Ideas

Brainiac

‘Cat Person’: A literary frenzy in one chart and three tweets

Searches for “dog person” (in red) were dwarfed by searches for “cat person.”
google trends
Searches for “dog person” (in red) were dwarfed by searches for “cat person.”

On Monday, a piece of short fiction called “Cat Person,” a female narrator’s account of a date gone wrong, suddenly exploded on social media. Written by Kristen Roupenian and published last weekend by The New Yorker, the story had arrived at a moment when real-life women are opening up about sexual harassment. Early boosters found Roupenian’s story clever and highly relatable — a succinct picture of the sexual pressure many young women feel. But opinions soon split, often along gender and generational lines.

Soon enough, the discussion shifted in an unexpected direction: Because the narrator, at several points in the story, expressed revulsion at the male character’s body, some commentators objected to what they saw as “fat-shaming.”

Still, others were grateful to learn that the Twitter world, for all its flaws, genuinely cares about serious fiction.