‘Half Victim, Half Accomplice’: Cat Person and Narcissism

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Abstract
At the end of 2017, Kristen Roupenian’s short story, Cat Person, went viral. Published at the height of the #MeToo movement, it depicted a ‘toxic date’ and a disturbing sexual encounter between Margot, a college student, and Robert, an older man she meets at work. The story was widely viewed as a relatable denunciation of women’s powerlessness and routine victimization. In this paper, I push against this common reading. I propose an alternative feminist interpretation through the lens of Simone de Beauvoir’s notion of narcissism: a form of alienation that consists in making oneself both the subject and the ultimate project of one’s life. Framing Margot as a narcissist casts her as engaging, not in subtly coerced, undesired sex, but rather in sex that is desired in a tragically alienated way. I argue that Beauvoir’s notion of narcissism is an important tool for feminists today – well beyond the interpretation of Cat Person. It presses us to see systematic subordination not just as something done to women, but also as something women do to themselves. This in turn highlights the neglected role of self-transformation as a key aspect of feminist political resistance.
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Archival date: 2020-04-30
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2020-04-30

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