(Feline) self-identity

This identity lark is definitely intriguing.

Latest puzzle is my exceedingly fluffy cat (note: I swerved the obvious and rather crude joke here!).

First up is a picture of her in her younger days. Not the best of pics, I’ll grant. But I think it does capture her essential fluffiness.

Viking Cat (with flowers)

Next up is a picture of a Norwegian Forest cat. Apparently, these are also known as the viking cat, presumably in respect of their tendency, when young, to sail round the north sea, and occasionally raping and pillaging their way through northumberland.

Norwegian Forest Cat

Now. Those who know Kitty (yes: that’s the rather uninspiring name with which OUR cat was christened) may well observe a certain similarity here.

That said, she is also similar to the Maine Coon.

Maine Coon

The only real difference between her and either of these breeds is her size: she’s big. Just not that big.

I digress: at one point, she was a seriously overweight cat. I think (don’t laugh!) she suffered from issues of self-esteem on account of being bullying by the house’s top female cat. So much so that on a couple of occasions she even got stuck trying to enter the house through the cat flap!

Top femme snuffs it (now laid to rest on our riverbank): and suddenly Kitty spruces up her act, loses a fair few pounds, and re-emerges as top cat in the house.

Well, maybe. The other feline occupant is so laid back, I doubt he gives a moment’s thought to hierarchy.

And the serious out-take. Well, semi-serious. Is it fair to regard her as identifying as a norwegian forest cat: should we treat her as viking, and address her only in old norse? After all, she does dress for the role.

And we do seem, year by year, to be moving ever closer to treating people as they self-identify, rather than according to their outward characteristics. I absolutely don’t disagree with that.

But I suspect, over the next decade, that this self-identity lark is going to throw up some quite interesting debate. From Ali G’s ironic (?) “is it because I is black” to the recent intriguing opening up of a club that was previously for under-35’s only to all those who “feel themselves to be young at heart”, the issue is on the agenda in a way I don’t think it has been before.

Obviously it is a core issue for those transitioning – but it is also at the heart of the whole gender queer debate, and a growing rejection (at least, I think it is growing) of external labels unless they are absolutely essential for administrative purposes.

At a conference over the weekend, I mentioned to my audience the suggestion raised by one member of the Coalition that, unless it was absolutely necessary, official documents could now dispense with gender. There was a sudden lightbulb moment – and then several members of those present exploded in enthusiastic support.

What? Someone in the establishment actually thought that removing labels…allowing self-identification…might actually be OK. Wow! And double wow!

OK. My cat nmay not be an ideal example. I am not sure she has actively opted for the viking lifestyle, showing very little sign of constructing boats or going after the local rat population with an axe. Perhaps self-identification for animals is a step too far. For now.

I shall believe it when our neighbour’s St Bernard decides to identify as a chihuahua!

But the limits of self-identity are absolutely on the agenda…we live in exciting times.



1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Theo Cuppier said,

    she’s a little bit of a mongrel.. half tabby half forest cat.. but she’s cute, and that what counts.

    I will see if I can find a picture of my Ellie, who was a full blood NFC .. very closely related to the Maine cat, but a pinker nose and lacking the prominent tufts on the ears.. it’s possible the vikings who stayed in Newfoundland lost a couple of cats while they were there, so maybe the Maine Coon came from interbreeding with the feral versions of those (or with the tufts on the ears the damn Cougar.. I wouldn’t put it past a NFC to interbreed with a mountain lion.. Ellie was fearsome.. scared of nothing.. dogs, horses, people, cars.. all were fair game..)
    Her liking for chasing cars was her downfall.. one day living on a main road got the better of her.

    As for the M/F/O/N box.. why not just make it completely optional, like “religion” and leave it at that?.. When I’m presented with the question SEX and a M box and an F box.. I write “yes please” in my best “match the typeface” hand and draw another little box.. complete with tick.. Never to this day has anybody ever pulled me up on it, even back into the dim dark days of the 80’s..

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