Today a woman in my class (did I mention I am doing my PhD?) said I should “tone it down” if I wanted people to “get” the cougar reference in my year long, daily wearing of animal print. (She was talking about my eccentric colour choices, and thought I should stick to the browns and recognizable leopard prints associated with the cougar.) She asked if I was “performing” cougar. I said I was trying to live it as best I could. (I meant the daily wearing of the animal print, not the predatory cougar lifestyle that the stereotype implies, which I should really articulate more clearly.) Someone else wanted to know if I was more aggressive (I know- more aggressive than what?!), and again, they meant in reference to the cougar stereotype, and I said that I wasn’t jumping 19-year-olds for the project, but I had been surpassing my self-imposed rule of wearing 60% visible animal print to 95-100%, and had started to stand next to animal print wearing women on the metro. Women over 40, if they notice, move away from me however subtly, and younger women have pointedly laughed, stared or not noticed. I also mentioned that I had successfully and confidently walked down Crescent Street (at 3 in the afternoon) a few weeks ago, and stopped myself from executing a plan to return in different outfits and walk the same route at various times to log deprecating, cougar-calling comments as data for my research. I decided against this awesome plan because although I am sure that it would generate data similar in depth and scope as the reddit conversation did about an image posted on this site, this isn’t a project in humiliation, although depending on the day and the outfit, it can be (awwww). This brings up a whole other conversation about predetermined outcomes in research and “asking for it,” which I will need to address, especially in light of rape “culture where women’s bodies are public property.”
So. I am still not the cougar you are looking for.
Not even in an academic setting.
And that’s cool because although the cougar stereotype is the root of this project, I think I have established early on that sporting a house-high hair-do with full make-up in a tight leopard print dress in stilettos with attitude to match is simply not sustainable for me everyday of the year. Nor is it comfortable. Nor is that the point. But it’s great to have these conversations, because I am interested in her and what people have to say about her- this cougar we all seem to know and have (strong) opinions about whether we embrace, mock, sexualize, or vilify her.
I also mentioned to my classmates that with my 2-inch roots, need of a mustache wax, and extra pounds, obviously, I’m a pretty shitty cougar. And that’s kind of the point too.