"You're Being a Karen." What it Means & How to Deal With This Entitled Behavior

By Reniel

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Last Updated: August 17, 2021

Have you ever met someone who blows things out of proportion, gets overly reactive, is entitled, has an inflated sense of self-importance? They become easily enraged despite being in the wrong, and in no position to act that way.

You have probably encountered the infamous Karen. 

Karen has become the unofficial name for white women who abuse their white privilege - Glamour

While this slang term is widely used, many people still don't understand the reference or the meaning.

Let's look at examples and remember to spread the word that being a Karen has nothing to do with people who are actually named Karen. 

 

Who is Not a Karen?

Everyone actually named Karen. It's unfortunate for ladies who are. There are actually stats behind that name going out of fashion since 2007, but more noticeably since 2015. Is this due to the meme culture around the name? 

Beckys, Chads and Stacys are also tagged with unflattering memes that tie a specific personality to their names. 

 

Who is a Karen?

A person is said to be a Karen when they display irrational behaviors marked by a sense of over-blown self-importance – up to the extent of exhibiting classist or racist tendencies.

This is the, "I need to speak to the Manager," lady. 

“Karen” has become social-media shorthand meaning a middle-aged white woman...who makes a big fuss, and is not-so-blissfully ignorant. - The New York Post

Victoria's Secret Karen

The woman now known as 'Victoria's Secret Karen,' displayed concerning behavior when she accused Nigerian American Ijeoma Ukenta of assaulting her. It seems Ms. Ukenta asked her to give her some personal space while shopping. 

Ms.Ukenta was browsing at Victoria's Secret when she noticed a blonde woman getting uncomfortably close to her. Her reaction, as expected, was to ask the lady to, “back up."   

In response, the woman went to the counter and reported Ms.Ukenta – claiming she had been threatened. Seeing this, Ukenta pulled out her phone and started to record the event. 

At one point, 'Karen', realizing she was on camera, broke down in tears, begging Ms.Ukenta to stop recording her having a, “mental breakdown." She didn’t want to lose her job and apartment. The episode lasted till she laid on the floor sobbing. 

Central Park Karen 

Another example was the incident at the New York City’s Central Park, where a lady called the police on a black man who had begun to record her and her dog. She was blatantly ignoring the, 'dogs must be leashed,' law at the popular bird watching area.  

As did Victoria's Secret Karen, this Karen was also in the wrong but felt so superior that she called the police to control his 'behavior' rather than her own. She is seen on camera reporting that she was being threatened by an African-American man and that she needed the police to intervene.

All this time, the man, Christian Cooper, said nothing and makes no move toward her. 

Karens are the kind of people who would rather speak directly to the manager, even if their situation required far less degree of attention, and they themselves aren’t highly placed in society.

Karens demand more than they are worth. They belittle both those who are equals and those above them.

They are delusional and badly behaved. If you are caught in their crossfire, be wary. You could find yourself in trouble because they shamelessly sink to depths that bend the story to favor their personal view on things.

 

How to Deal With a Karen

Karens can pose a huge problem. Their self-absorption and spite make them unpredictable, unapproachable, and difficult to understand. They don’t act logically and seem to be driven by their self-righteousness. They feel that they are right even when they clearly aren’t and that the world revolves around them.

There is very little you can do when you find yourself close to a Karen. Below are your best bets.

1. You can try staying away from them.

This means, avoiding, disconnecting, unfollowing, blocking, canceling, etc. It means not getting in contact and staying as far away from them as possible.

2. You can report them to higher authority.

You will need to narrate and explain your side of the story, especially if an encounter with one of them escalates and you feel unsafe. 

3. You could try to handle the situation yourself (but this can backfire).

If you’re ready to deal with a Karen face to face, then it's best to stay calm and rational. Try not to react, but rather come to understand what is driving them, and maybe empathize and offer a solution.

Asking them to calmly leave your personal space is another option, and if you are in a public space, asking for assistance from a security guard or store manager is totally appropriate. 

4. You could record them.

This act is disempowering to them, as they would have no way of twisting the story in their favor. Or at least they can see themselves acting inappropriately and quit. 

Obviously, it's not ideal to have to get to this point. But if in the cases of Victoria's Secret Karen and Central Park Karen, the people who recorded the behavior felt they needed to capture it for proof. What might have the outcome been if they hadn't?

The Karens may have changed their behavior once they realized they could be identified, but that doesn't make it okay for them to treat people the way they did. 

On the other hand, if you find yourself acting like a Karen, there are few things you can start doing to save yourself from the self-destructive behavior.

 

Ways to Avoid Being a Karen Yourself

While it's unlikely that anyone would identify themselves as a Karen. It's their very 'un-awareness' that brings them to such high degrees of drama and self-importance. But many people need to be checked when they start to see themselves displaying anything close to these behaviors.

If you find yourself with a friend or family member who is herself a Karen, you could try to get through to them as well, but it's also not your responsibility to do so. 

Practice humility: Make it a habit to respect people – both old and young. Resist the urge to think yourself superior to others.

Practice self-awareness: Practice catching yourself in the act, and stopping. It might be hard at first, but with time you’d get accustomed to it, and be less judgmental and gain a different perspective. 

Get an accountability partner: If you find yourself always doing it – compulsively – then it is time to get an accountability partner who would remind you not to go that far.

Visit a therapist: Sometimes anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and other mental health challenges can be a culprit. If you find yourself being a chronic Karen, then it might be time to see a therapist.

Photo by Dmitry Ulitin on Unsplash

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4 comments on “"You're Being a Karen." What it Means & How to Deal With This Entitled Behavior”

  1. Wonderful article giving information and solution both. However the situations can't be predicted and end result may have various effects at times.

  2. Thank you so much for explaining " A Karen" for us, who are not. I always wanted that accurate meaning but, their def the woman I prefer to keep a distance from. Not my kind.

    1. Hi Bonita! We know that not everyone named Karen acts like this, but no, definitely not the type of behavior any of us want to be around! So happy it was helpful 🙂

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