Aug 19, 2020

Karen, Sexism, Racism, and Privilege

Hefty title. Have I bit off more than I can chew? Likely.

A few months back, I'd been calling people on using the term "Karen" as an insult, and many of my friends told me how wrong I was to oppose it. Enough of their shaming of my shaming their shaming got me to stop. But a friend just referred me to this piece by Helen Lewis in The AtlanticThe Mythology of Karen, which has set me off again. It's well-written, so read it. 

Regarding "Karen" I see hypocrisy from those who consider themselves progressive. When they do name-calling, it’s ignorant and un-civilized. When we do name-calling, it’s righteous and instructive.

How about no name calling? Recently the infamous "Central Park Karen" was named Amy. Yet my neighbor is named Karen; she's pretty nice. Go figure. 

"Bill, just stop," said Darren. I guess opposing name-calling makes me a jerk? The implication is that I'm taking sides with a racist. But since we're friends, they'll give me the benefit of the doubt, and dismiss me as naive or uninformed.

Another friend, condescendingly: "Tut tut, Bill, it's been around for a while. They used to be called 'Becky'." Oh, it's been around for a while? That's different. As we all know, if a derogatory term has a long history, it must be OK.

The article says, "All of this is why the earnest feminist contribution to the Karen debate — why isn’t there a name for haughty, shouty men who make customer-service complaints, or call the police on Black people, putting them in danger? — is irrelevant." Well, there probably is, or will be. Ken, maybe? Great. Let's defend more derogatory labels in the name of our higher cause.

This article also suggests name-calling may actually be shitty, so it caught my attention as something novel in today's atmosphere. It also touches on the popular issue of which group is more down-trodden, women or Black people. Sexism versus Racism. Bring in sexuality and gender issues, and everyone's on their own?

"As it happens, the casually sexist roots of the meme are as deep as the anti-racist ones," says Ms. Lewis.

When I was a kid, they put me in the dumb class, cuz I was non-adaptively weird. My mom put on what I affectionately called her “white blazer” (what she wore when she meant business; it actually was white), marched down to school, and got me moved up. After that, I thrived. Was she being a “Karen”? Her name was Doris. Yes, she exercised what everyone calls “privilege,” from which I benefitted.

Another unfashionable opinion of mine: It seems to me that she exercised her “rights” as a citizen and parent. That others are denied these rights does not make having her rights merely a “privilege,” it just means others are denied their rights. I don’t like the term “privilege” because it implies that being treated fairly is some sort of extra-normal luxury. No, respect and fairness should be standard, not something special. 

Yes, I get it; that is the point. I still conisder the term unwise. Everyone should agree on fairness for all, but these terms confuse that. The public's memory of a word's history is easily lost, "irregardless" of its original intent. We should be moving everyone up to gain their rights, rather than down from privilege. Rights are essential; privilege is optional. My concern is loss of everyone's rights, rather than a defense of whiteness. White people need not be ashamed that they're treated well, but that others are not. 

Our possible future: "Oh, so you want a fair trial, do you? How privileged!"

Some will say I'm blind or callous nonetheless. Yes, I am a white male, but one who considers himself proudly Liberal. I still prefer to think for myself, avoiding changing and contradicting my views with the latest anger of the week. Sometimes I even listen, and can change my opinions if given a "good reason." Without that reason, I try not to shoot off my mouth about the latest hot word whose meaning and connotation changed overnight, while you were sleeping.

Do I think white ladies should call the cops on black men just for calling them on their bullshit? Nope. It's shitty, and they should be ashamed, and probably shamed publicly.

Do I think service people doing their jobs (or anyone) should be hassled (or atttacked) by people too stupid or spiteful to cooperate? Nope.

If treated poorly, should a white woman be able to ask for a manager? Yes. (That's my momma.) The key phrase is probably "if treated poorly." Of course the article says, "there’s no arbiter to decide which Karens are really acting in egregious or racist ways." 

If treated poorly, should a black woman be able to ask for a manager? Yes.

If treated poorly, should a white man be able to ask for a manager? Yes.

If treated poorly, should a black man be able to ask for a manager? Yes.

It's their right.

Should anyone act like an asshole in public (or private)? In my opinion, no. 

Quaint Billy, and his old fashioned calls for civility. Everyone, even those with the best intentions, bleed in a circular firing squad.