The makers of the movie ‘The Glorias’ on why the label ‘Karen’ is sexist

“The Glorias” is the story of Gloria Steinem — from her childhood in 1940s Ohio to her leading role in the women's liberation movement. The film is written and directed by Julie Taymor and stars Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander as Steinem from ages 20 to 40. It highlights her part as an activist and journalist during the feminist movement. “The way the movement has been portrayed, until this movie, has not been true,” Steinem tells Yahoo Entertainment. When asked about the phenomenon of “Karen,” a white woman who uses her privilege to demand her own way, Steinem says, “It’s kind of annoying that white women get Karen.” “I find it really annoying that it all gets put on the white woman,” Taymor adds. “I definitely think the Karen thing is sexist.”

Video Transcript

JULIANNE MOORE: What Dorothy and I have to say is too important not to say it.

- This is the year of women's liberation.

BETTE MIDLER: Change comes from within.

- Every minute is a chance to change the world.

- What are you? Lesbians?

- What are you? The alternative?

ETHAN ALTER: One of the things I really appreciated, Julie, is how you sort of depicted, even as the feminist movement really came together, and was about solidarity, there were still divisions within it. Racial divisions, class divisions. And that's certainly something where we're wrestling with today, after the summer we've had. How do you hope people sort of take that historical knowledge in the film and apply it to the present day?

JULIE TAYMOR: Well, I think that the thing that this film shows, is that women of color were always at the forefront of the feminist movement. That is really critical, because there's been a misunderstanding there. And Gloria, from a child onwards, was always crossing racial and cultural lines. Whether it was to India or in East Toledo to the barber shop down the street, where a little girl, little African-American girl, invites little Gloria to tap dance in the barbershop.

You know, this is something, this movie is showing an aspect of the movement of the second wave of feminism, which has never been done in a drama in a movie. And really shows these great leaders. Wilma Mankiller, Flo Kennedy, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, as well as Bella Abzug. And as well as all the other smaller characters who really influence, because Gloria would listen to them, who really inspired her.

So I feel like this is going to spawn people going out and looking to, who was Flo Kennedy? That was a great character. I didn't know these people before I read her book. So I was very happy to be able to put these other women also onto the screen.

GLORIA STEINEM: And I think actually the movement is, was way more diverse than it's ever been portrayed. And women of color, and especially black women, were way more likely to be feminists than white women. And that continues to be the case. I mean, 90% of black women voted for Hillary Clinton and more than half of white women voted for Trump. I mean, the way the movement has been portrayed until this movie has not been true.

JULIANNE MOORE: One of the things that Gloria Steinem always says that she learned from Flo Kennedy was, that racism and sexism were, you couldn't dismantle one without dismantling the other. That hierarchical systems are damaging for all of us. And that's what these movements were about. And I think that we're seeing that obviously echo today, where you realize if there is a system that oppresses one group, it's oppressing a lot of groups. It's our responsibility as human beings to make things fair, give everybody the same opportunity, and to dismantle the system that's harming people.

ETHAN ALTER: To that point, Gloria, I wonder, certainly one of the phenomena we heard about this past summer was the Karen phenomenon, the idea of white women who use their privilege for various reasons. Is that something that's not unique to this time or you sort of always known about the Karens, for lack of a better term?

GLORIA STEINEM: Yeah, no, I mean, there's always been about, well, I don't know always, but about half of white women who are economically dependent for their welfare on their husbands and are voting their husband's interests, not their interests, and of course, also have racial bias and so on. But it's kind of annoying that white women get Karen.

JULIE TAYMOR: What about their husbands?

GLORIA STEINEM: Right, right.

JULIE TAYMOR: I mean, that guy, those two people who were out there with guns, I find it really annoying that it all gets put on the white woman because of one or two or three incidents where they show. But what are the policemen's names, by the way, who have committed atrocities? What is that name for them?

GLORIA STEINEM: And also, there are all kinds of statistics about the lowered rate of violence when there are female police officers as well as male police officers, and we don't hear that [INAUDIBLE].

JULIE TAYMOR: I definitely think the Karen thing is sexist. To make a big deal out of it is just, it's an easy thing to do.