One of the most puzzling derogatory nicknames of recent memory is the use of the name Karen and the numerous stories about her in the internet. A common definition of its current use is as follows: a pejorative term for women who feel entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is normal. (Wikipedia- a source I never allowed my college students to use, but this is a blog, so why not?). I think Karen needs a male counterpart, and I am naming him Kurt. More about him later.
First, I must mention that I have friends and family members named Karen, and they are delightful people and nothing like the common use of the name now. I was curious about how this all got started and there isn’t a definitive answer. One suggestion was that the 2004 movie Mean Girls had a character named Karen. But that was long before this use became common. One of the most plausible answers I found was that a meme showed up in 2016 after Nintendo ran an add that mentioned “Antisocial Karen” who always brought her Nintendo Switch to parties. This seems more likely to me, so we will go with it for this post. As someone who had to do precise research and writing with academic/legal sources, I find the ability to use whatever definition I like on my blog a wonderful thing. But I digress.
Over time, Antisocial Karen got shortened to just Karen. The best photo depicting her I could find on my free Pexels account is above- she is older than the original Karen, but it has no age limit. She is the type of person who demands instant service wherever she goes, and asks to see the manager if anything is not up to her standards. In the photo above, Karen does not like the look of those birthday brownies one bit. In fact, she hates them. And she doesn’t want her picture taken. Even if she made the brownies, they are not up to her standards.
My research also found Karens referred to as entitled forty something soccer moms with short blonde hair, and a white woman walking her dog in New York who called the police because a Black man was sitting on a bench near her. Sitting for pete’s sake. She didn’t just want to speak to a manager. She wanted to speak to the police manager. For Karens of any age, if something shocks them they are referred to as “clutching their pearls”. If they are from the South, they could also be saying ” I do declare”. You get the idea.
While there is some humor in all of this, I think it is very unfair to limit the meme to women. Haven’t we all had some interactions with less than pleasant guys? So I think Karen needs a male counterpart, and I am calling him Kurt.
Let’s use the photo above as our prototypical Kurt. He is a guy who doesn’t just mow his lawn, he sculpts it. He has multiple lawn mowers, edgers, leaf blowers, spreaders, and the biggest garage he can afford to hold all of his equipment. No riding mowers for Kurt- he likes the old fashioned push type. He mows at least twice a week, especially if one of his next door neighbors has done so. He uses an edger and cuticle scizzors for the small spots the edger can’t reach. His driveway is regularly cleaned, and he caulks it annually. He is outside all the time when he is home.
Kurt is the type of guy who takes up way too much room on public transportation, even when others are left standing. Mansplaining is also a problem. This happens when a man explains something in a patronizing manner to a woman. When author Janay Kingsberry asked her Instagram followers to send her examples of this, she got over 200 responses. Two of my favorites- a male client telling his experienced female trial attorney how a trial worked, and a man telling a woman that childbirth doesn’t hurt. http://www.thelily.com. You can’t make this stuff up.
Kurt may not ask to see the manager as much because he spends so much time in his yard, but he likes to lurk on neighborhood apps and post replies to every topic. He is an expert on several. He also doesn’t have any pearls to clutch, but he is grouchy. He spends a lot of time in his front yard pulling weeds and lets out loud sighs and groans with regularity. If you walk by with a dog on a leash but without a bag to pick up their waste, you will get a loud double groan, followed by a sigh. If you live in a neighborhood with covenants that govern property appearance and upkeep, Kurt is the guy you want on that committee. You might as well have him there because he is going to report all of the violations anyway.
I think we also need a subgroup of Kurts for older guys. Retired Kurt likes to do yoga in his backyard and needs silence to do it. He also loves to keep his lawn in tip top shape, but hires some of it out. This gives him a chance to supervise the lawn staff with great gusto, which he misses from his managerial working days. He plans to take up Tai Chi in the near future, and will require even more quiet time from his neighbors to do so. He has insomnia and tends to be up very late at night, monitoring his new security cameras, especially the one in his doorbell. Have a break in or property destruction at your house? Retired Kurt just might have a video you can give to the authorities.
So there you have it- my take on the state of entitled people that walk among us. Maybe we can get Kurt to trend along with Karen if we encounter obnoxious guys. Or not. Either way, I had a lot of fun writing this and trying to get some equality going in the world of memes.