‘Cat Person’ Is Going Viral for the Uncomfortable Truth it Reveals About Dating Men
If you were tooling around the internet this weekend, one of your friends was sure to have shared “Cat Person,” a story in this weekend’s The New Yorker by author Kristen Roupenian. In the story, a young woman named Margot explores a relationship she has with an older man named Robert, and how even though she feels physically unsafe, and Robert low key gaslights her, she follows through on a number of relationship missteps out of fear of the man she knows almost nothing about.
Sound familiar? For many straight women (and some gay folks, too), relationships can be created out of fear: fear of a violent reaction from a man who has been rejected, fear of assault if we say no at an inopportune time and, in some cases, our own fear of loneliness. These themes, and even the story itself, have created a huge response on Twitter, with readers sharing their own “Cat Person”-like stories.
i thought cat person was good and i like the idea of examining when a man benefits from "societal coercion" (for lack of a better term) without himself ever doing anything explicitly "coercive"
— kill 💀 tim 💀 faust (@crulge) December 11, 2017
Re: Cat Person. I was reminded of 3 similar experiences while reading it and not only felt seen, but forgiven for not doing what I should have done for myself in those situations.
— Time Magazine's Jana (Jana) of the Year (@janakingonline) December 11, 2017
Just somewhat read cat person.
That was like reading my experiences with older men in my early 20's.
— The Red Menace (@Llydis) December 11, 2017
Anyone who relates to the Cat Person story knows that the story doesn't end where it did. That's what makes it horrifying.
— Emily Unroe 🐤 (@emilyunroe) December 11, 2017
tons of women in my feed are sharing the new yorker “Cat Person” story but not many men; which is unfortunate bc it’s like a secret window into a private experience our majority has suffered thru & if anyone needs to read that shit it’s men.
— Anya Jaremko-Greenwold (@AnyaJaremko) December 10, 2017
i keep accidentally saying my ex's name instead of "robert" in conversations about cat person
— darcie wilder (@333333333433333) December 11, 2017
Newcomer Roupenian told The New Yorker in a rare follow-up interview that the story, in part, was based on a somewhat now-famous Margaret Atwood paraphrase (yes, that Atwood): “Men are afraid women will laugh at them, but women are afraid they will get killed.” Roupenian also told the magazine that she explicitly left details about Robert vague, in part, because she wanted to show that both characters could be sympathetic.
“I wanted to leave a lot of space for people to sympathize with Robert, or at least, like Margot, to be able to imagine a version of him—clueless, but well-meaning—that they can sympathize with. I wanted that version of Robert to exist alongside the possibility of a much more sinister one,” she said.
But not everyone is feeling a connection with the story. A number of men have reacted quite negatively to “Cat Person,” and one intrepid Twitter user is sharing those reacts in an account chosen to highlight how unhappy these men are with the depiction of the Robert character — for better or for worse.
“We live in a world where women’s safety is more important than men’s feelings,” one complainant wrote, and he’s not entirely wrong. 2017 has been a year where women have spoken out about the fears we have around relationships with (mostly) straight men, and with each day bringing the downfall of another high profile man, it shouldn’t be a wonder — for far too long, women have put our fears aside in order to survive, and now that we’re saying, “no more,” some men may have their feelings hurt.
But if they do, they should look to themselves, and not a short story, as to why they’re so upset. Because after all, that anger is exactly what Cat Person is about.
Did you read Cat Person? Let us know @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)