Does Karen Wear a Mask? The Gendering of COVID-19 Masking Rhetoric
School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development
Political Science and International Affairs
This paper asks how values and beliefs around gender influence social norms regarding masking. Specifically, the paper explores how the gendered meme “Karen” fits into social media discussions on support for and opposition to the wearing of masks to fight the spread of COVID-19.
The authors analyze tweets containing the hashtags #Masks4All and #NoMasks over a three-week period, using adjacent hashtag analysis to determine the terms most associated with Karen in the pro and anti-mask communities associated with these hashtags.
Anti-maskers reference Karen more often than pro-maskers, although she is presented in negative terms with gendered overtones by those on both sides of the masking debate.
The paper highlights how hypermasculinity rhetoric impedes social change that normalizes mask wearing.
International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)