As a white, straight, cisgender woman, I consider myself as privileged as it gets—right behind my male counterpart, I’ll give you that. Let me first reassure you that I’m no Karen. Yes, I have bad days. Sure, I cry a fair bit, but I don’t film myself fake crying only to then post it on TikTok and take part in probably one of the worst trends I’ve ever seen. I admit, when crying (for real), I sometimes like to look at my own reflection in the mirror. It makes me feel calmer, and apparently, I’m not the only one. But I digress.
Earlier this month on TikTok, a number of white women began posting videos of themselves pretending to cry, only to suddenly stop and smile. Although they initially saw it as an “acting challenge” of sorts, the trend has since kicked off a larger discussion about white women’s historic weaponisation of their victimhood against black people.
By going on the original sound being used specifically for this trend, users can now witness the widespread condemnation it is receiving online. And for obvious and understandable reasons. “From criticism about its tone deaf nature to posts about Emmett Till’s murder, all of the crying was (rightfully) panned for its complete disregard of the innumerable black people who’ve been subject to violence as a result of these ‘crocodile tears’,” writes Paper Magazine.
Historically, white women have used their tears and their false victimhood to accuse and vilify people of colour, particularly those from the black community. This Karen-esque trend is only highlighting the participants’ ability to falsify emotions and manipulate others. I mean, there’s literally a book on this, titled White Tears Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Colour.
We all remember how back in May 2020, a white woman named Amy Cooper was walking her unleashed dog in Central Park. A black man, Christian Cooper, who was also in the park bird-watching, asked the woman to put her dog on a leash. She quickly became upset after Christian Cooper decided to start filming her. In the video that he recorded, Amy Cooper can be heard saying, “I’m taking a picture and calling the cops. I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.” This sparked a massive debate on social media, alleging that Amy Cooper knowingly put Christian Cooper in danger by exaggerating distress in a police call.
Incidents like this happen most days around the world. The cultural power of white tears depends, in turn, on the dehumanisation of people of colour, who were constructed in colonial ‘race science’ as incapable of complex feeling. In other words, when white women cry foul, it is often people of colour who suffer. And going through the many comments the fake crying trend has been receiving since its emergence, it’s safe to say that “a lot of black people are more scared of them than anyone else.”
This TikTok trend—if you can even call that a trend—is also known as the ‘Turn It Off’ trend. When the soundtrack says the words ‘turn it off’, women stop crying and essentially ‘turn off’ their emotions. Considering that, in general, white people have been using their tears against POC for literally centuries, it would be daft for someone to try and defend the trend as a mere acting challenge.
If you do, chances are you’re part of that demography—and still, that’s no excuse. This tone-deaf challenge completely ignores how many people have died because of women pretending to cry. Moreover, let’s say we could put issues of race aside, the trend remains problematic because of how it promotes the act of faking emotions. That shit’s not funny or impressive—it’s terrifying.
Have you ever been stuck in a queue, held up by an angry person demanding to speak to a manager because of something that probably could have been settled there and then? Maybe a joke didn’t go down too well with them, or they gave off a strong air of self-entitlement? Well, if so, you have more than likely come across a Karen.
And Karen is not just a term for the middle-aged mean girl, your male boss may be the biggest Karen of them all. Whichever it is, we’ve all had an eye-rolling experience with a Karen at some point. So here are a few pointers on how not to be the Karen of your office—and who knows, you might actually have a good Secret Santa gift in your future!
No one wants to open their emails on a Monday morning to find a snobby, passive-aggressive email from Karen. “As per my last email” can read a lot like “as I said, you idiot.”
Karen often changes the way they end emails depending on the subject or how frustrated they are. ‘Kind regards’ will become just ‘regards’ when someone’s reached the bad side of a Karen. If this sounds like you, it’s best to just create an email signature that’s professionally friendly, and just stick to that.
The Karen is always the one taking charge, so step back every once in a while to let others have a go. Maybe it always has to be you organising things like work socials, where people go, and office decorations. We understand, you want everything to be just perfect—but you may be the one getting extra stressed and taking it out on other staff members.
Sit back, relax and get on with your day’s work from the comfort of your own desk. Whenever there’s a work outing, are you always complaining and causing a scene? If there’s a problem and other colleagues think so too, let someone else take the lead for once.
One of the surest ways to be typecast as a Karen is to go from 0 to 100 on the angry scale in no time, especially in situations where it really shouldn’t warrant it. The Karen is programmed to go into a rant mode and start demanding things, yelling out their rights, being needlessly pedantic or being intentionally difficult.
Regardless of who is in the wrong, try to remain calm and level-headed. Use a quiet area or comfy sofa in the office if you can to help destress. The rest of the office will appreciate it.
Sounds simple, but the Karens of the world are named so to fit the modern-day definition of a person who is very serious, often angry and very entitled. It’s important to remember that everyone has a job to do and mistakes can happen; everyone is not always out to get you or do you wrong. This also applies to office banter and jokes. Try not to get too offended when colleagues are bantering, especially when you understand the joke. Play along, relax and if you personally know an office Karen, try to have a laugh with them!
What’s your office alter ego, we wonder? Are you the office Karen, the Jobsworth Jane or the Banter Barry? Take this mini quiz to find out!