In 2010, it’s officially beyond a doubt that “cougar” is a part of our cultural lexicon. That’s especially true now that the 40-years-and-older women who date younger men have their own beauty pageant.
Los Angeles resident CC Perkinson was crowned Miss Cougar 2010 Del Mar last week in the second annual contest. The LA Weekly reports she received over 1,600 votes via Twitter and texting, beating out 24 other women for the, um, prestigious title.
My first reaction, as a feminist, is to roll my eyes. The concept of women lining up to be be judged in a “beauty” competition is offensive enough, as is the widespread exclusion of trans women from pageants and, for that matter, men. Then there’s the term cougar itself, which implies that an older woman who pursues hot young men is just like a predatory animal that can maul and eat you. Ouch.
And yet, some women are now happily embracing the cougar title and crown. Are we seeing cougar shift from negative connotations to positive ones? The Del Mar pageant rules benignly define cougar as “a mature woman who pursues younger men, typically more than eight years her junior.”
Miss Cougar 2010, CC Perkinson, actually seems pretty badass. Perkinson was a Del Mar jockey from 1998 to 2005, so gets big kudos right there for being a woman working in a physically demanding, male-dominated industry. (Perhaps that was a point in her favor: Oddly enough, the Del Mar Cougar pageant is actually named after a horse: hall-of-fame racehorse Cougar II.) After winning the pageant, she told NBC Los Angeles:
You can learn from the older, you can learn from the younger and you can have such a great time, and that’s what this is about.
In a culture that remains uncomfortable with unmarried women, it’s nice to hear a positive take on aging-while-female. Perkinson added:
You’ve got to get it in your mind you’ve got a lot to offer. It empowers women to keep a healthy mind, keep a healthy body, reinvent yourself and realize there’s men out there that are attracted to you.
So what do you think: Is cougar inherently offensive? Or can it be reclaimed?