Call me a crazy cat lady, at least I’m happy

The stigma of the "Crazy Cat Lady" is a tired character.  Much like that of the Spinster.  The connector here is, of course the (knee-shaking, sweat breaking, :insert blood curdling scream here:) Single Woman. 

I’m currently reading "Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of Single Women in the 20th Century" by Betsy Israel.  This book takes an interesting look at the cultural phenom throughout the ages known as the Single Woman. And how horrid she is! Betsy Israel does a great job of painting the cultural stance on single women and all the evil they inflict on the world for not upholding to social norms.  She covers how the view of the Spinster evolves into the Bowery Girl, the Gibson girl, the Shop girl, and so on and so forth. All these different characters the Single Girl has played. Throughout history the general idea is that a single woman is dangerous.  She might be a prosititute.  She might be a gold digger.  She might even be *gasp!* gender bending.  Of course my favorite is the one where if she’s single that means no one wants her, therefore she will live a sad, lonely existence and be the embarassment of her family.

The idea that a woman who is single is this tragic figure needs to be put down like a rabid dog. I know so many wonderful women who have accomplished many amazing things, yet they seem to feel like failures because they aren’t married or in a commited relationship. The stigma associated with singlehood I feel even drives some women to lower their expectations, setting themselves up for less than they deserve.  "But it’s better than being alone!" some cry.  Please.  What a cop out.  To me, the fact that any woman’s relationship status still "says" something about her in this day and age is insane.

What makes it even more ridiclous is the invention of the cat lady, and how often this term is used to describe a single gal.  For example, a woman could be allergic to cats, therefore not owning one, yet if she’s single she probably has been referred to as a crazy cat lady at one point in time.  Or, even better, a single girl could own two cats (such as  myself) and be wildly busy playing roller derby, or sewing, or doing a number of things that she has an interest in and fulfils her, but because she’s single and owns more than one cat she’s a crazy cat lady (this is starting to get personal…).  Yet, I dare to ask what really makes a woman a crazy cat lady?  When I first heard the phrase, I pictured a woman who was in her 80′s, widowed with no children (or maybe her children were awful and never bothered to come around), and so to keep her company she began to feed the local strays who then became permanent residents.  Yet now, the crazy cat lady no longer needs to be of a certain age, or really have any cats that come around.  She only needs a vagina, and the label "SINGLE" stamped on her forehead.

I wonder what our culture will come up with next to describe single women, without considering what they’ve accomplished in their lifetimes or what their favorite hobbies are, or even what plans they have for their lives. 

In the meantime, call me a cat lady (at the good ol age of 25).  I’ll sleep well at night cuddling with my furry friend, satisfied with the events of the day, checking off accomplishments and dreaming of future ones that will make me all the more fulfilled with my life.

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10 Comments

  1. Comrade Kevin
    Posted June 29, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m a man and I’ve felt the same pressure to be partnered. Society tells you that unless you have a significant other then you’re a complete loser. And so I too have settled for unhealthy people or dated people who weren’t good for me to not have to be alone.
    It’s been really tough for me to deprogram myself from thinking in those terms, I have to say.

  2. hallohallo
    Posted June 29, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    expectations will never end.
    once you have a partner, they will ask when are you going to have a baby. once you have a baby, they will ask when are you going to have another baby.
    the only thing they are not going to ask from you is what makes you happy.

  3. sparky17
    Posted June 29, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    i super-like your last sentence.

  4. dark_morgaine
    Posted June 29, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    And what is it about owning multiple cats and being a single lady that makes one “crazy”? I’d rather have cats than children. Cats don’t need college tuition or baseball teams or scouts or play-dates.
    I’ve felt the pressure to find a guy, but I’m nineteen and I’ve never had a relationship. With anyone, of any gender, for any length of time. Well, for a day, when I was nine. He was 11 and his name started with a J. We talked about Harry Potter. He pronounced Sirius Black’s name oddly. It was Friday. The end.
    Anyway, it does feel like I’m some sort of mutant as I watch other girls get asked out, or hook up, or flirt. And that doesn’t happen to me. I’d say I’m single by choice, but I want a relationship. I just don’t want one with just anyone. So yeah, it is a choice.

  5. Lilith Luffles
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    What I don’t get is why the crazy cat lady stereotype only applies to single women.. or only women in general. I may not be single, but both the significant other and I plan on owning as many cats as we can pay for and won’t kill me by allergies. Does the presence of a “genuine” penis in my future cat-filled household really make me less “crazy?” Because I guarantee you, this comic describes me and my attitude about cats 100%:
    http://xkcd.com/231/

  6. Teresa
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I agree….as Comrade Kevin points out, men feel pressure too. But the way its applied is different between the sexes. When it comes to labeling single people, men get the title “Bachelor” which ultimately doesn’t cause the same reaction as “Crazy Cat Lady” or “Spinster”. It’s a double edged sword where its more acceptable for men to be single, because its assumed its of their choice (and the reason must be a good one), while women who are single are deemed to be the direct result of Satan’s spawn. How do we go about changing this?

  7. pokemontaco.wordpress.com
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never seen it used for people that only have one or two cats. It’s always seemed to me like it refers to people that have too many cats and can’t take good care of them as a result; like that lady that had hundreds.
    The stigma on being single is crazy, though men get less of the “your life is worthless if you’re not in a relationship!” and get more of the “you just can’t get laid. What a loser.” it’s irritating in both cases.
    (And I have 11 cats. Proud crazy cat lady)

  8. GrowingViolet
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Yes, THANK YOU.
    (And: cats rock!!!!!)

  9. FYouMudFlaps
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    I say single women should start owning guinea pigs. Devote a nice corner to a good cage holding 5 guinea pigs.
    This policing of people’s relationship or not lifestyle, especially women, is ridiculous.

  10. Kactus
    Posted July 4, 2010 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Most of the (cat-owning) people I know reasonably well (well enough to talk about cats with them anyway!) have reclaimed the term “crazy cat lady/man”. To us, it means “I’m crazy about cats :D
    I loooooove cats much too much to be put off. But you’re right, how the mainstream use the label is terribad with an extra dose of sexism!

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