complaints, expressions, healthcare

That “Karen” stigma can actually be dangerous…

Good mornin’ y’all… it’s another day here in COVID-19 paradise. As much as I would like to escape the reality of the virus, it’s pretty much impossible if you read the news. And as you know, I read the news a lot.

I did play Sims 4 yesterday. It was the first time in months. I laugh at myself now, because when I lived in Germany the first time, from 07-09, I used to waste hours playing Sims 2. It kind of makes me sick to think about it, especially since those were the heady days before the COVID-19 plague hit us. I should have been out enjoying Europe instead of living in a fantasy world. In those days, I also wasn’t on social media and was spared a lot of drama… I also didn’t blog back then. Hmm… maybe it’s time I delved back into Sims life.

Anyway, on with today’s topic. I was going to write about how COVID-19 is starting to remind me of a bizarre BDSM themed novel. I was inspired by that thought when I read about how people in China are now getting their anuses forcibly swabbed to test for COVID-19. I first learned about this new phenomenon when one of Bill’s very right wing friends mentioned it. He heard about it on the radio, but now the news is making the rounds. Apparently, the virus lives longer in the anus than the respiratory tract, so anal swabbing for the common good is becoming a thing. Isn’t that just typical? COVID-19 is a pain in the ass… literally!

But think about it… we have lockdowns, extended isolation, forced face masks, which some people think look like gags, wristbands that monitor one’s movements to make sure they quarantine, and the overall stern attitude and tendency to lecture others that many people have adopted. It is a little kinky, particularly if you’re also in a car, wearing a seatbelt. And now, we have anal swabbing too? Not to mention all the latex gloves… and if you’ve spent any time around kinky people, you know that latex is a very popular thing in certain circles. I sure hope no one invents a COVID-19 PPE suit made of latex. When you’re as fluffy as I am, latex is not your friend. I’ll bet some people have gotten spankings over not properly masking, too. In fact, I bet someone’s written a dirty story or made a porn video about it.

I could go on about the BDSMification of COVID-19. In fact, I could probably have a lot of fun with that topic. But I’m not going to go any further with that right now, which I’m sure will disappoint the many secretly kinky readers among us (seriously, I get tons of hits on my posts about kinky stuff- especially the naked spas– even got one from Baghdad today). Instead, I want to trot out one of my tired old topics… that much maligned insult, “Karen”.

I have repeatedly written about how much I despise the trend of hijacking people’s names and turning them into pejoratives. I have even been bold enough to state it out loud a few times. I often get a bunch of shit from other people, who think it’s their right to use perfectly good first names that were popular years ago to insult others. As I wrote yesterday, a lot of people refuse to think beyond the box, so they won’t consider why calling someone a “Karen” could be a really bad thing. They will simply insist that the “Karen” pejorative is here to stay and it’s their right to use it instead of coming up with something more original and clever on their own. And the end result is that now, lots of people live in fear of being labeled a “Karen”, which in the era of COVID-19 can be a deadly mistake.

Consider today’s article from Dr. James Hamblin, a medical doctor who is also a staff writer for The Atlantic. Besides being a physician, Hamblin is also a public health lecturer for Yale University’s School of Public Health. I ran across his advice column this morning as I was drinking my coffee. It was about a letter he got from a woman from Georgia with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis. She writes that the lady who runs the drive in pharmacy where she picks up her medications refuses to wear a mask properly. She wants to say something to the technician, but doesn’t want to be labeled a “Karen”. She asks how she should confront this situation.

Dr. Hamblin’s response is a bit long-winded… and, in fact, annoyed me quite a bit. He writes about how masks are supposed to be a show of empathy and unity, as well as acting as a medical device. Personally, I’ve about had it with people who want to preach about empathy and unity when it comes to wearing face masks. Given what happened at our Capitol a couple of weeks ago, I think promoting mask wearing as a way of showing people how “nice” you are is kind of misguided and pathetic. I’m sure a lot of the maskless people who stormed the Capitol are perfectly nice folks when they aren’t breaking the law for Donald Trump. I really mean that. There’s no telling what gets someone so upset that they decide to storm the Capitol. Some of the protestors were clearly bad actors, but a lot of them were probably normal folks who were simply misguided and misinformed. Many Trump fans truly are basically good people. Conversely, there are lots of liberals who are legitimate jerks. Believe me; I’ve met them. I disagree with the idea that whether or not a person is wearing a mask is a direct measure of their quality as a person, and I refuse to get on that particular bandwagon.

