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Cat People: Challenging and Embracing the Stereotypes February 1, 2020

Posted by Onely in Uncategorized.
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Welcome to the latest installment in The Happy Bachelor’s and Onely’s joint series, “Any Excuse to Write About Cats.” In this episode, Craig (of Happy Bachelor) and Christina (of Onely) discuss the similarities and differences between the much-maligned Crazy Cat Lady and the elusive Crazy Cat Man.

IMG_3339Christina: “Give him three boops and five kisses” Craig told me once, in response to a picture of one of my flowy-furred cats. Not many of my cis-hetero-male friends would be comfortable texting those words to me, but Craig is not your average cis-hetero male. At least not where his pet is concerned. In the last three years since he adopted his cat Chester, he’s been embracing and redefining the Crazy Cat Lady (CCL) stereotype, converting it into a lifestyle for 21st-Century men who aren’t afraid to boop and kiss and brag on their feline children. Henceforth, I shall refer to Chester as Craig’s “son” because that is how Craig identifies their relationship.

Christina continues: I am pleased to be a CCL. I’m not pleased by the word “lady”, which sound creepy and sexist, but I will use it in this essay because it’s the standard. In my heart, I’m a Crazy Cat Woman. But using the word “Crazy” can be uncomfortable too, because it has an ableist tinge. Also, my love of cats is not crazy–according to science. Cats have big, forward-facing eyes and small mouths from which they emit sounds much like human babies. For the dummies who say childfree people are selfish, they should look at all the Cat People like me who are showering love on our furry babies with forward-facing eyes. If you can commit to cleaning even one litter box just once per day, you aren’t selfish. If you love cats, you aren’t crazy, you just have an appreciation for moving, breathing works of art.

Craig: I am proud to call myself a CCM. There isn’t really a CCM stereotype just yet because traditionally, men have been assumed to have dogs and women have been assumed to have cats. Fortunately, that stereotype is changing, and more and more men are “coming out” about their love for cats. I provide my Facebook feed with regular anecdotes starring “my son Chester,” as well as photos of him looking cute and funny, and they get a great deal of attention, because, well, let’s face it, how many men are that open about their ailurophilia? I’m breaking down the pet patriarchy! If others consider me feminine because of my love of my cat, well, that’s their problem.

Christina: Because Craig brings up his son Chester’s popularity on social media, I want to mention an existential Facebook crisis I’ve been having regarding my cat posts. I’ve noticed that if I post a picture of (for example) Alvin sunning himself in his laundry basket, it gets a couple dozen likes. If I post an article about marital status discrimination  (MSD), however, the only people who ever like it are Craig and my co-blogger Lisa, and perhaps one other random friend overcome by a fit of progressiveness (or spastic finger). I resent that my Facebook friends don’t seem to care about discrimination against unmarried people, and I feel like a bad Cat Lady for wanting the ratio of Likes to shift away from Theo and toward the MSD articles. Maybe the key to getting people to read about singlism is to stick cat pictures randomly throughout the text.

Craig: I’m a bit of a goofball. When I’m alone with Chester (and sometimes, when my close friends are over), I talk in a high-pitched voice and do things like clap his paws together while yelling “Yaaaaaaayyyyyyyy!”, tap his paws against my nose and go “Boop! Boop! Boop!,” and squish his cheeks together so his face look mushed. It’s cute as hell. And I’ve taken to posting this on Facebook, which gets a lot of likes, and on the Community of Single People Facebook page, the page on which Christina and I met, I’m known for my frequent posting of Chester doing cute and funny things, so much that I occasionally receive a tag anytime a cat is mentioned, especially a male cat owner. My theory is that I may be more open about my CCM role than most other CCMs.

Christina: Regarding the image of the CCL in society and pop culture: I make no effort to hide the cat hair on my clothes. I’ve gone on dates with white hairs all over my black slacks because I didn’t want to go up two flights of stairs to retrieve my tape roller. “Most men are scared off by women with lot of cats,” said one guy. He sounded proud of himself, as if he were willing to be the brave and tolerant exception. Eyeroll. Also, Copious Readers, what do you consider to be “a lot” of cats? I have maxed out at three, in a three-story townhouse. In my experience, one cat equals one cat, but two cats equal five cats, and three cats equal twenty. But when I sit on the couch after a long work day and they assemble at by my feet, lap, and head, I feel like the queen of the world (or at least queen of the cat-hair-covered sofa).

