Tuesday, September 15, 2009
This Cougar Bites
I object to the whole cultural notion of cougars. What do we call men that hunt younger women? We call them powerful and lucky. Courtney Cox might have made a savvy business decision by staring in the new series "Cougar," but she has set back by several decades a woman's right to equality and fair treatment. The cougar is yet another label to define a woman and to cast her in an unflattering light if she dares to choose a mate not suited to her age. Who makes such decisions? How do such notions become reified and universalized in the collective culture?
I don't understand it. If a woman is hot, she's hot. Why the need for the label? I think I know. Women must be contained and defined in order to mitigate, to make acceptable and safe, their sexuality. Women of "a certain age" are more powerful, and therefore more threatening, to men who seek young things without experience, money, education or clout. Inventing a label for women who refuse to engage in culturally appropriate behavior by pairing off with a man her age or (preferably) older creates a sense of mastery over her: I invent a category for you and define its parameters; therefore, I control you and strip you of your power, your sexuality.
I am willing to bet anyone who cares that this new show will not reveal Cox as a strong, independent and in control woman who makes sexual choices without shame or self criticism. Watch and see--I am sure we will see a woman riven by insecurities and self doubt, questioning her every move in the erotic jungles of contemporary America.
I wish for better for us as women, especially as women who are leaving behind one stage of adulthood for another. As sexual creatures, we continue to evolve and become more and more in tune with our erotic selves (don't laugh or gag, it's true)as we age. Yet, this is viewed by the popular press and by most young adults as vaguely disgusting and unsavory. How sad that we are so terrified of age and mortality that we have to vilify and deride those that are lucky enough to be healthy and active long past youth. We are ALL headed in the same direction; one would think our values and our beliefs would gradually change as the population ages. Even poor Angelina Jolie has started--at the age of 34--to be cast in the 'has-been' hottie light. My God!!! Are we really that shallow?
There is no way to conclude this other than to say I would like to do my part to change the prevailing cultural myths and misconceptions. I just don't know how, other than to fight the good fight in my classroom, in my blogs, and with those I care about. I must thank my husband, finally, for never considering me as anything other than desirable. He doesn't care what the calendar says. He just likes my ripped up jeans and my feline spirit.