Chocolate, shoes, and the spinster dilemma.

So, for those of you who live under rocks (like me), you should probably know–that silly comic strip, Cathy, is ending. October 3rd is the big day.

The announcement got posted over at the Post Punk Kitchen forums, where lively discussion began. Cathy certainly seems to induce reactions in people, mostly negative. Someone linked this article from Feministe, which opens by saying that Cathy ending will be the greatest day for all of feminism. There was a lot of issue with that over at the PPK.

Well, this morning in class I walked my clutch of soon-to-be-AP-English-scholars through writing one of the kinds of essays that they’ll see on the AP exam, so I’m currently thinking in literary terms. All I can say is HYPERBOLE. There have been lots of great moments for feminism! Cathy ending is not overshadowing them!

But oh, how great it will be that strip ends. Sometimes, exaggeration is the best way to get across the intensity of emotion.

Cathy, like Miss Piggy, was one of those things that struck me at an early age as hating portrayals of women in media. Of course, I was hanging out with lots of misogynistic guys and had few close female friends, so I translated them into hating women and hating my gender and myself; I went out of the way to prove that I was the antithesis of Cathy (and I still carry some of that with me). Cathy embodies so much of what drives me up a wall–she is Sex and the City but with a lower budget. She’s a single career girl… but not by choice. She hates that she’s single, she spends all her time being neurotic about men, worrying about her appearance, binge eating, and then drowning in guilt for having dared to do so.

Yes, it’s remarkable that we’ve had a syndicated woman cartoonist for 34 years. As I already covered while I was reading Trina Robbins’ excellent History of Women Cartoonists, the ladies don’t really get a lot of press. Now that we’re all big on the internets, being syndicated isn’t such a big deal, but syndication used to be the ultimate “making it” for comic strip artists/writers. The existence of Cathy was, on the outside, a victory for women.

But how much of a victory can you call it? Had Cathy been written by a man, instead of a woman, I don’t think there’d be a woman out there lamenting the end of this era. It’s sad that we’re losing a woman’s voice on the comics pages, but did we ever really have one to begin with? That strip felt like a puppet–pay no attention to the sexism behind the woman. Just because this pathetic stereotyping and denigration was coming from a woman, that somehow made it okay. That somehow made it PRO-woman.

Cathy is not, and never has been, pro-women or advancing feminism in any way. It serves the purpose of the “my [insert minority here] friend thought [same minority joke] was funny, so it’s not offensive!” line. Because Cathy comes from a female writer, it is therefore that much more insidious in its reinforcement of female psychology or whatever you want to call it.

I’m delighted that Cathy Guisewite was able to spend 34 years doing the job she wanted and hopefully loved. I wish her all the best. But I, for one, will be happy to have Cathy no longer in the papers.

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08/16/2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized.

2 Comments

  1. Sarah replied:

    so, i don’t have anything to say about cathy — you’ve already said everything i would have wanted to anyway. however, i do have some questions for you on the business of gender-hating (full disclosure: i found your blog while googling “hating my gender”). namely…how does one stop? You said this:

    “I went out of the way to prove that I was the antithesis of Cathy (and I still carry some of that with me).”

    i’ve got a bit of that going too. well, more than a bit, actually. see, in *not* being a girl, i have built an awesome life for myself. i love what i do and i basically do whatever the fuck i want, but i still can’t help feeling like what people see when they look at me (if they realize i’m a girl) is a Cathy. i could punch in the face of 2 dozen drunk frat boys every night of the week and still feel like what people see when they tell me that i should be wearing a skirt is some *thing* that i should be ashamed of.

    what *is* that?

    • Cuppy van der Cake replied:

      I am answering this way late due to grad-school-induced hiatus… I’m sorry about that! To be honest, I don’t have a good answer for you. I really, really wish I did, as this is something I STILL deal with regularly.

      Have you ever read the book “Cunt: A Declaration of Independence” by Inga Muscio? It’s probably one of my favorites, and one of the most woman-positive feminist books I’ve read. I feel stronger and better about myself every time I read it. So I read that, I flip through favorite books by women or with woman protagonists, listen to great female music, etc… Sometimes, I just have to prop myself up. I wish I had a better answer, but it’s a really tough situation.

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