What Is Karens United for Respect?
KU4R is an international collaboration by people whose identity is Karen and their allies acting together against the destruction of personal names. KU4R grew out of a 2000-member Facebook support group for people named Karen in 20+ countries who have faced bullying, ridicule, dehumanization and loss due to name abuse.
Why Fight Name Abuse/Namism?
Names are the very first building block of personal identity. They get burned into our brain chemistry early and indelibly. Studies show that people respond to their own names differently from any other word.
Like any aspect of identity, when a name is taken by people who don't share that identity and recast as a stereotype or joke, the people with that identity are dehumanized and "othered". In fact, for centuries names have been used as a tool to marginalize and isolate individuals and groups. Often but not always, this has gone hand-in-hand with prejudice against race, religion or gender. Identity-based harassment and discrimination based on name is called namism.
Instances of namism can include harassment, prejudice, bullying, mobbing, discrimination and social sanction. Demonstrated impacts of namism include workplace harassment, job loss, economic loss, healthcare disruption, trauma activation, depression, sleeplessness, social isolation and suicidal ideation.
But Isn't It Just a Joke?
Jokes can be funny, but unfortunately they can also cause great harm. The Anti-Defamation League has documented the components of hate and specifically lists "biased and belittling jokes" along with the stereotypes, name-calling, and ridicule that underlie such jokes.
Read a woman named Karen's allegory of how it feels to be the constant target of everyone else's joke.
So What Exactly Is a "Karen"?
A Karen is a person whose name or ethnic identity is Karen. Period.
Name-based stereotypes, including those created by the media and scholars, have variously presented "Karen" as liberal, conservative, apolitical, whiny, demanding, racist, a mother, childless, married, single, rich, poor or a forgetful pet owner, depending on who is doing the stereotyping. The sole commonality is that the speaker wants to condemn and/or ridicule the subject, often with a call for the subject to be ostracized or mobbed.
When people start seeing "Karen" as a red flag and justification for bullying and worse, it isn't surprising that there can be harsh consequences for people whose names are Karen.
What Actual Harm Is Being Done?
Imagine feeling afraid to say your name.
Imagine going to a restaurant or store and finding a sign at the door saying people with your name aren't welcome.
Imagine starting a new job and being told by your boss that you cannot use your real name.
Imagine your first-grader coming home and telling you she was taught at school that your name means evil.
Imagine going to a hospital and receiving a medication you're allergic to because of your name.
Imagine feeling like you have no choice but to walk away from the family history, memories, connections, and professional reputation linked to your name.
Not every woman named Karen has encountered this, but thousands of women named Karen have. They seldom tell them to people not named Karen because they are often ridiculed if they do.
To try out for a moment how nameshaming feels, visit karenismyname.org/renamer.
Who Is Affected?
Ironically, the name superimposed as a stereotype of privileged white women in America is the name of millions of people worldwide of all races. It a common name in Mexico, England, China, Japan, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, Russia and many other countries. In addition, Karen is the ethnicity and language of 5 million people of color, many of whom are part of an international diaspora displaced from their homeland by tribal genocide. Upwards of 15 million people whose identity is Karen are affected. Karens United members report name-shaming of Karens taking place in more than 20 countries.
Is Karen the Only Name Affected?
No. The misuse of personal names as tools of hate and disempowerment goes back centuries. Historically, such abuse has often accompanied other traditional excuses for oppression such as race, ethnicity and gender, but "Karen" as well as other name-based prejudice demonstrates that namism can be both a contingent and discrete abuse. Karens United condemns and opposes harassment, abuse, and discrimination based on any name.
How Can I Help?
Thank you for pitching in. Here are some ways to help:
Never misuse someone's name, and gently remind those who do that everyone's identity deserves respect.
Ask your school, workplace, Facebook group, etc. to add specific name-bullying prevention language to their anti-bullying policies and to enforce those policies against people who misuse "Karen".
Boycott vendors who produce or promote derogatory products.
Consider donating if you can.