Catfight (also Girl fight) is a term for an altercation between two women, often characterized as involving scratching, slapping, hair-pulling, and shirt-shredding. It can also be used to describe women insulting each other verbally. The catfight has been a staple of American news media and popular culture since the 1940s, and use of the term is often considered derogatory or belittling. Some observers argue that in its purest form, the word refers to two women, one blonde and the other a brunette, fighting each other. However, the term is not exclusively used to indicate a fight between women, and many formal definitions do not invoke gender.
The term catfight was recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary as the title and subject of an 1824 mock heroic poem by Ebenezer Mack. It is first recorded as being used to describe a fight between women in 1854. The word cat itself was originally a contemptuous term for either sex, but eventually came to refer to a woman considered loose or sexually promiscuous, or one regarded as spiteful, backbiting and malicious.
Catfights first began appearing in American popular culture in the 1950s when post war pioneers of pornography such as Irving Klaw produced films clips of women engaged in catfighting and wrestling. Klaw used many models and actresses in his works including Bettie Page. The popularity of watching women fight increased in the post war years and eventually moved into the mainstream of society. In the 1960s, catfights became popular in B movies such as Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and the 1969 animated Boris Karloff movie Mad Monster Party. In the 1970s and 1980s, catfights began to make appearances in women in prison films, in roller derby and in nighttime soap operas such as Dallas and Dynasty.