The Rise of Karens

Nicolina Bilella, Staff Writer

As defined by Wikipedia the word Karen is defined as “Karen is a pejorative term used in the English-speaking world for someone perceived as entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is appropriate or necessary. A common stereotype is that of a white woman who uses her privilege to demand her own way at the expense of others.” However it has become an umbrella term with many different characteristics.

The true origin of “Karen” is still unknown; there are many instances in the online industry that could have sparked up this slang.  Some people believe that the slang was born from a quote from the movie Mean Girls.  Another idea is one of Dane Cook’s stand up comedy specials from 2005 where he jokes about his take on friend groups called, “The Friend That Nobody Likes.” He vents about how there is one person in every friend group who keep around just to despise, but when they are not around you just bash them to others. He used the name “Karen” for the first hated person. Dane Cook also uses a persona named “Brian” in the same skit so it seems that his use of “Karen” was for an example and not a direct hatred for a name.

Others feel the slang came from the “speak to the manager” meme from Reddit in 2014. The most iconic part of that meme is the “speak to the manager” haircut which is described by The Insider as “a side-swept bob in the front with spiky and much shorter in the back.” Reddit has also become the home to a sub-reddit dedicated to loathing “Karens” since 2017. Next in 2018 a meme from a ex-husband about his wife getting hold of the kids from their marriage. It used to be, “ my wife took the kids,” but now there is a more broad spectrum with, “Karen took the kids”.

There was a sudden jolt in the popularity of “Karen.” Many videos of mostly women titled, “Karen” sprung up a bit before the quarantine. “Karens” were originally depicted as complaining or making a scene about “horrible customer service” for usually race-based reasons or harassing children for ridiculous reasons.  Now the shift is to Coronavirus-related problems including mostly their hatred of masks. You won’t believe how many sources of “Karens” involve them shredding masks or purposely going into stores without one. Just type up Karen on YouTube and there are dozens of compilations.  Based on a a Google search done on a Chromebook  on October 22th there are 2,660,000,000 results.

Some examples of “Karens” are Staircase Karen, Coughing Karen, and Central Park Karen.  Certain “Karens” are similar in motives, behaviors; however, these “Karens” are famous for backlash known as legal action.

You may have heard of Central Park Karen also known as Amy Cooper.  She was the lady on the news for calling the police on a black male “threatening” her. In the background she was playing up a scared and exasperated voice for an inconceivable reason. The man in this situation took a break from his bird watching to ask if Amy could put a leash on her dog. Amy Cooper was charged with falsifying a police report nonetheless she still got fired from her job, had her dog taken away (temporarily), and became viral in an obviously negative way. She is also known by the Karen Observers as the first Karen to have legal action against her.

Staircase Karen or SoCal Karen is actually Lena Hernandez, 54 years old from Long Beach CA.  She has been involved in three separate racial incidents.  Hernandez had a racial outburst at a woman who was exercising in the park and also went on a racist rant in Torrance Park.  According to, “after those incidents came to light, [Kayceelyn] Salminao spoke out on Twitter saying she had been assaulted by Hernandez at the Del Amo mall in Torrance last year.”  Lena Hernandez has plead no contest to misdemeanor battery and will serve “47 days in county jail plus three years probation with anger-management classes.”

Lastly, Coughing Karen,  whose name was unknown at the time,  but according to MSN. com was later identified as Lauren Balsamo, a former employee at Weill Cornell Medicine. The woman coughed on, Allison Goodbaum was outraged by this unmasked woman’s behavior. Both women were at a New York City Bagel Coffee House in Queens where Allison saw the other lady without a mask and decided to say something to the stores’ employees. The unknown “Karen” overheard that and started yelling that she “had Coronavirus Antibodies” and started cursing at Allison and anyone else to hear. After she purchased her item she coughed on Allison. This action could have been harmful in our present times, and Allison self quarantined after the incident while she waited for her COVID – 19 test. Coughing Karen has been banned from all New York City Bagel Coffee Houses.

People believe “Karen” is sexist, racist, ageist, and also as bad as other frowned upon words from the English language. “Karens” aren’t limited to middle aged white woman; that is a stereotype and is a common trope.  There are “Karens” of color, it’s a lot harder to find but still exists.  Men are also referred to as “Karens.” There is also a male directed name too, but Karen is the default calling.  “Karens” can be under 30 or whatever your standard middle aged person is. There are videos of young adults showing “Karen” behavior and have been given similar treatment. They’re more often called “Karens-in-Training.”

Is the term “Karen” sexist, racist, ageist?

It is unknown whether or not there was that kind of intent, but it is easy to debunk those arguments due to all of these recent events.