Chasing Jupiter is a podcast focused on cultural and social issues, each guest is
invited to bring an interesting perspective to contemporary issues. In this episode,
host Naomi and Nikki discuss the Karen meme and the phenomena which is the
weaponization of white femininity.
This episode starts off with a playful examination of the cultural significance of
the Karen meme. Although everyone started using this phrase in 2020, it’s
actually something that almost all people of colour come up against in their daily
lives: the weaponization of white womanhood. At first Naomi and Nikki seem to
have a fair amount in common - two Black African girls from immigrant
backgrounds studying at Northern universities and both staunch feminists. As the
conversation went on, they go on to bond over their experiences in HE - what it’s
like being a minority within a minority, the near jealousy we have of students who
can just assimilate or conduct their studies seemingly unphased by institutional
and structural racism, or rather why they can’t seem to ignore it. Understanding
this is an act of self-care for some people, and then delving into how they
sometimes felt they weren’t afforded such options.
Nikki goes on to share experiences of her final year of university – one tainted by the racism she experienced at the hands of her white peers. And the realisation that people she
had once thought to be friends could also be part of the problem- time and time
again they weaponized their femininity against her and taking advantage of their
heightened proximity to patriarchal ideals of femininity by virtue of being white
women. After numerous microaggressions such as calling her scary and awarding
her the prize of “sassiest fresher”, the bullying she faced with her sports team
became too much, and she felt forced to leave a space in which she would have
been one of two persons of colour out of a club of around 100.
Issues with her housemates meant that her student house wasn’t the safe space that she needed. Candid confrontations constantly spun to frame her as the aggressor. For her, the
use of tone-policing was particularly hurtful. This was also worsened by memories
and trauma of racist and sexual assault become even more pronounced under the
pressure of final year assessments and exams. Higher education isn’t an easy ride
for anyone, but Naomi and Nikki felt that it was made that bit harder by their
politicised identities as Black women.
Listen to the episode here: