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Can we give up on the term 'cougar' already?

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Can't a cougar just be a cougar again?

Katy Brand, a writer for The Telegraph , thinks it's time we retire the pesky "cougar" moniker for women over 40 dating younger men, but hasn't any suggestion for a new name, without feline connotations.

The sell to the story isn't helping: "Katy Brand reflects on a new wave of intelligent over-50s women coming together to form an insistent, earthy hum."

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Earthy hum?

"I think we need a new word for women aged between 49 and 69," writes Brand. "Something other than 'older women' or the Lesley Philips-esque 'mature ladies' or even 'cougars' (DREADFUL). Because this group is not what it once was and as a 33 year-old, I am positively looking forward becoming a part of it."

The nettlesome cougar label has been hard to shake. Cougars have no Slutwalk, the international movement to take back the word and raise awareness about sexual assault. For all the confidence exuded by the preening huntresses roaming cougar conventions for young male cubs, "cougar" will never be celebrated the way "slut" is, and it's not a term that can be salvaged, despite what women who self-identify as cougars will say about its place in women's lib.

Worse, the term now inexplicably encompasses women of any age who find themselves dating younger men, even if we're talking 18-year-old freshman females dating guys who are in their senior year at highschool. (These are known as "college cougars.")

And the feline markers have been extended further: In the irksome realm of "cougars in training," a woman in her 20s is known as a "bobcat," one in her 30s is a "puma" and those over 60 are "panthers."

The obtuse suggestion is that women of virtually any age who date (even slightly) younger men are inherently more carnal than those who date men their own age, or older, as was traditionally the case.

So what to call them instead? Please not Zoomer, which has always sounded like an overactive vacuum cleaner to me – not a human being. In an era when divorce is as common as marriage, fitness is next to godliness and bedroom aides bear little stigma, how about no label for these women at all, just like the boys?

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Zosia More


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