by Sarah Ditum
Tuesday, 7
July 2020
Reaction
07:00

In the Karen Wars, no woman is safe

by Sarah Ditum
Amelia Dimoldenberg (l) and Dr Charlotte Riley (R) discussed how not to be a Karen on a BBC. Credit: BBC

When you hear someone telling a woman, “don’t be so loud” and “get out of the way”, your gut instinct might be that you’re in the presence of a reconstituted misogynist. Perhaps the ghost of Bernard Manning has popped back to put on a show. But no: these are actually the words of alleged feminists, speaking on a BBC podcast, on the subject of how white women can avoid being “Karens”.

The obvious problem with the question (asked by host Sadia Azmat of her two white guests, Amelia Dimoldenberg and Dr Charlotte Riley) is that it supposes being declared a Karen is some kind of just process, rather than a reflexive jab of contempt that can be aimed at any woman over 35.

When Dimoldenberg’s immediate answer was that women should “educate themselves”, I wonder what kind of “education” she thinks would have helped the woman in this viral clip, who was pursued to her home by a man who has a history of calling people racist as a prank. Maybe if she’d read one bell hooks book, he’d somehow have intuited that she deserved to be left alone.

Of course, no one who says “educate yourself” actually means “educate yourself”: that would involve getting into the gritty stuff of intra-movement controversies and ultimately having to use your own judgement to decide what’s right. “Educate yourself” means “mouth this catechism and keep your head down”.

There’s always been a place in public life for the woman who says other women should shut up. Sometimes she has a column in the Mail. Sometimes she’s the UK’s first female prime minister. And sometimes she’s calling herself a feminist, calling other women out (this, I guess, is easier than calling out men, who are quite scary).

All this adds up to a pretty embarrassing scene, where a conversation about racism devolves into two white women talking about white women. How this helps to centre black voices or redress historic exploitation, God knows. What it does do, however, is throw a very welcome bone to the hard Right, which knows just how to get at the nourishing marrow of a culture war. A clip like this will keep anti-BBC, reverse-racism polemicists in material for weeks.

And the women in it get abused, inevitably – which, while it has a Dante-esque symmetry (justify sexist abuse, get sexist abuse), is really just grim. There is no formula that will make you safe, no amount of attacking other women that saves you from being attacked. We’re all Karens in the end. Every wicked queen was a Snow White until her crows’ feet came in. The problem, for women like those in the podcast, is understanding that the game is rigged before you start to lose.

Comment


  • July 11, 2020
    "Educate yourself” is actually a very dangerous phrase for the left to use, as some duly do, and discover their expensive university left wing indoctrination was composed of lies and half-truths. The number of such formerly hoodwinked left wing supporting people is growing, and the nearer they... Read more

  • July 9, 2020
    Congratulations, Sarah. You're now beginning to understand the lived experience of men dealing with feminism for the last 50 years, the same shaming and misandrist tactics now weaponized by those even more woke than you turned against women. Kind of poetic justice, don't you think? Or as I like... Read more

  • July 9, 2020
    It was ever thus. Read more

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