Monday, May 24, 2010

Kim Cattrall takes a stand against the term "cougar"

I've never written much about "Sex and the City" here, but if you knew me in real life, you would know I like the show. I own the entire series on DVD, as well as the first movie. (I plan to see the second movie, after the hype dies down.) I haven't written about the show because I feel like, in the feminist Internet community, the show has been discussed and picked over countless times; there is no shortage of commentary on why the show is or isn't "good" for women, for feminists, for anyone, etc. I don't want to get into a long post about it -- because it would be LONG, and probably repetitive of many things already written. And, frankly, I don't care that the show is or isn't feminist, or if someone else thinks it is or isn't. I can't limit myself to watching only feminist TV shows, or movies, or feminist books, etc. I like "Sex and the City." And if you do, great. If you don't, that's fine, too.

About the show, I will keep it short and say this: I recognize the show had some problems. (I also recognize that every single show I have ever watched and liked isn't perfect either. No such thing exists on TV, as far as I'm aware.) But what I loved about the show was that the women never apologized for being women; that they stood up for themselves and each other; that the friendships went through many ups and downs; that the show did break some taboos regarding the topics of conversation women have and the sex they have; that the women sometimes judged each other and were called out on it; that there was an episode about the bullshit of a single girl buying gifts for every occasion in a married woman's life and not ever receiving any herself (one of my personal pet peeves); that it involved women of various ages in various stages of their lives, and not just a bunch of young women; and I could go on and on.

What I always loved, and think was one of the best parts of the show, is how Samantha (who is the oldest character on the show; she had just turned 50 at the end of the first movie) was always a sexual person, and unapologetic for it, and accepted for it, and it was just a part of her life. It wasn't made out to be unusual or "gross" or weird. It just was. She's "vulgar" and sophisticated and funny and successful and gorgeous and sexual and in her late 40s/50.

So I was thrilled to learn that Kim Cattrall, who plays Samantha, turned down a cover shoot for an unnamed magazine (described as a "prominent magazine directed at women in their 40s") because they wanted her to pose with an actual cougar. I'm guessing the magazine wanted this because Cattrall, and Samantha, are "older" sexual/sexualized women? And therefore "cougars"? Here's what Cattrall had to say about it:
"I really take umbrage to the code 'cougar.' I think cougar has a negative connotation and I don't see anything negative about Samantha and her sexuality, sensuality and choice. I don't think she stands or sits in bars waiting for young men to prey on. And I think that's something that people who are uncomfortable with strong women have labeled her."
She also said: "I was asked recently by a significant magazine for women over 40 to pose with a cougar, and I refused to do it because I felt it was insulting. They took away the cover because I refused to do so."

Good for her! For the record, I completely agree that "cougar" has a negative connotation. Pretty much from the second it was coined, the term, and the women it's meant to represent, has been mocked and made fun of. And while I don't agree with every word in this column ("'Sex' and the rise of cougar culture"), I do agree with this: "Of course, the work of Samantha Jones will only truly be done when the term cougar no longer matters."

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