The Karen Conundrum

Local women share their thoughts on the newfound attention on their namesake
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 5:55 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - From calling police on a bird watcher in Central Park to trying to break up a family barbecue, for some, the name Karen now takes on new meaning.

"It made me take a look at myself like, 'Wow, am I that kind of Karen?'" said Karen Elyea.

As memes like COVID Karen and Central Park Karen highlight angry white women exerting their privilege against communities of color, local Karen’s say it may be annoying to hear their name used in this way, but necessary.

"Society needs a name to put all this on like you said all these stereotypes of that woman who acts like this," said Karen Manley Kahler.

Karen Elyea says a recent incident where she saw a group of people turned away from a restaurant pushed her to speak up and shifted the way she sees the stereotype.

"At first, it was funny, but then it's like, wow, they're really attaching this name to behaviors that need to change," said Elyea.

While she says it may not seem like much, Karen Manley Kahler says the new attention on her name could be the start of a bigger form of change.

"We put a name on it, its name is Karen, which is my name. And since I'm not like that, I want to find a way to make people's lives better that are unfortunately victimized by these Karen's," said Manley Kahler.

“I recognize that that trait exists in people of entitlement or privilege, no matter what their name is. And, if we have to attach the name Karen to bring it into the light, that’s fine with me,” said Elyea.

A California lawmaker recently introduced legislation to fight the use of racist 911 calls, known as the CAREN Act.

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