CATHY, one of the most widely mocked comics of all time. Cathy, one of the most shallow, simplistic, sexist comics ever created.
CATHY, possibly my favorite comic strip of all time.
WHAT, WHAT, WHAT??? Look, I'm not like the coolest person ever, but I'm fine, cool-wise. I'm funny, I'm intimidating, I'm feminist, I'M YOUNG. When people meet me and find out I love comics, they are not expecting me to love Cathy. But I do, in a real, visceral way.
Why??? Well, Cathy embodies all of the neurosis that society has conditioned my white, middle class, fat, single lady identity to have.
You got food issues? Cathy's got food issues. You feel lonely? Cathy feels lonely. You try to solve your self loathing through dieting, shopping, and focusing on your physical appearance because media tells you that if you're a pretty woman than that will fix all your fucking problems????
Cathy's been there. "I hear you," she whispers.
CATHY GETS ME!!!!
Look, I've done my own comics on me being a wreck. And yeah, my work has way more teeth than Cathy, but I did it in 2015, it's 16 pages long. Cathy started in the 1970s, it updated for over 30 years! YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO SWEAR IN SYNDICATION!!!!
I was talking to my friend Tillie today about why I love Cathy. Tillie is 19. She doesn't know that Cathy was considered revolutionary and feminist when it started, that it was one of the first widely syndicated comic strips that spoke to a new generation of liberated women. The first generation to demand equal rights but still have to navigate gender roles because they wanted love too. Love AND respect- how the hell do you ask for that when no generation in this country asked for that before? A lot of women didn't know. And Cathy didn't know either.
Since women were demanding respect, first wave feminism was really not that cool with women being open about the fact they were still figuring shit out. Women had to be strong, they had to take no shit, they needed to appear that they deserved to be respected. WOMEN DESERVING TO BE EQUALS WASN'T A GIVEN YET.
Cathy wanted respect! But she was also willing to be openly vulnerable, which a lot of women could really relate to.
AND PEOPLE FORGET THAT SHE FOUGHT SOME SERIOUS SHIT! She stopped her boss from making sexual advances from her, she survived getting outsourced, she actually tried internet dating in the 90s before okcupid told us that it was like totally not weird (BTW I've done it and it's still totally weird).
So why, when we think of Cathy, do we think of bland, sexist, shallow crap.
Originally, when pure neurotic female emotions were spewing out of that noseless face, it was groundbreaking. She was one of the only sources of media being real with this shit. But, time went on and her shtick didn't change. The world, and the dominant feminist conversation, did. So she lost relevancy, she got repetitive, she got stale.
Cathy was still relevant to 6th grade me back in 1999. She was saying all the crap that I was thinking. Cathy wasn't exploring the feelings of inadequacy and loneliness in a deep meaningful way. In fact, because she wasn't looking at it critically, she was now part of a new problematic narrative of a generic insecure middle aged single woman. But 6th grade Anna didn't know that. I just saw someone saying all the unpleasant emotions stirring around in my head in a relatable, accessible way. Cathy had a lot of problems, but she'd never put up a bullshit front with me. Or anyone else for that matter. So, I loved her.
And I still do, and I will always will, regardless of how flawed she is.