real life

"I stand with Karen." A defence of 2019's biggest victim of online ridicule.


I stand with Karen. We both want to see the manager.

Yep, I’m a Gen Xer, or a member of the Karen Generation, as we’re supposedly now known. In this past couple of weeks, everyone’s been talking about us. And while it’s been nice to get some attention for a change, being the Jan Brady of generations, there’s been some pretty nasty stuff said about us, which is (mostly) completely unjustified.

It’s not just the digs about our stylish haircuts or our willingness to stand up for ourselves when it comes to poor customer service. It’s a lot more serious than that.

The infamous Karen haircut. Image: Social.

The quote I’ve seen repeated the most often is from a 23-year-old Norwegian called Julia, who says that Karens are generally “privileged from the system the Boomers set up for them and now acting entitled and working against Gen Z. They’re usually racist, homophobic, and transphobic, don’t believe in vaccines or climate change, and are mostly also the parents of Gen Z children.”

You’re calling us anti-vaxxers and climate-change deniers? Wow. Just wow. After all we’ve done for you, Julia.

And what’s this “usually racist, homophobic and transphobic” rubbish? I mean, seriously. Jacinda Ardern is a (borderline) Karen. We’re not the bad guys. It’s not the Karens who refuse to believe climate change is happening. We’re the ones taking our kids out of school and helping them make signs for protest marches. Research shows the real problem is with the Peters – that is, the old white men.

Same goes for homophobia. It’s old men who are most likely to object to same-sex couples having equal rights, not relatively youthful forty-something or fifty-something women.

But we don’t like to get dragged into the intergenerational wars. That’s because we Gen Xers are too busy working. We’ve always worked hard. We’re going to have to keep working hard for the next couple of decades to pay the pensions of all the Boomers who are driving around and around Australia in their campervans, while our own retirement age gets delayed yet again.

We’re also going to have to keep working hard to save up money to help our kids buy houses, otherwise they’ll be living at home with us forever. Not that we’re silently seething with rage or anything.


Just don’t try to pick a fight with us, Julia.

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And while I’m at it, can we stop with the whole “Karen Generation” thing? It was mildly amusing for about half a minute, but now that nasty stuff is being thrown around, it’s not fair on the Karens. Some of my best friends are Karens.

One of them, literally called Karen, tells me that she can see people are going to become prejudiced against her.

“They’re already making assumptions because I’m older but now I feel like I’m going to have to deal with the assumption that I’m some horrible person on top of it,” she says. “This feels like it’s going to make my life difficult in the future. What if I actually do want to speak to the manager sometime?

“I have a lot more empathy for all the Nigels, Beckys and Felicias now.”

As my friend points out, the memes about Karen wanting to speak to the manager are sexist.

“Women can’t be assertive without it being seen in a negative light. It plays into that.”

Good point. If we’re going to give a name to Gen X, especially if we’re going to accuse that generation of being climate change deniers and homophobes, why aren’t we calling it the Darren Generation?

So lay off Karen. The rest of us Gen Xer women – the Sharons, the Michelles, the Leannes, the Kylies, the Helens – know that it could have been any of us. Today we are all Karens. Don’t mess with us.