We All Know a ‘Karen’ When We See One—Now We Need to Talk About ‘Kevin’

Some Kevins, recently caught in the act.

Last week, a Mexican American man named Michael Barajas was blocked from entering his own parking garage in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood by a couple in an SUV. The SUV driver, William Beasley, was caught on camera repeatedly getting out of his vehicle to threaten Barajas. When he told Barajas he was calling the police, Barajas responded: “That’s fine, call the cops! What are you calling the cops about, Karen?”

The exchange was, most of all, a jarring illustration that racism is alive and kicking in San Francisco. But it also served to illustrate that we as a nation have been so laser-focused on Karens behaving badly, we forgot to even give a name to the men who conduct themselves just as atrociously.

The hashtag #KarensGoneWild is a large section of Twitter dedicated to women who racially profile others, refuse to wear masks in stores, and generally behave with an inflamed sense of self-entitlement. Clips of men doing the same thing aren’t hard to find, but they often fail to garner the same degree of attention.

Last week, 57-year-old Steven Dudek called the cops on a party of five Black and Latino men and accused them of harassing him. He shouted “White lives matter too!” in the middle of his phone call to 911. In May, a Minneapolis man named Tom Austin called the cops on a group of younger Black men for using the gym in their shared office building. (He said he didn’t think they looked like they belonged there.) And a few weeks ago, a man was caught on camera calling a Black man “boy” and telling him to “fetch me some water.” Despite no women being featured in the video, the clip was hashtagged “#Karens” and “#KarensGoneWild” on Twitter.

Some corners of the internet have been actively trying to fill the Karen-adjacent void. In its reporting of the Beasley-Barajas altercation, SFist referred to Beasley as a “Ken”—a term that has also previously been used by the Fatherly website. Quora and Reddit users are conflicted, with a mixed bag of suggestions including “Thad,” “Donald,” “Frank,” “Greg,” “Todd” and “Kevin.”

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“Kevin” has recently emerged as the frontrunner. An Instagram account titled KarenAndKevinGoingWild launched in May and already has upwards of 200,000 followers. "Kevin" got a boost on Twitter last week as well, after Mark and Patricia McCloskey waved guns in the direction of Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis. (The couple made a statement the following day that they were, in fact, in support of the protest.)

On the back of the McCloskys, #KevinsGoneWild is finally picking up a little steam on Twitter. Posts with the hashtag include two separate clips of men harassing peaceful protesters (including some 15-year-old girls), a Lyft passenger refusing to wear a mask and using racial slurs against a driver, a shirtless white man standing on a street corner cracking a whip, and a maskless man harassing a coffee shop employee over a Black Lives Matter sign.

Despite this kind of evidence, there have been suggestions that racially charged harassment—especially that which involves self-righteously calling 911—is an activity specific to women. In early June, Dr. Apryl Williams, an assistant professor at University of Michigan told Fatherly:

The reason we don’t see so many of these incidents where white men are calling the police on Black people is due to the gender socialization process where women are conditioned to call out and seek help and men are not. In the case of Ahmaud Arbery, instead of calling the police, these white men decided to take justice into their own hands.

There is ample evidence, however, that physical violence and phone calls to the police are not mutually exclusive. Let’s not forget George Zimmerman called the police before shooting Trayvon Martin.

Some writers—including Nina Burleigh and Julie Bindel (who referred to Karen as a “slur” on Twitter)—have argued that the new widespread use of “Karen” is rooted in misogyny. That argument is a bit of a stretch. After all, these women got called out first and foremost because they were caught on camera behaving appallingly—not because they were women.

It is true, however, that America has a tendency to hold women to higher standards than men. We see that in school dress codes that target girls more than boys. And in professional environments where women receive harsher penalties than men for committing the same infractions. And it’s why there are often no male equivalent words for derogatory terms used against women.

Calling out the Karens is an essential part of exposing casual racism that white people might otherwise never witness. And using that handle—while unfortunate for women actually named Karen—brings a levity to hard-to-watch content that makes it more shareable. But as long as America is holding Karen accountable, it’s only right to apply equal pressure to her male counterpart. We need to talk about Kevin just as much.