Without going into detail about what was going on here, my eldest son just witnessed me talking to a customer service rep on the phone. During the course of the conversation the customer rep asked me my full name. I told her I was really embarrassed to give her my first name now because of the meme, but I promised her I wasn’t going to want to talk to her manager. The son could hear her laughing through the phone. We had a delightful conversation and she helped me solve my problem and wished me a good day.
The son said he really enjoyed listening to how I talked to the rep. He said he witnessed me “dispelling myths and solving problems at the same time.”
That felt good. 🙂
Honestly, though? Lately I’ve been struggling with the Karen meme a little. For years my Karen friends and I have marched, gone to rallies, written letters against bigotry and injustice, fought our own personal battles for equality – and now it feels like all that we’ve invested in equality – all our words and efforts – are being brushed aside like they never mattered to anyone or made any difference. The Karens – or maybe middle-aged women in general – are being lumped into one monolithic group and stereotyped – told by others what we believe – our own personal narratives taken from us and discounted.
And that really stinks.
Yesterday morning I read an article about a man who wrote “BLACK LIVES MATTER” on his own property and was chastised for doing that by a woman NAMED LISA who didn’t believe him when he said it was his property. I was immediately indignant on this man’s behalf – ready to share his story in my Facebook progressives group. And then I saw it. The news writer covering the story – a mainstream media writer named Madison Vanderberg – wrote: “The world is still protesting, marching, calling DA offices, signing petitions, and overhauling their social media presence in the name of civil rights and yet, despite all of this, Karens of the world are still calling the cops on people of color.” And a little further on the man himself – the very man who had been a victim of bigotry – referred to the woman NAMED LISA as a “Karen.” (It is interesting to note that no label was attached to the woman’s husband – who was also present.)
I found myself shutting down – just staring at the screen and trying to process what the hell I’d just read there.
And here’s the thing: Exchanging one target of bigotry for another is not progress, you know?
Let me share some of the stories of the Karens who are my friends – Karen Blair Troinello was a gifted runner, born at a time when females did not have equal opportunity to participate in school sports. She changed that: “Troianello is more than a passionate advocate of sports for girls. She is a pioneer who left her name — her maiden name — forever etched in state history. She is the former Karen Blair, the named plaintiff in the landmark Blair v. Washington State University lawsuit in 1979 that forced greater gender equity in college athletics.” (The Seattle Times, June 16, 2012.)
Because of Karen Blair Troinello equity was legislated for females in school sports. Let’s show her some appreciation.
My friend Karen Beckner has long fought for equality – here’s a photo of her in The Skagit Valley Herald, marching for the rights of migrant children.
And my friend Karen Rippberger ran for public office as a progressive in a conservative district in Oregon, and – although she didn’t win the election – she’s played a huge part in helping her local LGBTQ community’s battle for equal rights. Laura Camacho wrote in her voter’s guide: ” Karen Rippberger has a servant’s heart approach to leadership that is palpable on her website.”
Trust me – you want the Karens who are my friends fighting on your side. The Karens who are my friends don’t put up with bigotry, inequity, stereotypes, ageism, racism, sexism, discrimination, or lazy labels. – Karen Molenaar Terrell
When someone says something like, “All Republicans are…” or “All Democrats are…” or “All Christians are…” or “All Muslims are…” or “All Mexicans are…” or “All atheists are…” – when whole groups of people are lumped together as if they all feel, think, and believe the exactly same things just because they share the same label – that is called stereotyping. Stereotyping is a sign of bigotry. I really, really hate bigotry.
“It’s a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with.” – Pete Seeger
I remember on Election Day when I was a little girl my mom and dad would go off in a car together to vote. My Dad supported one political party, and my mom supported another – but they cheerfully got in the car together and went to the polls to cancel out each others’ votes. They weren’t angry with each other because they disagreed about politics. They didn’t yell at each other, call each other names, cuss each other out, or think the other person was somehow an inferior human being – lacking in intelligence, reason, logic, and good sense. Nope. They loved each other. They respected each other. Although they’ve since then become members of the same party, at that time, they totally disagreed with each other about American politics – and it was alright.
They were a wonderful example to me.
Although one of my parents was, then, a Republican, and the other was a Democrat, although one was religious, and the other not – they shared the same values. Both my parents valued honesty, integrity, kindness, generosity, fair play, compassion, the beauties of Nature, and having a good sense of humor about oneself. They brought their children up to value those things, also.
Here are some useful things I learned about the exchange of ideas and opinions from watching my parents interact with each other:
– Be kind. – Play fair. -Laugh at your own nonsense, before you laugh at someone else’s. -Sometimes saying you’re sorry is the most important thing you can contribute to a conversation. -Avoid hearsay. -Don’t assume that a person is lacking in intelligence or reason just because he or she disagrees with you. -Listen. -I’m really grateful I grew up with the parents I did. I think it would be a marvelous thing if everyone treated each other with the same respect my parents gave to each other as they drove off to the polls on election day.
Quick stereotype – because, like, what would the world be without them, right?: The Millennial generation rocks! There’s just something about this group of people that… I find myself trusting in them to do the right thing. They seem to lack a lot of the prejudices and nonsense that came before them, and they don’t seem at all intimidated or daunted by the idea of forging massive political change. More than that – I see kindness in them. Yesterday on my walk back from the post office a “Millenial” stopped his car to ask me if I needed a lift. I told him I was enjoying my walk, but thanked him for asking. He laughed and said he’d figured I was out for a walk – but he’d seen me when he was driving the other direction and just wanted to make sure I was alright. Yup. I think our future is in good hands.