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June 30, 2009

What do you Think of the Label Cougar?

Cheri I only learned of the term Cougar during the past year. It was mostly likely in a television show or movie in which I first heard it. There was something about the word that turned me the wrong way, but I never gave it that much thought.

Last week I was invited to a special preview screening of the new Michelle Pfeiffer movie, Cheri, about a woman who starts a six year love affair with a 19 year old boy when she is 49. After the movie, there was a panel discussion led by Melissa Silverstein of WomenandHollywood.com. The panelists were Thelma Adams from US Magazine, Linda Franklin from RealCougarWomen.com and Joni Evans from wowOwow.com. The majority of the discussion was about cougars.

First of all, I did not think that the relationship in Cheri was a typical cougar relationship, if there even is such a thing. 19 year old Cheri was looking for a loving mother to replace his overbearing actual mother and Michelle Pfieffer's character, Lea was looking to mother the child she never had. When Cheri called Lea by the nickname he used for her as a child, their relationship almost felt insectual.

Whether or not Cheri had anything to do with cougars, the panel discussion got me thinking much more about how I felt about that word being used to describe an older women going out with a younger man. It implies that the women hunts down the man like an animal. It isn't a very flattering picture.

Michelle Pfieffer told Dianne Sawyer on Good Morning America that she does not like the word cougar. Thelma Adams said that love takes many forms and using the word cougar to describe the love in the movie diminishes it. Women are turned on by different things and it is just a matter of time until this is accepted. WowOwow.com once did a story on cougars and their readers were enraged. However, Linda from the Real Cougar Women is trying to take this word and turn it into meaning powerful, strong, independent and confident woman.

I don't have any hopes of being able to get rid of the word or its connotations. Once a word makes it into our lexicon, it isn't so easy to get rid of it. Maybe if the practice of women dating younger men becomes more and more commonplace, eventually people will just stop using labels to describe it. Does the word cougar bother you?

Original 50-something Moms Blog Post by Jennifer Wagner who also writes at the New York Examiner and Connect with your Teens through Pop Culture and Technology

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