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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cougar Pause

A quick note of actual personal opinion. I was driving home today, wondering about the extent of the damages in the opening rounds of NCAA basketball conference championships today, pondering the immediate and abysmal loss by Wake Forest, when I heard the local radio station advertising a March "Cougar Madness" tournament. Women can send in pictures of themselves being couga-riffic and be entered in the bracketology of cougars. Should they advance to the final round and win (based on picture only), they also win a new car. When they did one of these contests before for guys, you know what was "madness?" Mustaches. The male equivalent of this was mustache growing. Which, to my knowledge, does not carry one specific set of stereotyped associations with it. Depends on the type of 'stache. Cougars? Not so. That's very specific.

Now, the cougar phenomenon is a fairly recent one by popular culture standards, with it taking, I'd say, what, three to four years for the use of the term cougar to describe older women hunting younger men to become so universally understood that it could become the name and premise of a popular television show on a major network? My issue with it is hm...how do I say... its popular use in culture as a term that is not inherently offensive, stereotypical, and indicative of still entrenched gender/power/sexuality/money stereotyping and perceptions. Guess what laaaadies? Cougar is pretty insulting! Um, a premise and notion fully embraced and exploited by the SNL skit "The Cougar Den."

Here's what 93.1 Jack FM's website gave as a definition of a cougar, thanks to Urban Dictionary:

Cougar-Coo-garr- Noun. A 35+ year old female who is on the “hunt” for a much younger, energetic, willing-to-do-anything male. The cougar can frequently be seen in a padded bra, cleavage exposed, propped up against a swanky bar in South Bay (or other cities)waiting, watching, calculating; gearing up to sink her claws into an innocent young and strapping buck who happens to cross her path. “Man is cougar’s number one prey”


First of all - 35!?!!!?!!!! Wowsers! This entry MUST have been written by a 17 year old because, folks! 35 is not. that. old. Secondly, note that the description of the woman is inherently insulting in its insinuation that women in question are both lying in wait to attack (physically and violently - with their sexual desire) young men, and are desperately exploiting their bodies' sexuality to do so. Please note that this is not an endearing term! It makes women animals. And desperate hags. In one fell swoop! Women who OBVIOUSLY are too old to have sexual desire that's valid directed toward younger men are DESPERATELY waiting and slinking across bars and clubs trying to ATTACK men. This is not a positive view of women! Anyone?

Aside - Appropriate uses of "cougar"
1. Distinguish the awesomeness of John Mellencamp in relation to other people from Indiana named John. He rocks harder. Long after the thrill of livin' is gone.
2. To name a fine member of the Mercury family of automobiles. I remember these from my childhood. The Cougars and the Sables. (BOTH ANIMALS). Sleek, sophisticated, and a lot of burgundy interiors.

The presumption of the term cougar is NOT that women can date, bed, attract, marry younger men and do it with finesse, ease, and the same careless abandon as some men who prefer younger women. Those men, by the way, are called "heroes," and "good catches," and "yacht owners." But does anyone say, oh they are some desperate old men getting hair plugs and fake tans and wearing really tight graphic tee shirts to try to bang unsuspecting much younger women who won't see them coming? No. The implication in most cases THERE is also that the young women are either stupid or golddiggers who are fine with the age and beauty imbalance because they enjoy the financial perks of their older, caretaking bang partners. Does anyone ever say hey, those young men are golddiggers, gettin' with cougars like that? No, not to my knowledge. More like, ohhhh he got CLAWED by that cougar. And God forbid a younger man might actually be ATTRACTED to an older woman!!!! WHAT?!?! Impossible! The inherent presumption is that an older woman could only attract and retain a younger man by sexuality tricks and essentially, entrapment. Like bears get entrapped. Yep. Hunting snares and attacks on younger, unsuspecting men who get fooled by their cleavage into thinking they're of a socially acceptable age.

Old dude bags a young chick - hero, and she was looking for that guy anyway.
Old lady bags a young dude - she's so desperate, he must have mommy issues, I bet she's paying his college tuition and trying to recover from a divorce because her husband left her for the aupair in her twenties.

I found the use/misuse/casual embrace of this, to my thinking, insulting term for women by the Jack FM web site to be particularly telling. They have their own list of members of the cougar hall of fame. Yes, Demi Moore is on there, and Madonna too. They like 'em young. But then Marisa Tomei is on there apparently for being hot and over the age of 35. So it's not because she's an attractive woman who is over the age of 30 that you like her, it's because she's still sexual in any way over the age of 30, which must be an anomaly in the larger scope of the female population? Great. The most hilarious to me? Catherine Zeta F-ing Jones! Folks, she is MARRIED TO A DUDE WHO IS WAY OLDER! If anything, Michael Douglas is the cougar! She's just a very attractive woman over the age of 30! Her husband is not called desperate hunter of an unsuspecting, willing to do anything younger woman. He's called a very lucky man. A hero even. Because wow. Hasn't he achieved in finding someone THAT hot?
Yes.

I tried to watch the show Cougar Town because it's creator gave us Scrubs, a show full of quirky fun that I love and enjoy in all its syndicated glory, and even in its new iteration, Scrubs the Med School years (which I compare to A Different World from Cosby, which brings us back to Marisa Tomei), as the characters frequently say what they're thinking, even if it's not quite appropriate. Cougar Town - I couldn't get through it! Courtney Cox's character was caught early in the morning by another neighbor (formerly the powerhouse power-bitch on Scrubs - an entitled rich bitch who used and abused men and owned it without any neuroses about if she should, could, or had the right to - a great character written for her by her husband...Bill Lawrence who also created Cougar Town) while outside too early in the morning to be awake, so the neighbor knew she had to have been getting busy with that young hottie she bagged, but also inquired about her makeup being so perfect so early. Cox's character described waking up super early so she could put on full makeup so that the young guy would never know that she looked like hell, and old hell at that, early in the morning. Totally hysterical LAAADY time in commiserating on the need to perform TRICKS to ensure physical attractiveness to maintain sexual success with younger men. And obsession with appearance, and neurotic mania, and just a great, wonderful, shrill conception of women as they age.

Didn't Oil of Olay used to say grow old gracefully as their ad campaign? Sure, they were advertising avoiding wrinkles, but at least they were advocating the reality of aging. And grace. The term cougar removes all the grace from women and replaces intelligence with desperation, lust, over-the-top sexuality and cunning to target that which would be unattainable without these - sexual interest from any man not as senior as his lover.

A depressing outlook!
I take pause with these paws.

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