Vancouver Zeitgeist
Reflections on Vancouver, British Columbia and other topics, related or not


Not surprisingly,
Central Park Karen is Canadian

The black Americans she offended might wonder
what white Canadian men go through

Greg Klein | July 6, 2020


Her racial remarks aside, this Canadian woman’s
irrational shouting sounds familiar to white men
in her own country, especially in workplaces.


Dames. Broads. Wimmin. The female of the species. The female species. This griping must date back at least to the Expulsion, and of course it runs both ways. But a seemingly new stereotype seemingly justifies another round.

That’s the Karen stereotype, which is hardly new or hardly fair to women named Karen. But the label’s shorter than “nasty piece of work.” “Harridan” isn’t widely understood. “Nag” is much, much too narrow. “Bitch” might be, forgive the expression, too broad.

“Karen” apparently identifies a newly prominent or newly recognized type of unpleasant, privileged white woman. But in fairness to women named Karen, let’s call that stereotype something else. Maybe we can change “nasty piece of work” into an acronym and, from there, coin a new word: “enpow.” Not ideal, but certainly more elegant than WWBBBNNCK: “white women behaving badly but not necessarily christened Karen.”

It takes Americans to label something before Canadians can recognize it, but this stereotype might be more prevalent among us than our southerly neighbours. And maybe nowhere more so than in Vancouver. All that’s surprising about New York’s famous Central Park enpow being Canadian is the racist aspect of her otherwise familiar behaviour. Canadian enpows tend to leave non-whites alone, preferring the easy targets provided by white men.

We can try to avoid them socially, although any social circle may well include enpows among other people’s friends and acquaintances. We can put up with their aggravation briefly at shops and on public transit. But in many workplaces they’re unavoidable.

“Difficult” doesn’t do some of them justice. They can be downright impossible to get along with, and not only because of their refusal to co-operate with white male co-workers. It’s an interesting aspect of Canadian society that so much gratuitous hostility can be socially acceptable. In middle class workplaces anyway, white men have to put up with ongoing enpow behaviour ranging from cheap insults to irrational scolding, swearing, shouting and name-calling.

Any man would risk his job by trying that shit on women. Any woman subjected to that on an ongoing basis would qualify for paid stress leave and an out-of-court settlement.

But men, white men anyway, aren’t even allowed to talk back. If they want to take it up with someone higher, they can appeal to an enpow supervisor or enpow manager. Try that in the gig economy of part-time, on-call, freelance and contract work.

Of course the problem intensifies when enpows are the people in charge. That’s seen not only with enpow workplace managers, but also enpow cops, security guards and border guards. In maybe a special deterrent to crime, B.C. Corrections runs a recruiting campaign that portrays prisons as fun places to work, especially for smiling, laughing middle class white women. (Here’s one example.) That would just exacerbate what is, according to some Brannen Lake scuttlebutt, an already feminized workplace. Interestingly, given the concern about native incarceration rates, the encouragement for middle class white women comes at the exclusion of any for native women and men.

Back to the workplace: If there is a “man” in charge, he’s probably scared of the women supposedly under his authority. At two places where I’ve gigged (both newspapers), the only guy who could get along with female staff was an exceptionally oily lounge lizard type, those oozing, fulsome but oddly condescending sucker-uppers whom you might have thought today’s women would disdain.

Not denying the existence of non-enpows, our over-empowered enpow pals can be considered “normal” Canadian women. Middle class male workplace bullies, in my experience, are much fewer and don’t represent normal Canadian men. Those I’ve encountered included a tantrum-throwing little pansy, a Chinese-Canadian-overacting-tough-guy and (another tantrum-thrower) a Chinese-Canadian-only-child. In my long-past experience on male-only proletarian job sites, bullies were far less prominent. The danger of violence probably stifled some instincts. Since then, however, the influx of women into non-traditional jobs might have reconfigured the unwritten rules.

Enpows show up to a greater or lesser extent all over Canada, but they predominate in Vancouver. Non-enpows can also be found all over Canada. But their presence in Vancouver, tiny as it is, demonstrates strength of character in the face of social conditioning that encourages enpow personalities and the temptation to indulge oneself so maliciously. Vancouver’s non-enpows actually restore some confidence in humanity, an almost heroic achievement in this city.

Nevertheless, the enpow concentration must explain why so many white Vancouver men have Asian wives or girlfriends. That, and the two principles that seem apparent to Vancouver newcomers:

1. It’s against the law for Vancouver white women to look reasonably attractive.

2. Vancouver white women are very law-abiding people.

Actually some of Vancouver’s acculturated Chinese-Canadian women display enpow characteristics too. Vancouver’s unacculturated, affluent Chinese women can present a separate category of princess arrogance, but they rarely work or socialize with non-Chinese.

It’s a pretty white world where enpows hold power. So it looks like that Central Park lady finally went too far when she tried her Canadian enpow act on a black guy. She got her comeuppance. Vilified publicly, she lost her job and got charged with making a false 911 report.

That’s a cautionary tale for enpows. There might be few bounds to their behaviour but there are definite limits to their targets.

How’s my blogging?