The "Like My Own Name" pledge says:
"By signing this pledge, I agree to respect the name "Karen" as I would my own name. I pledge not to use it as a pejorative term to label, dismiss or belittle. I recognize that casual hatred and disregard for human dignity are always detrimental to society, even when cloaked as a joke. I will consider speaking out when I hear the name "Karen" misapplied or misused."
You can sign it here.
Why It Exists
Names are a fundamental part of individual identity. The name "Karen" is held by an estimated 2 million people around the world.
"Name bombardment" is a new type of social marginalization in which the dignity of one's name is stripped. One becomes subject to constant negative attention. There is no escape from it – it comes from strangers and friends in the outside world, and at home it comes in through TV, computer, radio, books, and the mail. (Two groups of women and children suffering name bombardment right now are those named Karen and Alexa.)
"Name shaming" is a well-documented abuse wherein people are treated differently, judged negatively and/or bullied because of their name. It is a type of identity-based bullying.
Women and children named Karen are being subjected to a relentless barrage of daily harassment, attention and loss of dignity due to their name. If they speak up about it, they're more often than not dismissed, attacked or shunned simply because their name is Karen.
Children and adults named Karen are reporting withheld medical care, professional harm, lost friends, bullying, depression, suicidal ideation and social isolation. One Facebook support group has 1800 hundred members named Karen.
Is there actual damage to people named Karen?
Consider a few examples of many:
- A thirteen-year-old girl was beaten by classmates because of her name
- An elderly woman was forced to take the wrong medicine by medical staff who dismissed her objections due to her name.
- A published author was not able to publish her newest book under her own name.
- People are being shamed as racists in the media simply because they have the name Karen.
- People are being harassed in workplaces because of their name.
- People are being excluded from groups and public places by "No Karen" signs on stores, restaurants, Facebook groups, and more.
For many more examples, visit KarenIsMyName.org
Is this petition directed at somebody?
No. It's an individual call to action. The goal is simply to spread understanding and support for stopping the Karen meme and to show support for people suffering nameshaming.
Why don't you change your name?
Imagine the first time someone spoke your name along with the words "I love you." Would it have had the same impact on you if it were someone else's name?
For most people, their own name is imbued in tradition and love as far back as birth. It is an inviolable link between parent and child. Plus, as each of us go through life, every social, personal and professional connection we make hinges on our names.
Despite all of these drawbacks, many people have changed or are considering changing their names at great personal cost. That kind of collateral damage for a "joke" is unacceptable. That is the importance of this pledge.
Does this pledge only benefit people named Karen?
No. Nobody benefits from the proliferation of casual hatred. Part of "#Karen's" meteoric popularity is that it bypasses all of the profanity filters on social media. Because it's a common name, it cannot be autofiltered out the way that b****, c*** or a**hole can. Thus the misuse of Karen stifles any attempts to create kinder communities and the usage feeds momentum for hatred.
Furthermore, the Karen meme is misogyny's perfect weapon, since it's always either "just a joke" or "an unassailable antiracism tool".
Is the "Karen" meme vital to end racism?
No. We can fight racism without further harming 2 million people named "Karen." We can use appropriate words like "racist" or "bigot" and invent new ones that don't build on a misogynistic legacy.
Most labeling with the word "Karen" now has nothing to do with racism. It is hurled at anyone the speaker(s) want to belittle, shame or marginalize, regardless of reason. "Karen" is commonly used for anti-vaxxers, pro-vaxxers, anti-maskers, pro-maskers, mean people, people who disagree, people who ask for something (often something reasonable, like the correct change), people who voice an opinion, and the meanie who ate the last donut. The misuse of "Karen" today shares only one commonality – it's almost always aimed at women.
Ask yourself: How does it make sense to combat bigotry by scapegoating bystanders?
Is "Karen" about silencing women?
Some people are starting to connect the "#Karen" trend as backlash for the #MeToo movement. The #Karen meme started in 2005 as a skit by a white male comedian demeaning women named Karen and gained traction from an angry husband's over-the-top Reddit posts about his ex-wife, which nurtured an entire misogynistic thread called "FuckYouKaren".
To misogynists, the trend offers a powerful double scare tactic: shut up or you'll be called a Karen – or worse, we'll turn your name into the next #Karen. It's proven a very effective tool to silence women of any name. If you're not named Karen, you're afraid you might be called one. If you are named Karen, you may stay quiet and hope no one will notice your name.
What do human rights have to do with it?
The first article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that dignity is a fundamental human right. Trashing the name "Karen" strips dignity from people named Karen.
Furthermore it is not uncommon to walk into retail establishments or go to join Facebook groups and find signs saying "No Karens allowed." While the signs may ostensibly be jokes, they create environments exclusionary and hostile to anyone actually named Karen.
Aren't there more pressing problems in the world?
Yes, of course. But unlike hunger, climate change, racism, sexism, political polarization, or any other crisis with large complex solutions, solving this issue is instantaneous and costs nothing. People have complete control over what they say. It costs nothing to choose a different word. Many people named Karen are involved in public service work, so the world will gain their renewed ability to contribute to solutions.
And the #Karen problem is larger than it looks. The #Karen meme signals a commodification of cancel culture, where the social cancellation recently seen of individuals based on behavior is now transferred across millions of people due to a shared random identity characteristic. This trend is reenergizing malice, hatred and marginalization of groups as a socially acceptable hobby after decades of painstaking progress in the other direction.
What else can I do?
- Please share this pledge widely.
- For more information, visit KarenIsMyName.org. Enter your name into the "Name Generator" tool to learn about the unique experience of people named Karen.
- When you can, encourage people not to use the #Karen meme. If you lead or moderate a group, don't tolerate its usage. If you find an article or book that contains #Karen slurs, post a negative review or write a letter to the editor. If you see a sign, ask that it be taken down.
- If you have friends, coworkers or loved ones named Karen, be there for them. Everyone is under great pressure today, and the added pressure of name bombardment and name-shaming is not widely understood. Don't express your sympathy to strangers named Karen. Many are trying to ignore the hoopla and valiantly press on. If you see a person named Karen being bullied, step in to stop it.
- Counter the bad stereotypes by sharing stories about good qualities of people named Karen. Visit our Inspiring Karens page to learn more.