This month cartoonist Cathy Guisewite will retire her infamous Cathy cartoon strip.
Today many people might argue that the character — who was obsessed with chocolate, dieting, and dating — is anything but a feminist heroine. But Jessica Wakeman at Ms. helps put Cathy in perspective:
When the “Cathy” comic strip started in 1976, some victories of the women’s movement were still fresh on people’s minds. The birth control pill had been around for over a decade. Yale University had begun admitting women seven years earlier. Ms. had been on newsstands for five years. Abortion had been legalized three years before. All this is to underscore the point that at the time the “Cathy” strip first appeared, it was an exciting and liberating time to be a single woman.
A single women, I might add, with a job at which she wore a suit and made money:
At the time, as Wakeman points out, the idea that a life like that was even “worth exploring” was rather new. However antiquated Cathy seems now, we still very rarely see any cultural product led entirely by a female protagonist. Cathy, however stereotypically girly, offered us something rather unusual, then and now.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.