How the Karen Meme Benefits the Right

Uncool, middle-aged white women are Democrats’ best hope for unseating Trump. Why does the online left hate them so much?

Nina Burleigh
Published in
9 min readMay 28, 2020


I am late to the Karens, which probably makes me Karen-ish — that is, white, middle class, middle-aged, female, college-educated, from Midwestern suburbia, and too distracted to track what’s trending on Twitter. So, when a video was retweeted into my feed last week calling an obnoxious, mask-defying white woman a “Karen,” I asked whether there might not be some actual Karens who did not act like that. I was stupefied at the hostile replies, including one that simply stated, “Because you’re fucking white.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised. White middle-class women of a certain age are among the last groups one can hurl targeted abuse online without being canceled. All over Twitter and Facebook, one sees evidence neither male nor female progressives have a problem with a meme that stereotypes white middle-aged women as entitled, whiny, and stupid at best — and at worst, obscene wielders of racist privilege, like Amy Cooper in Central Park. Her 911 call against a black, male bird-watcher trying to get her to put her illegally off-leash dog back on its leash arguably rose to the level of attempted assault-by-proxy, given how police approach black men deemed threats. She was Karened, named, and fired from her job.

But the vast majority of the Karenings do not reach that level. On the contrary they are merely excuses to heap scorn on random middle-aged white women. A sampling of recent examples includes a group of white women in a grocery story removing their underwear and using it as masks as some kind of joke (“Quarantine has caused the Karens to lose their minds”), an apparently paranoid white woman fleeing a white mailman (#KarenStrikesAgain), and a woman defending her right to sometimes call a manager (“that’s what a manager is there for”).

No progressives — nor even standard-issue conservatives — would be caught videotaping…