HomeHuman to cat relationshiphuman to human relationshipHistorical male dominance behind the “crazy cat lady” label

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Historical male dominance behind the “crazy cat lady” label — 3 Comments

  1. The term “old maid” really gets to me. Is there any equivalent term for an unmarried older man? I don’t think so.

    • It’s derived from “old maiden” which just meant an older (presumed) virginal woman, but it’s taken on negative connotations (“maiden aunt” is another term and even “spinster” sounds negative). The problem is a much larger one. There are two titles for women “Miss” (the chattel of her father) and “Mrs” who was the chattel of her husband (nowadays we have the additional option of “Ms”). This made a woman’s marital status visible. Men were “master” (when young) and “mister” after the age of majority. It’s the linguistic manifestation of an old assumption that a woman’s main value was as a wife (all a man had to show at that time was that he was heterosexual).

      I’m not really offended by historical terms – times change, culture and language change too. “Old Maids at a Cat’s Funeral” (artist’s name was Pettitt) dates from the 1780s and was based on real cat funerals. There are plenty of accounts of spinsters and widows having funerals for their cats in the 19th century and early 20th century.

  2. The problem is, if you examine the actual news reports behind these images you will find that the individuals really are “cat ladies.” I’ve done a lot of research on cat hoarding in the 19th century and guess what – they were all women. Perhaps it is a nurturing instinct gone wrong, but it’s not a case of men trying to ridicule or belittle women. There really was (and is) a female bias and the women themselves did not do their image any favours.

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