Are we really doing this — naming different groups of women after cats? Cougar, Puma, Cheetah…? Come on. It’s not enough that the word “pussy,” exists in the vernacular, we have to invent more insulting names and feline-centric stereotypes for women?
While some may think being called a “cougar,” “puma,” or “cheetah” is hilarious, ultimately, when women are dubbed as any kind of cat — wild or domestic — it refers back to the original slang, which, as you know, has many negative connotations. For example, when men refer to themselves as being weak, effeminate and cowardly, “Don’t be such a pussy!” what they are really saying, is don’t be like a woman, reinforcing the sexist stereotype that women are inferior to men.
I’m sure the term “cougar” began innocently enough, an older woman on the “prowl” for the fresh meat of a younger man. Right, you can say that with a straight face? No one ever called Mrs. Robinson in the The Graduate, a cougar. She was simply, Mrs. Robinson. Later, in the movie American Pie, the term “MILF,” was used to describe the Steve Stifler’s mom. That term is also offensive, but at least lacks the a kitty reference in question. So, where did the “cougar” emerge? Some argue that the slang originated in the Vancouver bar scene during the nineties. While others speculate it’s more about the nature of cougars as animals and how it relates to women’s supposed “cat-like” behaviors.
According to one lexicographer, the term derived from a Canadian dating website for older women to find younger guys, called CougarDate.com, a site where a cougar wearing pearls and a red dress greets visitors. The women founders were “told by a nephew that the two ladies were like cougars in search of small defenseless animals.”
Despite this speculation, the exact origin of the slang is unclear. Yet, now, the name is pervasive across our culture in TV, films and the media. Why can’t women just age gracefully without being turned into a stalk and ambush animal? And, to women, do we have to accept and embrace our role as these desperate predators, looking for one last young kill? Whether a woman acts like Jenna Maroney on 30 Rock last week, trying to pretend she is younger by using clothes and pop-culture references, or parading on stage talking about her “Candy Shop,” like Madonna a few years ago, she has to realize that we all get older, it’s part of life.
In the TV show Cougar Town, in which Courtney Cox-Arquette is the executive producer and leading role, her character ambles through her new dating scene after a divorce, which consists mainly of younger men. Many count this sitcom as empowering to women, and though the show is funny, the title is a conundrum for me. How can a enjoy watching a show with such a demeaning name?
Cougar Town won’t be the only big cat sitcom as the feline cultural references continue to grow. In a recent interview with Jennifer Aniston, who talks about her upcoming role in a show called, Puma, a puma is a woman in her thirties who dates younger men, while a cougar is considered over 40. So, if you’re tired of being one species, don’t worry, you’ll get to switch in the next decade of your life.
Don’t feel left out 20-something ladies, I’ve saved the worst for last.
Cheetahs are desperate women who prey on drunk men who are “out of their league” socially. Except, unlike cougars and pumas, these women are considered unattractive because they try to make one-night stands into relationships. In an disgusting account by Spencer Morgan in the New York Observer, he tells the horror stories of men who were stalked at bars, by hungry women ready to pounce on the first sign of an alcohol-induced stupor.
Now, I don’t doubt some women do this, but there are men who do this too. They proudly call themselves “players.” And, obviously in the instance of forced intoxication, these people are called date rapists, no matter their sex, but that’s a separate issue. And, if these women are in fact, raping drunk men, the victims should report it, instead of whining about it in a slanderous article and touting it as a new category of women.
There’s no need to dub confident and sexually-assured women names like “cheetah,” “puma” or “cougar.” Women come in lots of ages, shapes, sizes and temperaments with different tastes in men — and, despite that little pun, we aren’t going to eat you.
As for you ladies who are resisting your impending age, just be yourself. No need to bemoan the youth that’s gone, we’re all getting older. Let’s try and keep it together with some grace and support each other, rather than just making it harder on ourselves, one cat call at a time.
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- What’s with all this talk of ‘cougars’? | Hadley Freeman (guardian.co.uk)
- Don’t you dare call me a cougar! (cnn.com)