Craig: When I tell other cat owners I have one cat, some go, “Awwwww, only one?” I’ve maxed out at one cat for a few reasons: 1) my one-bedroom apartment is only conducive for one cat; 2) my salary will only cover one cat; and 3) Chester loves attention. Whenever I come home from work, he immediately jumps on my leg. Whenever I leave for work, he’s jumping on my leg, begging me not to go. This leads me to an anecdote: every summer, I go up to New York to visit family for a few weeks, and my friend Sherrie babysits Chester. She has four cats of her own. Whenever she goes to pet another cat, Chester is jumping up on her leg. My conclusion: Chester is best as an only cat.

Christina: According to my mathematical formula about the exponential power of the cat aura, Sherrie actually owns the behavioral equivalent of about fifty felines. Respect, Sherrie! Actually, Sherrie and I are probably pretty similar on the Cat Lady scale. Civilians would say that we both have “a lot” of cats. They would say we definitely are on our way to Peak Cat Lady, for better or worse. The truth is much less clear cut. I have met women much higher on the CL scale than me and Sherrie. I’m not ranking us by number of cats. I’m ranking us by sheer dedication to the cause of catness. I’m talking about the women who organize spay-neuter clinics for feral cats. The women vets who do the surgeries at the clinics. The women trappers who wait in the car in the snow for the cold, hungry feral to take the bait and spring the trap. It’s not as if I haven’t paid my own dues in cat world. I’ve trapped, fixed, housed, and fed a dozen feral cats in my backyard over the years. My tshirt has been drenched with pee from the loose bladder of anaesthetized feral. But those other Cat Ladies are far, far, far more hard-core than me. (Special shout-out to my friend B, who doesn’t engage in the feral community, but who does have an entire bathroom decorated in cat photos and therefore gets honorary Cat Lady Scale points for that.)

Christina continues: You’ve noticed I didn’t cite any men in my previous litany of heroic cat-helpers. That’s because in my experience, the participants were always, always women. And that’s why I’m so appreciative and proud of Craig for stepping in to fill the vacancy. But why is the cat welfare community skewed so female? It is because women are less egotistic, and therefore don’t require the constant slavish adoration that a dog provides? Is it because women are more sensitive and perceptive and therefore able to understand a cat’s more subtle communications, and to be better equipped to receive their unique, sometimes standoffish brand of affection? I’m veering way into sexist and species-ist stereotypes here, so perhaps I’d best stand back and let Craig, our token Crazy Cat Male, weigh in.

Craig:  I’m currently writing a book called How to be a Happy Bachelor, which is expected to be released in the Summer of 2020. I discuss toxic masculinity and how it relates to the roles males are expected to play in many aspects of our culture, during adolescence and post-adolescence, in particular. “Hooking up” earns males a certain degree of social capital in some subcultures, as this is an expression of masculinity in those groups. Since cats are known to be a female’s animal, owning a cat can actually counter against the social ills of toxic masculinity.

Christina: Toxic masculinity created the old-school Crazy Cat Lady stereotype, because toxic men were afraid of women who eschewed traditional male companionship (marriage) and chose to use their resources/energy for something other than a conventionally tidy house and human offspring. The stereotype reeks of singlism, too, most famously in the tired old argument of: “If you don’t get married/partnered you will die alone, eaten by your pets.” I always argue that if I did choke on poorly-sliced salad fixings (a constant worry of mine) and no one found me for several days, I’d rather my kitties eat me than go hungry. I mean, at that point, what do I care if my butt has a few more teethmarks than usual?

Craig: If it would help Chester survive in the interim, that works for me. He bites at me a lot anyway.

Craig and Christina: Cat People, please let us know in the comments if you are a proud Crazy Cat Person or if you wish the Crazy Cat Person stereotype would just die (and be eaten by its cats ). Non-Cat People, what do you think of Cat People? For example, do you like seeing pictures of kitty sons and daughters in your Facebook feeds, or would you rather see human children? Do you have opinions on the terminology used to describe women and men who love cats? Is it possible to reclaim the “Crazy Cat Person” trope in a progressive way?

–Christina of Onely and Craig of Happy Bachelor

 

 

 

Comments»

1. hotchachie - February 3, 2020

I aspire to be a CCM. I don’t have any cats right now, but I grew up with cats and dream about getting some of my own in the future. I always get along with other cat people for some reason. I think we just need to embrace the crazy. Cat ownership is a little crazy, from the fur to the litter box to the vet bills. We are slaves to them, but we are crazy enough for it to be worth it!

2. Onely - February 18, 2020

Embrace the crazy! 🙂 🙂 Thanks hotchacie. I wish you best of luck in achieving your CCM dreams!
Christina

3. “How To Be A Happy Bachelor”: Singles’ Rights From the Male Perspective | Onely.Org - July 2, 2020

[…] in a positive way, and I’m delighted that Craig Wynne, singles advocate and self-proclaimed crazy cat guy, has taken on that mission. His new book “How to Be A Happy Bachelor” dismantles both […]


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