Roz is a single young lesbian making her way in the world with fears of looniness and dying with her home over run by cats.
I have a confession to make. As with so many things in life that come to annoy us, I’ve been as guilty of the following misdemeanour as everyone else who ever posted up a meme of a box of kittens with the label “Crazy Cat Lady Starter Kit”.
As someone who’s been single for years, I’ve made my fair share of jokes about dying alone surrounded by cats, of the SPCA turning up with a van and unloading half the unwanted kittens in town into my living room once I turned 30. It’s a trope that goes double for queers it seems. After all, if a lesbian brings her couch on the second date, the third date is to the cat shelter. At least owning a cat or two is fine if they’re having their tails pulled by your over-eager toddlers, but talk of getting a new pet when your Pink Sofa profile is still regularly updated will be met with a knowing look and a comment about biological clocks.
There’s only a certain amount of self-deprecation (and, let’s face it, deprecation of others in similar situations) that you can really do before you start questioning why the stereotype exists in the first place. Why the link between women and cats, single women and lots of cats? Why, when I talked about possibly getting a cat, was I greeted with arched eyebrows and jokes about what took me so long. For the record, I ended up with a small green parrot with anger management issues.
There’s an inherent sexism to all this, once you get past the Simpsons references. The inference that women are so desperate for affection, to nurture, that once they get left on the shelf too long they’ll mother anything they can get their hands on.
It’s not just cats of course, our gendered view of the world extends to our relationships with pretty much any animal. Single man has dog? He’s outdoorsy, masculine, at least he is as long as the dog can’t fit inside a handbag. Single woman has dog? Child/man/woman substitute.
I appreciate that I am coming across as a humorless feminist who can’t take a joke but it’s the little constant micro-aggressions like this that make being female just that little bit harder. When even our choice of fluffy, feathery or scaly money-sink is seen as further proof of our inability to manage by ourselves, when a woman’s relationship status becomes linked to her mental health (It’s never a sane cat lady, is it?), when we’re such slaves to our biology that we have trouble telling the difference between an animal that disembowels rats for fun and an infant, in terms of affection. It’s disempowering, it’s a little demeaning, and maybe it’s time to leave the meme on the shelf and appreciate that a pet is just a pet.
Article | Roz Simpson