I posted Feministe’s commentary about the end of Cathy on the board because it resonated with me — I’ve been an on and off reader of the comic myself. I find Cathy frustrating and endearing at turns. Endearing, because she always seems to habitual sufferer of her own failures, a sad counterpart to the model of feminist success. Frustrating because her character was never allowed to develop into anything multi-dimensional. Her failures were never allowed to step out of their own limits, and these limits were defined by characters and cliches.
Ultimately, Cathy was an icon unto herself. She was the most honest female character in comics. One of the best things about her was that other female writers saw the challenge of making the Cathy stereotype richer and more honest about women.
Always the idea of a woman, but never a real woman. That’s what I feel about Cathy.
V disagrees with the Feministe piece:
I actually liked this comic strip, and I’m a bit sad to see it go. I didn’t see it the same way that Feministe did. I saw it as making casual fun out of the stereotypes of women, while also holding to the fact that for many women there is at least a small ring of truth to them. But, we’re aware that it’s ridiculous and what it must look like to others.
Also, what’s wrong with the PMS references and jokes? Why shouldn’t they be included? Every woman goes through PMS at some point. It’s a natural part of life and for too long women have been made to feel ashamed of their periods and PMS issues, to not talk about them, to hide it. As if it’s proof that we’re aliens or something. For that reason, I think that it’s important for things (including comic strips) to mention it. I also think that almost every woman has shared PMS jokes with their girl friends before, so I also think it’s important to mention that, too. There’s no reason to be ashamed of one’s menstrual cycle and all the nasty things that go with it. Why should we be? And keeping it out of things like books, television, movies, radio, and even comic strips is just another way to make it “disappear” as if it isn’t there. That contributes to the problem of women feeling ashamed about it and society reinforcing that shame. Let’s NOT promote THAT.
D has this to say in response to both V and to the original Feministe piece:
This is the sort of duality Subterfuge seeks to give a voice to. Sure, we, like Cathy, were raised in a relatively liberal age, and we’re supposed to be all gung-ho and whatnot. But we have our doubts, our reservations. We know people who ARE feminists but would never call themselves that. We are ‘enlightened’, but still we struggle with body image, confidence, career development, education, etc.
I think what people OUGHT to object to is the relentless repetition. From what I know, Cathy is NOT known for her growth as a character. That’s very frustrating to people seeking something more. It frustrates ME.
On the other hand, we have to look at what Cathy is/was. A syndicated comic developed in the 1970s. The advent of webcomics are taken the criticism of syndication to a whole new level–Syndication neuters comics. It takes the bite from them. If it looks cutesy, it better be family-friendly. The Boondocks pushed the envelope. So did Cathy, in its day. Now Cathy is tired. One day, The Boondocks will look melodramatic. This is progress, and it is wonderful.
Feministe asked for some links to other, better comics that might take the place of Cathy. I vote for C’est La Vie.
CLV IS syndicated, but it doesn’t have a wide readership. Newspapers are afraid of it. Mona Montrois is a sarcastic, wicked, pessimist of a French woman. She smokes constantly, hates people, and her stuffed bunny of yore, Mr. Smokey, is as much a character as any of the humans. Her roommate, Donna, is a SatC-loving bimbo. Her brother is a womanizer. Though they live in LA, Mona dresses all in black. It’s an excellent comic.
Even better, it deals with the same fundamental issues Cathy has. Mona is highly educated, and so jaded as to come off as almost asexual. Contempt is her default mode. And yet, an encounter with a handsome man can turn her usually rational mind upside down–THAT is what life is like for the modern woman!! We want to have our shit together, for the most part we do, and then life throws us a curveball.