New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern destroys opposition leader with jaw-dropping ‘Karen’ dig

·4-min read

New Zealand’s parliament descended into laughter when prime minister Jacinda Ardern suggested that the leader of the opposition is a “Karen”.

Ardern’s Labour government is currently planning on pushing ahead with new hate speech legislation, which would strengthen anti-discrimination protections for LGBT+ people and religious groups.

But not everybody is happy about the plans – including National Party leader Judith Collins.

“Will calling a middle-aged white woman a ‘Karen’ now be a crime under Jacinda Ardern’s law?” she wrote on Twitter on Tuesday (29 June).

Speaking in parliament on Wednesday (30 June), Jacinda Ardern shot down Judith Collins’ question – and threw in a hilariously barbed comment for good measure.

“Mr Speaker, I also disagree with that statement, and I also, as it happens, disagree with the member’s statement on Twitter that somehow it will become illegal to call someone a Karen,” Ardern said.

“That is absolutely incorrect, and I apologise – that means these laws will not protect that member from such a claim,” she added to a chorus of laughter from her fellow parliamentarians.

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Collins rose to respond to Ardern’s quip, but she retreated just moments later, admitting that her planned retort would be “cruel”.

New Zealand MP wants Jacinda Ardern to protect the country’s Karens

The spectacular moment hasn’t put the debate to bed yet – Collins again took up her sword to fight for Karen rights on Twitter on Wednesday evening, writing: “Apparently insulting women for either being named ‘Karen’ and/or for being middle aged white women is fine, under Jacinda Ardern’s new law.”

Karen Chhour, a member of the right-wing ACT New Zealand party, later insisted that Jacinda Ardern apologise to the country’s Karens for failing to protect them under hate speech law.

“My question is whether the nation’s Karens will be deemed a protected group?” Chhour asked in a statement released Wednesday.

“Would for instance erasing Karens by carelessly merging them with the nation’s Judiths amount to hate speech?

“If the prime minister can’t explain why a scenario as basic as this would not be actionable under the laws she’s proposing then she should dump the law and apologise to every Karen from the Cape to the Bluff.”

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The “Karen” furore went into overdrive after New Zealand’s Labour government, under Jacinda Ardern’s leadership, proposed new legislation that would impose tougher penalties for hate speech.

Under current laws, those convicted of hate speech face a $7,000 fine and a maximum of three months in prison. Under Labour plans, that would change to $50,000 and up to three years in prison.

The new laws would cover written and spoken hate speech, as well as online comments, and would prohibit hatred on the basis of marital status, sex, religion, race, ethnic or national origin, disability, age, political opinion, employment status, family status or sexual orientation.

New hate speech laws were proposed following Christchurch terrorist attacks

The proposed changes came about after a royal commission of inquiry was set up to look into the Christchurch mosque terrorist attacks, in which 51 people were killed by a white supremacist.

If the Labour government adopts the law, it would become a crime to “intentionally incite/stir up, maintain or normalise hatred”.

Needless to say, calling someone a “Karen” – a term often reserved for wealthy, entitled white women who harass and bully others – will not be a punishable offence under the law.

The term “Karen” has become a popular way of drawing attention to a person’s privileged position in society in recent years – but it has also given people a welcome opportunity to call out bad behaviour.

In 2020, Amy Cooper, a white woman, was widely nicknamed the “Central Park Karen” after she threatened to call the police on Christian Cooper, a Black man of no relation, in Central Park, New York, after he asked her to put her dog on a leash.

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