The ‘cougarizaton’ of America – Empowering or Desperate?

cougar town Every time I turn on the television these days I’m bombarded by images of, and conversations about cougars. Just so we’re all clear, Wikipedia (the most reliable source of information on the planet) defines a cougar as:

A woman over 40 who sexually pursues younger men, typically more than eight years her junior.

Yeah. About that… This TV season is rife with cougars. Over on ABC, Courtney Cox Arquette stars in Cougar Town, a sitcom about a forty-something, newly divorced mom returning to the dating game. Jenna Elfin’s upped the ante over on CBS by getting pregnant by her much younger, one night stand. Her show Accidentally on Purpose, follows Elfman as she deals with the ups and downs of becoming a first-time mom later in life and by a much younger man. These women are beautiful, smart, and empowered, or at least trying to be.

Both shows are comedies and they’ve got their funny moments, but somewhere in between all the jokes and laughter there’s a little bit of desperation and sadness. Elfman’s character even alludes to it on her show as she’s preparing to mingle at a club (pre-pregnancy) and asks her girlfriends whether her look is “empowering or desperate.” Who knew the line between empowering and desperate was that thin? And if you have to ask…

The thing is, as women, I kind of feel like we should be beyond the stage where empowering behavior equals acting like men. Especially when acting like them involves behavior that we used to frown upon. For years when we saw much older men with younger women, we secretly, or not so secretly, wondered about the nature of the relationship. We questioned its sincerity, calling her a gold digger and him a perv. And look, I’m certainly not saying that all relationships with a significant age difference are questionable, but Anna Nicole Smith and her 80 year old husband for example, really? Of course that’s an extreme example, it’s not so cut and dry when the age difference is 10 years or less, but when men buy their convertibles and leave their wives for younger women, we all groan and mumble things about mid-life crisis. So, why are we now celebrating the behavior when women do it?  And before I start getting hate mail – Not every older woman who dates a younger man is a cougar. Many of these relationships are not predatory as the term cougar suggests.

So here are the questions of the day. Why are so many people, men and women alike, embracing the term ‘cougar’ and why is the definition of ‘cougar’ morphing to include all women over forty who date younger men? Am I the only one who notices the ‘cougarization of women in their forties?’  And is the term cougar empowering or desperate?

Share your thoughts in the comment section, on our Facebook fan page our follow us on Twitter @womenatforty.

Image Source: ABC Cougar Town

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  • racheldachel

    1. Why are so many people, men and women alike, embracing the term ‘cougar’
    Because we, as Americans have become lemmings or “sheeple.” The majority of us just follow along blindly, never questioning what for or why. Kinda like “tween” & yeah, I just looove that one too!

    2. Why is the definition of ‘cougar’ morphing to include all women over forty who date younger men?
    It's that sheeple mentality as well as our never-ending quest for youth in our youth-worshiping culture. It's why Cher & Joan Rivers look they way they do & why female teachers are being arrested for sleeping with teenage boys. Everybody wants to be 'cool' and 'hip' and pretend that they just stepped off of a Hollywood red carpet or the pages of a trashy magazine. It's because “40 is the new 30” and because there are more single women over forty now than ever before in our history & many of them like being seen as naughty, rebellious, etc.

    3. Am I the only one who notices the ‘cougarization of women in their forties?’
    Nope. I see it too and sadly, it is very much like a train wreck or a Starbucks. Either you cannot look away or if you do there is another one just up the street.

    4. And is the term cougar empowering or desperate?
    Seems pretty desperate to me. If at forty years old I want or need to be defined by some newly invented and (IMO) derogatory term, I must in fact be pretty desperate.

  • womenatforty

    I'm so feeling you on these answers! Cher and Joan Rivers – how can people see them and not say something?!? They're scary looking! They youth/celebrity worship culture is pervasive in our society. I can't think of another time in history where doing a “sex-tape” skyrocketed people to fame (not infamy) and fortune. As for the term cougar – never liked it, don't think I ever will.

  • racheldachel

    1. Why are so many people, men and women alike, embracing the term ‘cougar’
    Because we, as Americans have become lemmings or “sheeple.” The majority of us just follow along blindly, never questioning what for or why. Kinda like “tween” & yeah, I just looove that one too!

    2. Why is the definition of ‘cougar’ morphing to include all women over forty who date younger men?
    It's that sheeple mentality as well as our never-ending quest for youth in our youth-worshiping culture. It's why Cher & Joan Rivers look they way they do & why female teachers are being arrested for sleeping with teenage boys. Everybody wants to be 'cool' and 'hip' and pretend that they just stepped off of a Hollywood red carpet or the pages of a trashy magazine. It's because “40 is the new 30” and because there are more single women over forty now than ever before in our history & many of them like being seen as naughty, rebellious, etc.

    3. Am I the only one who notices the ‘cougarization of women in their forties?’
    Nope. I see it too and sadly, it is very much like a train wreck or a Starbucks. Either you cannot look away or if you do there is another one just up the street.

    4. And is the term cougar empowering or desperate?
    Seems pretty desperate to me. If at forty years old I want or need to be defined by some newly invented and (IMO) derogatory term, I must in fact be pretty desperate.

  • womenatforty

    I'm so feeling you on these answers! Cher and Joan Rivers – how can people see them and not say something?!? They're scary looking! They youth/celebrity worship culture is pervasive in our society. I can't think of another time in history where doing a “sex-tape” skyrocketed people to fame (not infamy) and fortune. As for the term cougar – never liked it, don't think I ever will.