I think people should simply wear masks to slow the spread of the disease. I prefer to leave the preachy platitudes and moral judgments about them out of it. A person can be a perfect asshole and yet wear a face mask without complaint. Or, a person can be sweet, generous, and loving, and not want to wear a mask for whatever reason. I don’t see it as having much to do with the type of person someone is… it’s just something we’re doing for now, and I can definitely do without the lectures on morality or assumptions about a person’s character. As long as the person complies with the rules, what difference does it make? And if they don’t comply, I’m more likely to just get the hell away from them, if I can.

I took a look at the Facebook comments on this post, and ran across several responses from people who do NOT want to be called “Karens” and, in fact, are so afraid of being labeled as such that they don’t say or do anything when someone is breaking the rules. I’m going to be honest and say that there are times when I don’t mind speaking up when something isn’t right. There are other times when I don’t bother. Scratch that. There are MANY times when I don’t bother. Confronting people is often exhausting and futile at best, and in the United States, it can actually be very dangerous. You never know who’s unhinged and packing heat or looking for a fight.

One woman wrote that last summer, she’d politely asked someone at the grocery store to pull up her mask so she could get around her. She claimed that at the time, she had been taking care of her father, who was then very ill and, in fact, recently passed away of Parkinson’s Disease. But, the commenter wrote that instead of politely pulling up her mask and letting the commenter get around her, the maskless woman then went ballistic and complained about her to the store manager. She claims that the maskless woman “told a bunch of lies”. The manager then called the police, who confronted the commenter as she was trying to drive away. Now, the commenter laments, her name is permanently logged on a police record, all because she’d decided to speak up at the grocery store. And, to add insult to injury, the police officer who approached her also wasn’t masked. It would seem to me that this story is one that might discourage someone from being confrontational about masks.

Lots of people were telling this lady to “lawyer up”. I thought that was funny, since people don’t seem to realize that lawyers cost lots of money, and unless there is money to be made, suing someone is a lot of stress and expense for, perhaps, not the greatest payoff. I will admit that it was satisfying for us to sue our ex landlady. She blatantly ripped us off and needed a knot jerked in her, because I suspect she’s done it to other people. But Germany’s legal system is more reasonably priced than America’s is, and you can get legal insurance here to defray the cost (although it’s still expensive). Also, I have my doubts that the commenter’s account may not have been entirely truthful. Let’s face it. When someone relates a story, it’s often embellished to put the storyteller in the best light. The situation she described made it sound like she was the only rational one involved. Maybe it happened exactly the way she reports it, but I have my doubts.

There were a lot of other responses from people who wrote that confronting people over mask wearing is not really “Karen” behavior. And I would tend to agree with that. However, enough people obviously think of being confrontational in any situation as being entitled and annoying– in short, being a “Karen”. The definition of a “Karen” is a middle-aged, usually white woman who is overly demanding and complains a lot. And given how polarized people are over face masks, and the fact that many Americans, as a whole, don’t like to be confrontational or considered high maintenance, the threat of being labeled a “Karen” could deter them from doing the “right” thing. What you consider the “right” thing to do, in this situation, depends on who you are.

It’s true that hanging around someone who isn’t masked could potentially be very dangerous, so it’s not unreasonable to speak up. On the other hand, I can also understand why many people would prefer not to. No one wants to end up on the news or YouTube for a situation like that. And even if some people don’t think speaking up about improperly worn face masks is stepping into “Karen” territory, not everyone will agree that it isn’t. Some people would prefer to avoid the temporary drama, potentially at their own peril.

