Playing the “Crazy Cat Lady” Card

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.

Jack Snelling
Photo: Brooke Whatnall Source: News Limited
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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.

10 thoughts on “Playing the “Crazy Cat Lady” Card”

  1. … 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.

    I thought this was a known and widely accepted fact, no?

    • Yes, it is an image of the cat which I’d like to do away with for the simple reason they are very useful in providing company to millions of lonely people and in providing entertainment to gazillions of internet users 😉 . Oh and they also make us smile and reduce our heart rate…..

  2. Why does no one call a woman with a pack of dogs a ‘crazy dog lady’ It seems acceptable to have out of control barking dogs chasing around and jumping at people, but unacceptable to have more than one or two loved and cared for cats who bother no one.
    I’m crazy about cats I must admit lol and don’t really care any more if people think loving cats, being veggie and not using anything at all tested on animals is eccentric, I’d far rather be me than some cold hearted person never knowing the love and trust of cats in their life.

    • You are tough enough and single-minded enough to brush this prejudice off which is good but it is a sign of an underlying male prejudice against women. It has major repercussions in all walks of life including the workplace.

  3. I have been accused of being mentally ill because I have 13 cats and I spend a lot of time cleaning and caring for them. I was told all the time and money I spend on them I could do other things,have a social life. Well,it is my time and money,therefore my choice. I’m not a social butterfly so I am not concerned with partying or whatever,never was. Being responsible seems offensive to people.


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