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(en) France, Union Communiste Libertaire AL #307 - Antipatriarchy, Memes and sexism: From Karens to pick-me, at the foot of the letter mascu (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Tue, 4 Aug 2020 09:18:12 +0300

"Karen", "Pick me", these are terms that we find today in some anti-racist and anti-sexist discourse. However, they come from masculinist spheres and their slide towards "left" discussions , via meme circulating on forums, social networks and videos, is problematic. ---- The term "Karen" is currently used in anti-racist discussions to refer to the white middle-class American woman confident of her superiority and unaware of her privileges. The "Karen" represents the adversary without critical thinking. However, retracing the history of this meme [1]shows its deeply sexist dimension: in 2017, a man created a subreddit [2]entitled "Fuck you Karen To humiliate his ex-wife who obtained after trial custody of the children and alimony. Memes are thus shared all over the world and very quickly included in images and videos, before integrating everyday language. The term "Karen" is quickly becoming a masculinist slur targeting single, post-30s mothers ; the character acquires new traits, including that of being procedural and arrogant (it is the woman who asks to "see the manager"), and is mocked for her aesthetic choices considered dubious, including in particular an asymmetrical haircut and a blonde color, or a too showy manicure.

The term "pick-me" designates, in discussions claiming to be anti-sexist, women who "betray" their gender by supporting patriarchy. To attract the attention and favor of the dominant (men), they demean feminists and their struggle. Their portrayal is very negative: they would be young, unstable women, lacking a critical eye, too much makeup, who take selfies and publish their images on the internet. Among masculinists, they are also called NAWATS "Not All Women Are The Same !" [3]or even"attention suckers ". The use of this term rejects any materialist reading and aims to mock women who have integrated the role that patriarchal society has assigned them.

Keep calm and don't be sexist
It quickly becomes apparent that these nicknames, both "Karen" and "Pick me", serve to discredit women in public debate, sending them back to hysteria or stupidity ; To use them to qualify contradictors and contradicers, it is to evacuate a materialist and reasoned discourse in favor of sexist ad-hominem attacks. Indeed, where are the male equivalents of these terms ? If Karen is criticized for her arrogance and pugnacious attitude, is it not also because she is a woman and that as a woman she should know how to stay in her place ? Where are the men "sucking attention" ? Use "Karen" or "Pick me "Is above all to put women"in their place": out of public debate.

Language deeply shapes our way of thinking and apprehending reality, and words are sieves that organize the world and are never neutral. "Karen" and "Pick me" are Trojans of masculinist thought. Let's not play the game of masculinists and the far right: banish their vocabulary from our struggles !

Léa and Sarah (UCL Bordeaux)


[1] An internet meme is content that will spread over the internet. Usually it is an image, a GIF, a video. It can also be a recurring character used in both videos and image sharing.

[2] Reddit is a community website where individuals share information on forums. The subreddits is a sub-forum, a sub-part of the site which is devoted to a specific topic.

[3] Not all women are the same, a reference to Not all men (not all men), is a phrase often used by men when women recount rape or gender-based assault.

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