I mentioned a couple of paragraphs back that in this situation, I think I would simply find a new pharmacy, or barring that, I would get my meds through the mail. Since I have Tricare insurance, getting regularly dispensed meds by mail is probably the way I’d get them regardless. It’s cheaper, and the military/government prefers to do it that way. I might, or might not, send a letter or email to the pharmacy explaining why I moved my business elsewhere. The reason I wouldn’t automatically do it is because the pandemic has been going on now for about a year and if people haven’t gotten the message about masks yet, a complaint from me probably won’t make that much of a difference. The original letter writer for The Atlantic’s article mentioned that she lived in a small town in Georgia. It does occur to me that maybe there aren’t other pharmacies. Or maybe no one in that town cares about masks. Either way, if the pharmacy tech hasn’t yet been confronted by her boss, there’s a good chance that complaining probably won’t change her behavior.

I have never used a drive in pharmacy myself. Are they like drive in tellers? If so, is the technician even in direct contact with anyone? Wouldn’t you be staying in your vehicle anyway? Is it like getting food from a fast food place? Or is it more like making a deposit at a bank? If it’s like getting food, I could see why not wearing a mask is problematic. If it’s like going to the bank, it would seem like it’s less so, since banks have drawers and/or canisters that they put the stuff into.

I agree, wearing a mask is the right thing to do in a healthcare setting, to include pharmacies, where you would be coming into contact with sick people. But it seems to me that a technician alone in a room dispensing medications maskless might be less risky than working the desk in a store, where people are coming up to pay and pick up their prescriptions perhaps without benefit of a window. I don’t know. I mean, yes, the germs can aerosol into the air and land on things, but that’s probably happening anyway.

However, I also know that many people feel better when they see others properly wearing a face mask. And conversely, many people hate the fucking things and are creeped out by them. I would imagine that in Georgia, more people are creeped out by them than not. I base that on having lived in somewhat rural Georgia for a relatively short spell. Nice people, but they don’t want to be told what to do. I can’t blame them for that, even though I’m smart enough to know that the fucking plague isn’t going to go away if we just ignore it. Personally, my solution is just to avoid people as much as possible, but I know not everyone can do that.

Anyway… this post has gone on long enough. I’m rambling like Dr. Hamblin. I’ll close by saying that I’m happy to be weathering this particular storm in Germany, where people are more sensible and there are fewer guns. And no one calls anyone “Karen” unless it’s their name… Fun fact, in Armenia, almost all Karens are men. Know why? Because in Armenia, Karen (pronounced Car-en) is a masculine name. Now you’ve learned something new and useful! Have a great day, and try to avoid being anal swabbed!

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2 thoughts on “That “Karen” stigma can actually be dangerous…

  1. While she was waiting in line to use an ATM, my mom saw a man (who happened to be a person of color, which would be irrelevant except in today’s climate) walking from car to car and trying door handles in a downtown area of her city with not much lot parking, where most people drive around to find parking places on the streets. Every door handle she saw him try was apparently locked, as he didn’t get into any car that she saw. This was in June of 2020, when racial tensions were a bit hotter than they are at the moment.

    My mom considered calling 911 but decided she couldn’t afford the rap if it ended up that he had legitimate business trying door handles, or even if he came up with a plausible excuse, and then a rogue employee at the local police department released her name or contact information. As a state-run university associate professor, being named as the next viral Karen could have caused her to lose her job, crazy as it sounds. With the Internet, it’s feasible to find almost anyone; she might have faced credible death threats had the incident been misinterpreted and had it gone viral. Even had the guy gotten lucky and entered a car, she could not have known for certain that the particular car he entered wasn’t actually his own car. She says that had he harmed someone, she would have had no choice but to dial 911, but that she made a judgment call based on what was good for her, and left his potential theft alone.

    It’s unfortunate, because it was highly unlikely that he was up to any good, and odds are that he eventually found an unlocked car and took something, which might have been prevented had my mom dialed 911. I totally understand why she made the choice she did, though. it’s a crazy world.

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