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Cathy, the star of the daily, syndicated comic strip of the same name, was a 30-something woman who was dissatisfied with her work, love life and weight — but loved chocolate.
When she was particularly frustrated by the travails of the single working woman’s life, she’d let out her signature catchphrase: “AACK!”
Cathy appeared in newspapers daily from 1976 until 2010, when her creator, Cathy Guisewite, retired the strip.
The two share more than a name.
Guisewite was also of a generation of women whom she describes as being stuck between “Betty Crocker” and “Betty Friedan,” struggling with the expectation to fulfill both the roles of traditional homemaker and independent working woman with equal aplomb.
But by the strip’s end in 2010, the particular brand of feminism that Cathy represented may have gone out of style.
Here’s The Cut’s Rachel Syne:
Herein lies the paradox of “Cathy”: Guisewite herself was a pioneer. There were hardly any nationally syndicated comic strips that even hinted at women’s interiority before “Cathy” came bounding into papers. And yet Guisewite broke through the glass ceiling by creating a character for whom disempowerment was a way of life. “I just love writing about the small things in life that cripple us,” Guisewite once told a reporter. “Like 500,000 brands of cereals.” Comic strips, especially those from the “Cathy” era, are repetitive by nature; every joke is a slight variation on a theme. But what was the net result of repeating “I hate my thighs” thousands and thousands of times?
For Guisewite, the impulse to put pen to paper didn’t end with her comic strip. She shares her experiences of womanhood — this time in the 2010s, and in her own voice — in in a new book of essays, Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault: Essays from the Grown Up Years.
We talk to Guisewite about the legacy of her comic strip and her new book.
Show produced by Avery J.C. Kleinman.
- Cathy Guisewite Creator, "Cathy" comic strip; author, "Fifty Things that Aren't My Fault: Essays from the Grown-up Years"
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