Comedian Jamie Loftus’ mom loved Cathy comics, but for Jamie, Cathy was just a punchline – a harassed, frazzled woman, shouting for chocolate, crying at the scale, famously parodied in shows like 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live. But Jamie had to wonder if the strip’s 34 years of daily panels had anything more to offer than a quick punchline. How had the first comic strip to deal with women’s daily lives that was actually written and illustrated by a woman become a laughingstock of the feminist movement? So Jamie set out to really engage with Cathy, both as a product and as a character, with her new podcast Aack Cast. In this episode, she goes through all the events of Cathy’s life, from working her way up the ladder at her office job to her dating trials and tribulations to her relationship with her mother. A lot more happens to Cathy during these 34 years than one might expect. “Leave your lazy Cathy takes at the door,” she warns; it’s time to give the queen of the comics page a serious look.
Jamie didn’t care for the strip as a kid, but “reading it back as an adult now, I kind of get it. I also have a complicated relationship with food. I have worried about the role love has in my life. I feel s**tty about work constantly.” It’s no wonder the strip was an instant hit when it debuted in 1976, because Cathy was relatable. “She wants to have it all, but her attempts to do that leave her feeling unsatisfied and exhausted.” She “believes women should be respected as professionals, and is putting off marriage and children to build a career,” but still doesn’t feel she’s strong enough of a feminist “because she still craves male attention and love.” All these contradictory expectations cause her so much "anxiety that she isn’t living correctly,” which “prevents her from really living at all.”
Most of all, Cathy and her friends Charlene and Andrea fail. “She fails constantly – at dieting, negotiating a fair salary, establishing boundaries, loving herself. We’re watching a normal woman with a normal body fail, and being made to feel like a failure, all the time.” Cathy is sexually harassed by her boss, and her friend Charlene helps start “a whisper network” to refute the rumors, but it’s never suggested that her boss might face any consequences. Her friend Andrea fights for parental leave at work, but ultimately loses. Cathy spends a week psyching herself up to ask for a raise, but still can’t get paid the same as her male counterpart. Andrea, who was once a high-paid executive, returns to the workforce after raising her children having to start over again a temp. Cathy tries everything to make it work with her boyfriend Irving, while Irving tries nothing. Cathy was “taking commonly held insecurities of women for that time and saying them, out loud, in the newspaper every day. And whether you love it or hate it, no one else was doing that.” Join Jamie for this humorous and insightful deep dive – bikini optional – on Aack Cast.
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