A hate speech debate turned heated in New Zealand’s Parliament on Wednesday when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggested the country’s opposition leader was a “Karen.”
The insult, popularized last year by an internet meme, broadly refers to an entitled White woman who is unafraid to use her privilege to make unreasonable demands.
Parliament had been debating New Zealand’s hate speech laws, with Ardern’s government proposing harsher penalties for inciting discrimination and violence. The proposal comes in response to the deadly 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks. A Royal Commission inquiry afterward concluded the law did not adequately deal with hate speech and hate crime, and recommended stronger measures.
But the proposed changes have been sharply criticized by opposition parties, who argue it would infringe on freedom of speech and that existing laws are sufficient.
“Will calling a middle-aged white woman a ‘Karen’ now be a crime under Jacinda Ardern’s law?” tweeted Judith Collins, opposition leader and head of the center-right National Party, on Tuesday.