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Does Karen wear a mask? The gendering of COVID-19 masking rhetoric

Tavishi Bhasin (Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)
Charity Butcher (Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)
Elizabeth Gordon (Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)
Maia Hallward (Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)
Rebecca LeFebvre (Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 25 September 2020

Issue publication date: 2 December 2020

3881

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Design/methodology/approach

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.

Findings

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.

Originality/value

The paper highlights how hypermasculinity rhetoric impedes social change that normalizes mask wearing.

Keywords

Citation

Bhasin, T., Butcher, C., Gordon, E., Hallward, M. and LeFebvre, R. (2020), "Does Karen wear a mask? The gendering of COVID-19 masking rhetoric", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 40 No. 9/10, pp. 929-937. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-07-2020-0293

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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