Wednesday 13 December 2017

Comment: All this cattiness about desperate 'cougars' is classic double standards

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron and Donald and Melania Trump
Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron and Donald and Melania Trump
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron (R) and his wife Brigitte Trogneux arrive for a state dinner in honor of King Willem and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands at the Elysee Palace in Paris on March 10, 2016. AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY / AFP / BERTRAND GUAY (Photo credit should read BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Sealed with a kiss: Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte celebrate in Paris (AP)
Former French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte applaud a speech during a meeting of his political movement, 'En Marche' (On the Move), on October 11, 2016 in Le Mans, northwestern France. / AFP / JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER (Photo credit should read JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Colette Fitzpatrick

The older woman-younger man paradigm has long fascinated us. In 1967, The Graduate told the tale of a young man seduced by an older woman, Mrs Robinson. It was one of the biggest-grossing films of all time.

The term "cougar" was reportedly coined in the 1980s by members of a Canadian hockey team to refer to older female fans who sought to date players.

It morphed into meaning an older woman seeking a sexual relationship with a younger man - the older women being mostly defined as women in their 40s (or older) who date significantly younger men, generally at a 10-year age gap or more.

It's not just an age thing, though. The cougar is almost always painted as predatory and pathetically desperate. The image invokes mid-life crises and almost a lack of morals, suggesting these women are almost animalistic.

The wife of the man almost certain to be the next French president has fallen victim to this sort of tawdry labelling.

Brigitte Macron is 24 years older than her 39-year-old husband, Emmanuel.

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

On social media, critics of the presidential front-runner frequently refer to his wife using the term cougar and call him a "mama's boy".

Where previously there was a French shrug of the shoulders when it came to the extra-marital affairs, flings and private lives of politicians, an older wife of a younger man is less "c'est la vie" ad more "quelle horreur".

Consider this. Donald Trump's wife is 47 - that's 23 years his junior. Yet everyone seems a lot more comfortable with that than Brigitte and Emmanuel's relationship.

Trump "bagged" a younger model, but Brigitte "preyed" on her husband. It's classic double standards.

Sealed with a kiss: Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte celebrate in Paris (AP)
Sealed with a kiss: Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte celebrate in Paris (AP)

Older man dates much younger woman equals status symbol. Just like older men who divorce their wives and find themselves younger 'trophy wives' (another equally demeaning term).

Why can't we associate older women who date younger men as confident and successful people who perhaps became tired of immature or narrow-minded men of their own age?

Or perhaps these women didn't go out looking for a younger man.

They didn't decide that they must have one. They just happened to fall for one and they for them.

Former French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte applaud a speech during a meeting of his political movement, 'En Marche' (On the Move), on October 11, 2016 in Le Mans, northwestern France. / AFP / JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER (Photo credit should read JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Former French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte applaud a speech during a meeting of his political movement, 'En Marche' (On the Move), on October 11, 2016 in Le Mans, northwestern France. / AFP / JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER (Photo credit should read JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images)

A large number of women who date younger men must also see the prospect of seeing someone younger as liberating from the patriarchal system of society. Madonna, Demi Moore, Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Cher and Elizabeth Taylor have all dated younger men.

The New York Times ran a story in 2009 that claimed it wasn't so much a case of the older women chasing the men, rather that younger men are more active pursuers of older women.

These "cougars" are women. It's not like calling them that is some sort of celebration of age, in a sort of "you go, girl" way. It's neither a compliment nor supportive.

We still live in a world where, when age is deemed to be just a number, it invariably means it's just a number as long as he's the older one and she's the younger one.

Herald

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