murdering Christians, I didn’t think this was an insignificant point to overlook. [9] I was given the typical “pipe down Karen” response, that my reaction was ground lack of knowledge of Communism and fear of Muslims. I suggested that since my major at University was political theory and I married into a Muslim family, this may not be true, but hey, why ruin a good trope when you got one going.

Karen is the collective definition of an individual, a racial trope used to attack the individual on the basis of her collective sin.  Karen has become an open invitation to targeted misogyny and violence, including sexual violence against a politically non-conforming individual of a particular racial profile.  Thankfully, Karen has been appropriated by the right for a bit of a laugh.  Right leaning political commentators have re-deployed Karen in the face of loudly complaining white progressive women, of which there seems to be a plentiful supply.  The Karen habit of complaining to the manager has, after all, become a key progressive tool to manage a range of cultural habits that they find offensive, like thinking.  Being a Karen, I suspect we have been underestimated. Women without melanin, as I like to identify, are actually very diverse in opinion, culture, lifestyle and race.  We were at the forefront of the fight for the vote and are unlikely to be bullied into being told how to use it.


[1] https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/09/white-women-vote-republican-why

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/08/how-white-women-use-strategic-tears-to-avoid-accountability

[4] Foucault, M., Burchell, G., Gordon, C., & Miller, P. (1991). The Foucault effect: Studies in governmentality : with two lectures by and an interview with Michel Foucault. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[5] https://www.insider.com/karen-video-viral-i-have-black-husband-driveway-seattle-trend-2020-6

[6] https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelsandler/2020/07/07/san-francisco-lawmaker-introduces-caren-act-to-deter-false-racially-biased-911-calls/#65c529666942

[7] https://twitter.com/praxishabitus/status/1285249255767236609/photo/1

[8] habitus is a very clever concept penned by Pierre Bourdieu and now adopted by partisan idiots

[9] https://www.opendoors.org.au/persecuted-christians/world-watch-list/

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