We Need More Feminist Dads

One of the kids in my house feels bad for people named Karen. He announced it at the dinner table. “They’re not all annoying, or racist, or anti-vaxxer,” he said. “They don’t all demand to speak to the manager. How do you think the good Karens feel?”

I pass a plate of steamed broccoli to my partner, Amanda, and explain to all four kids that while the Karen-meme has been controversial,1 and may indeed be a misogynist tactic2 used to invalidate women’s voices, it’s not an oppressive slur. Nobody named Karen faces systematic discrimination on the basis of their birth name. So, there’s no need for him to feel bad.

He’s been watching extreme partisan politics play out on the news, reading books about race and gender, and he’s struggling to work out the nuance of who’s allowed to be a victim. Everyone claims to be silenced, censored, and canceled! Whose plight is real? It’s hard enough for the grown-ups to figure it out; imagine how confused the 13-year-olds must be. What counts as legitimate prejudice and stereotype? Where are the boundaries of cultural appropriation? When are sensitivity and tolerance required, and when is edgy humor good-natured and inoffensive? I do my best to address his concerns, to guide his thinking, because I’m a proud feminist dad and I’m trying to raise little social

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