How the Karen Meme Confronts History of White Womanhood

many times, it has been pointed out to me how patriarchy is older and deeper than racism. case in point? (1) black men got the vote before women did and (2) we’ve had a black male president but still feel nervous about a woman president.

this line of reasoning makes me cringe. to start with, what came first is not a cogent argument and oppression olympics are meaningless. also, the absorption of POCs into systems that are designed to crush them, is not progress but in fact a shoring up of the legitimacy and power of said regimes.

in the same way, women and LGBTQI folx joining the american military is not an achievement when the entire purpose of the military is to establish empire – use extreme violence to maintain unjust structures that kill and rob the most vulnerable, the poorest, the most disadvantaged.

how can such a world order help women, POCs and queer people? it is no coincidence that we are seeing the same hierarchies, policing and violence right here in the US.

this is a good article about the historical context within which to locate present day ‘karens’. in time magazine, no less.

Cady Lang: The historical narrative of white women’s victimhood goes back to myths that were constructed during the era of American slavery. Black slaves were posited as sexual threats to the white women, the wives of slave owners; in reality, slave masters were the ones raping their slaves. This ideology, however, perpetuated the idea that white women, who represented the good and the moral in American society, needed to be protected by white men at all costs, thus justifying racial violence towards Black men or anyone that posed a threat to their power. This narrative that was the overarching theme of Birth of a Nation, the 1915 film that was the first movie to be shown at the White House, and is often cited as the inspiration for the rebirth of the KKK.

“If we’re thinking about this in a historical context where white women are given the power over Black men, that their word will be valued over a Black man, that makes it particularly dangerous and that’s the problem,” says Dr. Apryl Williams, an assistant professor in communications and media at the University of Michigan.

“White women are positioned as the virtue of society because they hold that position as the mother, as the keepers of virtuosity, all these ideologies that we associate with white motherhood and white women in particular, their certain role in society gives them power and when you couple that with this racist history, where white women are afraid of black men and black men are hypersexualized and seen as dangerous, then that’s really a volatile combination.”

Williams says the exposure is challenging this position. “That’s part of what people aren’t seeing is that white women do have this power and they’re exercising that power when they call or threaten to call the police.” More here.

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