New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern appears to call Judith Collins a “Karen” during hate speech debate
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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a press conference in Wellington on June 28.
On Wednesday, a hate speech debate ignited in New Zealand’s parliament when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggested the country’s opposition leader was a ‘Karen’.
The insult, popularized last year by an internet meme, largely refers to a titled white woman who isn’t afraid to use her privilege to make unreasonable requests.
Parliament had debated New Zealand’s hate speech laws, with the Ardern government proposing tougher penalties for inciting discrimination and violence. The proposal comes in response to the 2019 deadly attacks on the Christchurch Mosque. A Royal Commission investigation later concluded that the law did not adequately address hate speech and hate crimes, and recommended tougher measures.
But the proposed changes have been sharply criticized by opposition parties, who argue that it would undermine freedom of expression and that existing laws are sufficient.
“Will calling a middle-aged white woman a ‘Karen’ now be a felony under Jacinda Ardern’s law?” ” tweeted Judith Collins, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the National Center-Right Party, Tuesday.
Collins reiterated her opposition to the law in parliament on Wednesday, arguing it “would shut down the hate speech debate.”
“I do not agree with this statement,” replied Ardern. “I also disagree with (Collins) ‘statement on Twitter that it will become illegal to call someone’ Karen. ‘This is absolutely incorrect, and I apologize, it means these laws do not. will not protect that member from such a claim. ”
The statement was greeted with scattered laughter and applause from the other members of parliament, and a pursed smile from Collins.
The term, which several groups and dictionaries have called “word of the year” in 2020, is dividing people. Some think it’s sexist, while others say it’s a placeholder to talk about the occasional racism and privileges some white women exhibit.
The use of “Karen” to signify a certain stereotype of whiteness is not new, or even peculiar – there was also “BBQ Becky”, the nickname given to a white woman who called the police about a group of blacks barbecuing in a public park in 2018.
But “Karen” became widely used in 2020 thanks to the cultural strength of Black Twitter and the frustrations over racial injustice that spilled over during the Black Lives Matter protests. A number of incidents that have gone viral online – including a white woman who called the police on a black bird watcher for asking him to leave her dog on a leash in Central Park – have further ended and the problems that ‘he conjures up in the spotlight.