Julie Bindel is widely known for her activism when it comes to women’s rights and gender equality. Still, when Bindel attempted through social media to push the idea of “Karen” as a form of misogyny, the internet was not having it. Many online often use “Karen” to describe white privilege.
Dictionary.com defines Karen as a mocking slang term for an entitled, obnoxious middle-aged white woman. The term, which is generally featured in memes, gives the stereotype of a white woman with a blonde bob haircut who will ask to speak to retail and restaurant managers to voice complaints or make demands, according to the Urban Dictionary.
“Karen” came into use in 2018 as a way to shed light on discriminatory and injurious power differentials between Blacks and whites.
Bindel, a journalist and English radical feminist writer, sought to begin a new campaign in protest against its original use. The 56-year-old co-founder of the law group Justice for Women believed the reference alludes to sexism, and acts as a basis for class prejudices.
“Does anyone else think the “Karen” slur is woman-hating and based on class prejudice?” she asked via Twitter on Sunday, April 5.
Her question quickly received backlash from users who not only called her out on her own bias in relation to the term, but also educated her about its origin.
“My understanding is that the Karen/Sally/Linda thing was started by Black women as a way to address racialised dynamics in the workplace – whether Karen is the racist manager or the middle class customer with nothing better to do than belittle people on minimum wage,” one Twitter user replied.
“Karen was a term created *specifically by Black women* to talk about white women’s interpersonal + state violence against us and our communities: calling the police on us for getting coffee, threatening to have us fired, talking down to us at work (where we’re now “essential”),” another user responded.
Bindel, however, remained content on her stance to flip the term and use it for her personal platform in women’s rights.
“It is certainly used by enough white men for it to be morphed into a misogynistic slur,” she replied. “Also, those names are classically working-class, and I do object to the classism within this narrative. The ageism too is a massive problem. I think countering racism with ageism is not great.”
While there were some users who supported her argument, most felt it detoured from its original context and alluded to the irony of its true definition.
“This is about the most Karen thing I’ve seen all day,” one Twitter user replied.
Others humorously suggested the term be renamed “Julie,” in response to her misrepresentation of the term.
“petition to change karen to “Julie”. definition: a woman who erases Black women & woc and manipulates misogyny to evade accountability in regards to whiteness and the many forms in which it commits aggression,” Bolu Babalola tweeted.
“We can change it to ‘Julie’ real quick if you like,” another user wrote.