Well, let’s start somewhere.

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January 12, 2013 by ehempstead

Last week we discussed what exactly journalism is, especially with the advent of such things as the internet and the blogosphere, where anyone can be a journalist–or do journalistic things, as it may be. Hence, I now have a blog, and this is its first post. I was at first uncertain about what to say, until I noticed a tab on the New York Times site called ‘most popular’.

This ‘most popular’ tab comes in three categories: Most E-mailed, Most Viewed, and Most Blogged. The breadth of articles here is wide, from fiances to travel to cats.

I’m intrigued by the cat article, which is the third most emailed. It’s a feature piece about Siglinda Scarpa, a ceramicist who owns many animals, and an apparently great numbers of cats. The article names this number as 42, and later 250, which leaves me confused about the actual number in the title. Perhaps they are to be added together? I suppose such a simple thing as worry about the true number of cats speaks of neurosis, but it’s important to me, so I’ll have to make sure, in articles I write, that the number of any cats, or any numbers at all, are spot on so as to avoid confusion.

The second half of the article loses a bit of the feature qualities in order to teach the reader about shelters, of which Scarpa’s home is counted in number. Hers is a no-kill shelter, employing assistants and veterinarians to care for the many animals. However, it takes so long to get to that fact, after many descriptions of animals, ceramic works, and the home as it first appears. Then the article gives us reason to actually ‘respect’ this woman:

If you are picturing a crazy lady living among mountains of newspapers, with a pack of yowling cats stinking up the place, forget it.

The author, Anne Raver, has clearly set this up for a pity-fest about the crazy cat lady trope. It paints an obsession on Scarpa’s part: there are cats everywhere, and even her work reflects them. The title essentially says ‘Crazy cat lady without the crazy’. I find this incredibly annoying. What is wrong with being passionate about caring for things? What would this article say if Scarp identified as male? Would Anne Raver paint such a picture, for so long, if she were not clearly focused on that trope?

I’m all for the subversion of traditional stereotypes, but not this way. Many of these ladies are doing wonderful things for animals, but Raver decries the type that produces any smell.


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