Male chauvinists can sometimes have a tendency to play the crazy cat lady card when they wish to make a derogatory remark about a woman with whom they are arguing or with whom they have a dispute.
It is an easy thing to do. There is this image of an independent rather elderly woman who, in the eyes of a significant percentage of men, is a little bit crazy because she likes to look after a lot of cats. This is entirely incorrect. There are many very intelligent and sensible ladies looking after quite a lot of cats and they are not hoarders.
Playing the crazy cat lady card is a part of the battle of the sexes. There is a battle between the sexes which is normally semi-dormant or bubbling under the surface but when it does come to the surface, an insult that the woman is a crazy cat lady can sometimes be made.
This exact scenario occurred recently in Australia when the Minister for Mental Health in the Australian government, Jack Snelling, during a debate in Parliament, referred to an opposition MP as a character from the well-known television series, The Simpsons – known as the “Crazy Cat Lady”.
Mr Snelling didn’t explicitly call the opposition MP, Isobel Redmond, a crazy cat lady when he was interrupted by her, as he was speaking in the debate about plans to reform the health system. He underhandedly said: “Eleanor Abernathy is talking again”.
It was a subtle insult because you have to watch The Simpsons to understand it. However, Eleanor Abernathy is a character from this television programme who is described on the Internet as “the Crazy Cat Lady”. She is also described as “a mentally ill woman who surrounds herself with a large number of cats”.
So Mr Snelling was playing the crazy cat lady card in order to put her down and shut her up and to make what she was saying seem less valid. The insult was intended to belittle the woman. As it happens, the remark also belittles women who look after a number of cats; it was a double insult.
Indirectly, too, I believe it insults the domestic cat. I don’t really want to harp on about this sort of language but it seems to be another example of what I wrote about recently which is the language of prejudice against the cat albeit in a very subtle way.
The image of the crazy cat lady is one of a messy house with an elderly woman unable to cope and behaving in a rather bizarre way with cats running around the place. Also, in associating cats with a crazy woman I believe you are also criticizing the cat as some sort of useless animal which is up to no good and can only live with crazy people. It is similar to the association of black cats with witches.
As it happens, Mr Snelling was ejected from the debating chamber for 15 minutes, by the Speaker, as a result of his insulting reference.
Another twist to this rather silly story is that Mr Snelling’s role in the Australian government is as Minister for Mental Health, as mentioned. He appears to be unsuited to the role because he is insulting somebody on mental health grounds indicating a complete lack of sympathy for people with mental health problems.