Preferably in very large groups: We've returned several times today to Helen Lewis' essay about the derisive term, "Karens."
Writing in The Atlantic, Lewis starts like this:
LEWIS (8/19/20): What does it mean to call a woman a “Karen”? The origins of any meme are hard to pin down, and this one has spread with the same intensity as the coronavirus, and often in parallel with it. Karens are “the policewomen of all human behavior.” Karens don’t believe in vaccines. Karens have short hair. Karens are selfish. Confusingly, Karens are both the kind of petty enforcers who patrol other people’s failures at social distancing, and the kind of entitled women who refuse to wear a mask because it’s a “muzzle.”Lewis goes on from there, at substantial length. For our money, she overthinks the situation to a substantial degree.
Oh, and Karens are most definitely white. Let that ease your conscience if you were beginning to wonder whether the meme was, perhaps, a little bit sexist in identifying various universal negative behaviors and attributing them exclusively to women. “Because Karen is white, she faces few meaningful repercussions,” wrote Robin Abcarian in the Los Angeles Times. “Embarrassing videos posted on social media is usually as bad as it gets for Karen.”
Sorry, but no. You can’t control a word, or an idea, once it’s been released into the wild. Epithets linked to women have a habit of becoming sexist insults; we don’t tend to describe men as bossy, ditzy, or nasty...
For our money, the situation here is fairly simple. For starters, you aren't supposed to direct "epithets" at people. You certainly aren't supposed to direct "epithets" at large groups of people based on their gender and/or their "race."
Putting it another way, it isn't good to direct derisive stereotypes at large groups of people. Also, it isn't even slightly smart. But it's done all the time.
Simply put, people are wired to loathe others. People are wired to direct derisive stereotypes at large groups of others.
It isn't a lot more complicated than that. We humans love to hate and we love to loathe, and we tend to do so just as soon as power relations give us the chance.
We don't all do that, of course. But as soon as power relations give them the chance, members of all groups will.
It's a case of black and white being just alike, if now perhaps together. Members of all known human groups are wired to engage in this conduct.