Seriously. This line is washed up. It’s old news. Sometimes it’s hurtful. Mostly, it’s a bad joke.
I have been the butt of the cat lady joke plenty of times. I’ve even wondered if I should just embrace it. Yes, I have a cat. Yes, I live by myself with said cat. Yes, I also have a phone case with a hologram of cats on it. But you know what, I bought it because it was $10 and ridiculous and I was in a season when I needed something silly to look at every day.
One of my coworkers decided to adopt a feral kitten that’s been living near her home. I overheard some other coworkers recounting how they’d warned her not to take all the kittens since, “ya know, don’t wanna become one of those crazy cat ladies.” This is a grown woman with adult children, a husband, a home, and she kicks everyone’s ass at work. Take in one stray kitten and suddenly she’s reduced to being a cat lady.
I could argue that no one makes jokes about being a “dog lady”. But that’s pretty silly logic. Dogs, cats, what difference should it make? At the root is a deeper issue, one that is wrapped up in all the other titles a woman hears when you call her a cat lady.
Loner. Loser. Failure. Ugly. Weirdo. Single. Dirty.
Google “cat lady stigma” and you know what comes up on the first page of results? The Wikipedia page for “spinster”. That’s right. Because even Wikipedia knows that at the root of calling a woman a cat lady is shaming her for her singleness. As my coworker story points out, singleness isn’t always a player in cat ladydom, but I’d argue it’s a founding factor in the characterization. Maybe I should say caricature-ization.
Do me a favor and think twice before you call a woman a cat lady next time. Consider what hurtful names she might hear instead, thanks to the negative stigma culture has created for those of us who find ourselves to be both female and cat owners.
I adopted my cat when I had roommates and a boyfriend. Now I have neither, but I still have my cat. And I’m pretty damn happy. I wasn’t trying to fill some void in my life when I got my cat, and I’m not trying to do that now. I mean, he’s a fucking cat. But that’s a major part of the stigma, that women are buying cats because they can’t keep a partner and want to fill a void they feel. Hey, maybe that is true for some women, and I hope their cat provides some comfort to them. Or maybe they’re just allergic to dogs.
My point is, let’s move on from the cat lady shaming.