World reacts to Jacinda Ardern 'Karen' comment about Judith Collins

"A parliamentary debate turned into the real-life version of a Twitter spat."

That's how one international website has described Jacinda Ardern firing a "verbal shot" at Judith Collins on Wednesday by describing her as a "Karen". 

The term "Karen" typically refers to a white, entitled, middle-aged woman who gets upset and aggressive when things don't go their way. 

Collins on Tuesday questioned on Twitter whether calling a woman "Karen" may become a crime under the Government's newly proposed hate speech changes, which seek to protect more minority groups in hate speech legislation and create a new criminal offence. 

Critically, the proposals focus on speech inciting hatred in other people towards a group, rather than towards one individual. The discussion document says "more groups would be protected by the law if hatred was incited against them due to a characteristic that they have. This may include some or all of the other grounds in [Section 21 of] the Human Rights Act". 

In Parliament, Ardern said she disagreed with Collins' statement that it could become "illegal to call someone a 'Karen'".

"That is absolutely incorrect, and I apologise that means these laws will not protect the member from such a claim."

That moment, and Ardern's implication that Collins could be called a "Karen", has now gone global, covered across The Guardian, CNN, the Daily Mail, Unilad, and the Daily Beast among other media outlets. 

"The statement was met with laughter and scattered applause from other members of parliament, and a tight-lipped smile from Collins," CNN reports.

The Daily Mail Australia says Ardern's comment "left her colleagues in stitches but left her struggling rival speechless".

"Jacinda Ardern blunted her counterpart Judith Collins," the Mail says.

The UK version of the Mail went a step further, describing Ardern as launching an "extraordinary attack" on Collins. 

Unilad said the "parliamentary debate turned into the real-life version of a Twitter spat".

The author of a Mashable report praised Ardern's comment, but said it was a distraction.

"I can't adequately clap hard enough for this delivery. Yes, the fact that calling someone a 'Karen' came up in a country's national parliament is a distraction from the true issue here - that hate speech and incitement to discrimination can put groups and communities in very real danger, and let's be real, that does not include Karens.

"But it's a great shady moment amid a frustrating ongoing debate that is anything but light-hearted."

After Ardern's quip, Collins stood to raise a point of order before backing down.

"I've decided, actually, not to ask that point. I thought it would be cruel to ask it so I won't."

The National party leader later shared a Newshub story about the parliamentary moment, saying: "Apparently insulting women for either being named Karen and/or for being middle aged white women is fine, under Jacinda Ardern's new law."

MagicTalk's Ryan Bridge spoke to Collins on Thursday night, initially acknowledging her as "Karen Collins".

"Don't you call me that, because many people who are called Karen don't necessarily want to be called Judith. So just stop that," the National Party leader said amusingly.

"You know what I really loved is that Jacinda Ardern's veil slipped and she got so bad tempered she forgot she is supposed to be kind. She also upset a lot of white middle-aged women around the country who have been emailing me telling me how disappointed they are in her.

"They are saying things like 'we are with you, we must be a Karen too'. Haha, no," Collins said laughing.

"This is a new word instead of one of those really rude words that women have been called when they don't sit down and be quiet, and basically shut up while everyone else is talking. Is that what it is? I think that's the answer."

Asked if she thought it was a sexist term, Collins said it was used to keep women down.

Another person not amused was ACT's Karen Chhour.

"My question is whether the nation's Karens will be deemed a protected group?" asks Chhour. "Would, for instance, erasing Karens by carelessly merging them with the nation's Judith's 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."

The Government's been under fire this week for its lack of clarity around the proposals. Justice Minister Kris Faafoi was unable to give definitive answers on Newshub Nation over the weekend about which scenarios the proposed law may apply to, such as whether Millennials could be prosecuted for expressing hatred towards Baby Boomers over house prices. 

"If it's an opinion on a particular group then it depends on what you say. If your intent is to incite hatred against them then, potentially," Faafoi responded. 

Ardern defended Faafoi on Monday, telling The AM Show he was "pepper-potted with a bunch of examples and it's not for us to determine what a court may or may not do".

The proposals come in response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch terror attacks, which suggested the current legislation is too confusing and doesn't apply to enough groups.