Recently, I have noticed an increase in coverage on Cougars. Not the four-legged kind but the two-legged, middle age, female kind. There’s that show, you know the one with Courtenay Cox stumbling around in her botox and heels? And then there’s Cougar and Cub clubs springing up everywhere, and cruises where Cougars dance the night away grinding against firm hips of 30 something men.
A lot of women get angry when they hear the feline moniker, ‘Cougar’, because it portrays a woman as predator, hunter, conquerer. And what, I ask you, is wrong with that? Now, before you get your claws out, let me finish. I agree in part with what these women are saying, but what I would posit is that it isn’t the label but the way ‘Cougars’ are portrayed in the media. For instance, the writing is so bad, the acting so terrible, that the show Cougar Town makes me want to vomit. It makes 40-something women appear vapid, desperate, sex-crazed, and starved for any kind of affection. I find this offensive. If in fact we were portrayed with the attributes of a cougar we would be seen as powerful, skilled, strategic, and dangerously beautiful.
Last night I watched Taming of the Shrew, produced as it was meant to be, with all of the original patriarchal words spearing feminists’ in the heart as Kate espouses at the end her subservience to her ‘lord’ and ‘master’. Yet, isn’t Kate a cougar to begin with? She’s older, defiant, refusing to live on anyone else’s terms, determined to carve out a life that she is in control of. Alas, she is ‘tamed’, unfortunately, but then that was 1593 and noble women weren’t meant to have power but to be powerless in the face of man’s overwhelming direction. Perhaps nowadays there is still a backlash against the character of Kate–a woman who will have no master or lord and defines her own direction–because of these inherited stories that support hierarchy between man and woman. So the media has to degrade this image of a woman as a cougar in order for it to be funny and acceptable and digestible to the viewer audience. Old habits die hard.
And yet, wherever I go, I hear women saying how they have younger boyfriends because it is fun, because they don’t need to get married, because they love the freedom of the relationship, and in particular the fact that there is no hierarchy and that they can be themselves. These women are successful, evolved, at peace with themselves, and incidentally, hot as hell. So why the negative press?
I say we take back the word and empower it with the natural traits the female cougar has which are: fiercely protective parent, highly skilled hunter, a solitary creature that mates when it needs to but otherwise traverses her enormous domain on her own, completely self-sufficient.
So before you roll your eyes at the term ‘Cougar’ remember, they do bite. And you might be sitting next to one in the boardroom, who is neither vapid nor desperate but rather, possesses secure canine’s that keep her at the top of the food chain.