The New Yorker short story Cat Person has taken the internet by storm. The story follows a 20-year-old woman and an older man who meet at a movie theatre she works at. The two engage in a mild text flirtation, go on an average date and have bad sex.
The story has captured the imagination of millennials who see themselves in it. Margot’s dilemmas are relatable to many young women entering the dating world today. She is attracted to him, but as she finds out more about him, and especially after having sex with him, during which he seems to be almost play acting, that attraction slowly wanes.
At first, their relationship is based around traditional roles — an older, more influential man — a protector if you will, and a younger more naive woman.
By publishing it, The New Yorker has given literary importance to the subject of a young woman’s dating life
But slowly as her revulsion grows, Margot circles between imagining him as a desperate man intrigued by her youth, and as a brutish and disturbed man who could possibly be capable of murder.
“Margot keeps trying to construct an image of Robert based on incomplete and unreliable information, which is why her interpretation of him can’t stay still,” the author, Kirsten Roupenian, said in an interview. “The point at which she receives unequivocal evidence about the kind of person he is is the point at which the story ends.”
But why has it gone viral?
Some love it and some hate it. But the response to the story shows that there just aren’t enough stories about women out there, and especially not enough which can be classified as highbrow literature. By publishing it, The New Yorker has given literary importance to the subject of a young woman’s dating life.
The story highlights how Margot is uncomfortable rejecting a man, and uncertain of the repercussions of doing so. A thin veil of fear permeates the story. We see the self doubt she feels over whether to follow her instincts which alert her to his red flags, or to follow her feelings of guilt which tell her that she shouldn’t ‘ghost’ Robert or make him feel uncomfortable. Her experience is all too relatable to women in the dating world who struggle with being assertive.
Many women say that the story is a continuation of the #MeToo movement in the way it shows consensual sex which is terrible and tied to sexism. In the middle of their encounter, Margot realises that she doesn’t actually want to have sex.
“The thought of what it would take to stop what she had set in motion was overwhelming,” Roupenian writes. “It would require an amount of tact and gentleness that she felt was impossible to summon.
The story has let many women come out and speak about their own uncomfortable sexual encounters.
I finally read “Cat Person” and it feels viscerally familiar. Fuck.
— Marina Watanabe (@marinashutup) December 13, 2017
What I like about #CatPerson: it destroys the "loveable awkward oaf" excuse that assholes lean on when they behave manipulatively/poorly. Being a socially awkward nerd doesn't excuse you from treating people like shit.
— g (@thrillandgrace) December 11, 2017
Whether you loved or hated “Cat Person,” its resounding virality is evidence that there’s a giant, hungry audience for nuanced stories for and by women. Gatekeepers of film and literature have disdained so much female writing, it’s made us starved and ready. TELL ALL YA STORIES.
— Rega (@RegaJha) December 12, 2017
Hopefully, the virality of Cat Woman shows that women’s writing isn’t just chick-lit and should be taken seriously. We want more!
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Picture Credit: New Daily