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The "Crazy Cat Lady"

Chapter


Abstract


  • If you ever work on a project about “crazy cat ladies,” you can expect some

    smiles of the wry, knowing kind, followed up by a flurry of “crazy cat lady”

    (CCL) memes, mugs, socks, and links to various CCL products. Many of them

    are pretty funny, especially the picture of the box of kittens labeled “Crazy cat

    lady start up kit” and the socks emblazoned with “you say ‘crazy cat lady’ like

    it’s a bad thing.” These jokes attest to a level of sympathy for and fascination

    with crazy cat ladies within popular culture. I’ve long been fascinated by the

    “crazy cat lady” as a cultural trope, a sort of “folk devil” whose appearance plays

    on broader anxieties attached to femininity and animality. Putting the memes,

    socks, mugs, pyjamas, fridge magnets aside for a moment, this chapter takes a

    more critical look at the CCL. I explore the current popularity of the CCL in

    three connected ways. Firstly, as a gendered cultural trope that is mobilized in

    both negative and positive ways to exemplify the feminization of concern for

    human–animal relations. Secondly, I examine how the CCL gets tangled up with

    the animal hoarder: someone who “hoards” or collects animals and keeps them

    as their self-declared “rescuer,” often to protect them from some other terrible

    fate (neglect and cruelty) that then becomes realized in her own hands. The

    research on animal hoarding is fascinating in this regard, because it essentially

    plays chicken and egg with the “crazy cat lady,” replicating gender stereotypes

    in its discussion of the disorder it attempts to outline. While animal hoarding

    literature situates the CCL as a dangerous obstacle to proper diagnosis and

    understanding of animal hoarding cases, I then take this idea one step further

    and discuss whether or not the CCL might be not just a “cute face” of the animal

    hoarder but also the “folk devil” for the industrial scale hoarding of animals

    that persists in factory farming situations. The three elements—“crazy cat lady,”

    animal hoarder, and factory farmer—are connected, I suggest, by a broader

    phenomenon of the intensification of animal keeping in Western modernity,

    a period in which animals are simultaneously more numerous, less visible but

    more intensively “kept” (Harrison 1964; Vialles 1994; O’Sullivan 2015; Pachirat

    2015). In this chapter, I’ll pull on the thread of the crazy cat lady trope and see

    how she leads us to industrialized hoarding in the form of factory farming.

Publication Date


  • 2019

Citation


  • Probyn-Rapsey, F. (2019). The "Crazy Cat Lady". In L. Gruen & F. Probyn-Rapsey (Eds.), Animaladies: Gender, Animals, and Madness (pp. 175-185). New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

International Standard Book Number (isbn) 13


  • 9781501342165

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/3942

Book Title


  • Animaladies: Gender, Animals, and Madness

Start Page


  • 175

End Page


  • 185

Place Of Publication


  • New York

Abstract


  • If you ever work on a project about “crazy cat ladies,” you can expect some

    smiles of the wry, knowing kind, followed up by a flurry of “crazy cat lady”

    (CCL) memes, mugs, socks, and links to various CCL products. Many of them

    are pretty funny, especially the picture of the box of kittens labeled “Crazy cat

    lady start up kit” and the socks emblazoned with “you say ‘crazy cat lady’ like

    it’s a bad thing.” These jokes attest to a level of sympathy for and fascination

    with crazy cat ladies within popular culture. I’ve long been fascinated by the

    “crazy cat lady” as a cultural trope, a sort of “folk devil” whose appearance plays

    on broader anxieties attached to femininity and animality. Putting the memes,

    socks, mugs, pyjamas, fridge magnets aside for a moment, this chapter takes a

    more critical look at the CCL. I explore the current popularity of the CCL in

    three connected ways. Firstly, as a gendered cultural trope that is mobilized in

    both negative and positive ways to exemplify the feminization of concern for

    human–animal relations. Secondly, I examine how the CCL gets tangled up with

    the animal hoarder: someone who “hoards” or collects animals and keeps them

    as their self-declared “rescuer,” often to protect them from some other terrible

    fate (neglect and cruelty) that then becomes realized in her own hands. The

    research on animal hoarding is fascinating in this regard, because it essentially

    plays chicken and egg with the “crazy cat lady,” replicating gender stereotypes

    in its discussion of the disorder it attempts to outline. While animal hoarding

    literature situates the CCL as a dangerous obstacle to proper diagnosis and

    understanding of animal hoarding cases, I then take this idea one step further

    and discuss whether or not the CCL might be not just a “cute face” of the animal

    hoarder but also the “folk devil” for the industrial scale hoarding of animals

    that persists in factory farming situations. The three elements—“crazy cat lady,”

    animal hoarder, and factory farmer—are connected, I suggest, by a broader

    phenomenon of the intensification of animal keeping in Western modernity,

    a period in which animals are simultaneously more numerous, less visible but

    more intensively “kept” (Harrison 1964; Vialles 1994; O’Sullivan 2015; Pachirat

    2015). In this chapter, I’ll pull on the thread of the crazy cat lady trope and see

    how she leads us to industrialized hoarding in the form of factory farming.

Publication Date


  • 2019

Citation


  • Probyn-Rapsey, F. (2019). The "Crazy Cat Lady". In L. Gruen & F. Probyn-Rapsey (Eds.), Animaladies: Gender, Animals, and Madness (pp. 175-185). New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

International Standard Book Number (isbn) 13


  • 9781501342165

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/3942

Book Title


  • Animaladies: Gender, Animals, and Madness

Start Page


  • 175

End Page


  • 185

Place Of Publication


  • New York