We call them crazy, but a new doc explodes the ugly stereotypes about women who are friends with felines.
What makes a crazy cat lady? Is it the number of cats, the amount of cat-hair-covered sweaters she owns, or simply the intensity of devotion between female and feline?
A new documentary explores the world of four CCLs (crazy cat ladies) and explodes some of the uglier stereotypes that cling to these women like the faint stench of cat urine.
The appropriately titled Cat Ladies, which will air in Ontario on TVO Sept. 23, 27 and 30, documents the lives of Margot, a receptionist whose life revolves around her three cats; Diane, a former banker who shares her home with 123 felines and fears that her life is slipping out of control; Sigi, who pursues cat rescuing with the grim determination of a soldier; and Jenny, 35-year-old woman with 17 animals who is fighting the siren call of full-fledged cat-ladydom.
It's an emotional story about solitude and love, but it's also a tale of the nasty undercurrent of misogyny that runs through our culture.
"The stereotype is so dismissive," director Christie Callan-Jones says. "I was surprised at their feistiness, their independence. They chose to buck social trends. I thought it would end up being this film about sad lonely women but it's really not. These women are more than who you think they are."
Throughout sexual maturity, women are referred to in feline terms - from sex kitten to cougar, and of course there's the popular vulgar slang for female genitals. Only when they step out of line are females referred to in canine terms, as bitches. Women are expected to identify a bit with cats, but there's an invisible line that, when crossed, triggers the cat-lady stigma. Tellingly, there's no corresponding crazy dog man (or woman) stereotype.
"It's this idea about male appreciation," producer Jeanette Loakman says. "Dogs are faithful, and they're obedient. If you have a lot of cats you're uncontrollable and unpredictable. You're not going to be obedient."
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