In recent weeks (something about tragic airline promotions), the notion of the cougar has been roaming the airwaves (probably more than our streets). Rather than Baudelaire’s notion of a flaneur (the more placid experience of the city through walking), a more aggressive and sexually-charged urban exploration is gaining currency in our city’s lexicon.
Gone are the days of the sugar daddy, not that I think his homey-image ever ventured too far into the city, instead the streets of Wellington have been refigured as a post-menopausal cat-walk. The flaneur took off as an idea to interest urban design theorists. Some architects have even used the word. … so is there any potential for the idea of the cougar to give us new understandings about our urban environment? Could, for instance, places like the Dockside (aka “The Drycleaners”), renowned as the place for picking up suits, now reach unprecedented heights as one of several new civic landmarks celebrated for their insights into urban life?
Yes, potentially a tough one, and the term “cougar” and its baggage, for starters, is unwholesomely problematic, but (unlike the detachment of the flaneur), the cougar is loaded with vested interest and the envitable counter-actions to changes in demographic power, traditionally seen in the old-male philanthropy of the sugar-daddy, and the young-female money-grabbing gold digger. But she is a figure who also denotes a shifting of the boundaries of public and private, power and she engages with an interior view of the city. Who knows what the potential might be?