rogue

OPINION: Enough about the 'Karen'. It's time to talk about the other villain we've all met, 'Bob'.

You might have heard of Karen.

She wants to speak to the manager. She just got off the phone to the police because she has a suspicion the people passing by her house are planning to gather. She panic bought all the toilet paper. And the pasta sauce. She cuts her hair short, just beneath the ears, and uses gel to style the front. Her hair is meant to warn her prey that Karen is approaching. She is the nemesis of shop assistants. Baristas. Waitstaff. Telemarketers. The kids’ teachers. Her hobbies include writing letters of complaint and shouting at her children in public. She’s white, probably racist, likely anti-vax and middle-aged.

Image via Know Your Meme.
Image via Know Your Meme.
Image via Know Your Meme.
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Karen exists primarily as a meme, and appears to have started somewhere deep on Reddit. Now, she's cultural shorthand for everything we detest most about women. A Karen has too many opinions, has already had her children, doesn't pander to men or even try to be sexy, and appears to be pre-menstrual 100 per cent of the time.

The fact we are socially unsure of what to 'do' with women over a certain age has certainly contributed to our characterisation of Karen. Many argue she's just a woman with something to say, which is enough to classify her as the ultimate villain.

But in order for the caricature of Karen to have spread as far as it has, some of us must be able to recognise her. Having worked in hospitality for many years, I've had many run ins with Karen. She tipped a (probably badly made) smoothie onto the counter one afternoon. And pushed in line to order a coffee, before shouting her complaints when it wasn't ready a few minutes later.

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Is the Karen meme just another way to make women feel bad? We discuss on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below. 

But here's the thing.

For every Karen I've crossed paths with, there was a Bob.

And no one ever talks about Bob.

Bob wants to speak to the manager. He threw a punch in the supermarket because he wanted the last pack of toilet paper. He drives too fast, and when he cuts you off he sticks his finger up, yelling awful words with his kids in the back. When he passes over a $20 note, his hand lingers for a little too long, and then he winks and you smile awkwardly back because you don't know what else to do. He doesn't have much hair. He is the nemesis of service staff everywhere, particularly women. He critiques them loudly to the other people at the table. He intimidates the kids' teachers, shouting at them in the playground, using his height and his build to make them feel two feet tall. He bellows at his children in public. And other people's children. He's white, probably racist, likely anti-vax and, of course, middle-aged.

Karen can stand, so long as we accept that Bob is just as bad.

Watch: If a man lived like a woman for a day. Post continues below. 

As far as I've searched, I'm yet to come across a meme about Bob. Bob, as clearly as so many of us can see him in our mind's eye, is not the subject of ridicule. No one makes fun of his hair cut. And when he asks to see the manager, we wilfully oblige.

The thing about rude, entitled and insufferable people is that you can find them everywhereThey're 20 years old and 80 and black and white and male and female. They're named Becky and Amal and Beverly and Luke and Jin. A woman with three kids and a short haircut is no more likely to be an asshole than you or I.

Karen has certainly ruined many a day for those she comes in contact with.

But so has Bob.

And it's about time we called him out.

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