"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Problem with "Man Caves"

Since Dan and I have been house-hunting this summer, we've been spending more time than usual lingering on channels like HDTV and the DIY Network, which means that I've been seeing lots of commercials for the DIY show Man Caves:
Guys need an exclusive space to hang out in their homes -- a refuge where they can enjoy what they love, whether it's a soundproofed basement used as a rock 'n' roll lounge and adorned with limited edition guitars; a room where diehard ski fans can chill out with a roaring fireplace and alpine atmosphere; or a lush golf-lover's paradise, featuring a state-of-the-art virtual reality driving range, media center and top-notch equipment storage space. Because DIY Network understands there's an environment for every guy that makes him feel fulfilled, we recruited licensed contractor Jason Cameron and former NFL great Tony "The Goose" Siragusa to offer amazing ideas for the ultimate Man Caves. In each episode of this awesome DIY Network series, Jason and The Goose create a man cave solely for one lucky guy, plus offer ideas and expert do-it-yourself instruction to help homeowners everywhere construct their own personal hangouts.
Here are a couple of tastes of what the show has to offer:






The concept of a man cave in a home is a sexist concept in itself. Born from the "Men are from Mars" school of thought that men need their own special space to flee their nagging mates and decompress by watching sports, playing poker, drinking beer, and smoking cigars, its perceived necessity derives from the traditional notion that the home (and all the work within it) is entirely the woman's domain.

One of the reasons I find this show disappointing is that I'm usually so impressed with how gender-friendly DIY-themed home improvement shows tend to be. Do you ever notice how many of these shows portray female carpenters and contractors and designers doing things that many girls are never socialized or encouraged to learn to do? And they are typically shown with such little fanfare that it sends the message that women doing this work is nothing out of the ordinary at all, and that just about anyone can take on the tasks they demonstrate.

This show, however, reinforces the idea that men and women are separate species or exist on entirely different planets, and that they therefore have different needs, different interests, and different roles to play. It also operates covertly under the assumption that all of this is somehow natural and not a product of our culture and socialization. And even though this type of entertainment is incredibly popular (see the numerous relationship advice books and magazine articles and the countless "Battle of the Sexes"-themed games, quizzes, reality shows), I find it pretty lazy and irresponsible.

20 comments:

Kelly said...

I hate the Men are from Mars books. I think they're specifically designed to make women feel like inept pieces of shit. I read one out of curiosity, and it took me, like, two months to get over it.

Jorge Segarra said...

So if they don't have them on, it's a problem. If they have them on (as equals) it's also a problem?

plumpdumpling said...

Hey, guess who didn't read your post? It's Jorge!! YAY!!!

Anyway, every house has a women-cave built right in. It's called a kitchen. YAY!!!

AnnQ said...

I agree....I really like it when shows have women carpenters and contractors. :-)

Tracey said...

Kelly: Sadly, I read the Mars/Venus book as I was going through a breakup with someone who wasn't right for me, and it actually confirmed a lot of things about his personality and made me think, "OMG, this IS how men and women are! I WILL NEVER BE HAPPY WITH A MAN!" But then I grew myself a feminist consciousness and met a nice boy who's nothing like the men the book describes, and I woke up from my gender essentialist nightmare.

Jorge: Uhh, if who doesn't have what on? When? How? I'm so confused.

plumpdumpling: For realz. Also, I almost said something about how men get their own caves, while women are left with nothing but the kitchen, but I didn't even want to joke about that. Thanks for always being prepared to put women in their place.

AnnQ: I know, right? I want to find out more about them and how they got started out. I don't know where they're from, but growing up, "carpenter" or anything like it was never really presented to me as a socially acceptable career for women.

GbThrone said...

I think you missed the real "problem" with the show...namely that every one of the man caves is a frat boy's dream. A person's "personal space" or "room of one's own" needs to reflect some maturity. I want some personal space, but I don't need it to reflect an adolescent ethos.

Robert said...

We've been house-hunting this summer as well (and as a first-time home-buyer, I say "Screw you" to the process), so I've also stumbled across this and other like-minded shows. I however, came to a different conclusion. While I don't think men and women have "different roles to play," I absolutely believe that they can and do have varied interests and perhaps needs, as any two people do.

Incidentally, I am planning to have a "man cave" (though we'll not call it that), but my wife also gets her own room. I get the garage because I don't care about having carpet, and she gets the third bedroom. I think the main appeal, for me at least, is to have complete control over the design of just one room. I don't have to worry about how the colors coordinate with the rest of the house, and I can put my stupid poster of Wrigley Field that she doesn't like in there since it's definitely not going up in the living room. It's not about separation or retreating to avoid housework, but about each of us having a sanctuary.

minako said...

What I don't like about the concept is that the men likely get their "cave" (which, incidentally, is a term I think should be offensive to them), while the women likely have to share the rest of the space in the house. It really makes me think of Woolf's A Room of One's Own. I feel like the show makes it okay for men to hide from their partners and families, while women have to constantly be out sharing everyone's space.

My partner is in the process of getting his stuff together to move in. If anything, I'm likely to have the "cave", because I'm required to take work home and need a quiet space to concentrate. But it wasn't that long ago that such a space didn't exist for women. I hate that this show brings back suck an antiquated notion of male solitude and refuge.

mel said...

GbThrone - i think you've hit the nail on the head which is that this show obviously reflects the ideals of this immature frat boy type who will never grow up. obviously most people would want their own space, but to read or work on projects or something.

Anonymous said...

I think women are missing the point that in most relationships the woman takes over and delegates design and decoration choices for the entire house. Supposed Frat-boy items and decorations end up in storage while frilly girly crap fills their former spaces. Also, given the choice a woman would be satisfied with 19 inch Tube TV. The reality is that Men "Really" are from Mars and Women want them to pretend that they're from Venus.

Anonymous said...

Coming very late to this thread: but I've recently been searching for my first home. I've been astonished by how many ads seem to talk about garages or rumpus rooms as 'man caves'. Check out this ad: "GARGANTUAN meaning of very great size, enormous, colossal. These are just some of the words to describe the size of this home. Not many houses can boast enough room to fit the full sized pool table, and of course this is adjacent to the bar area. A true gentleman's retreat (better known as a the man cave.)

It wouldn't take much effort to turn this 4 bedroom home into 5, 6 or 7 bedrooms,
even then you wouldn't be needing to touch the man cave."

Anonymous said...

Men rule the world, get over it :)

Thanks,
Chris

Anonymous said...

Heeeey Chris, we get it. Its a man's world and there is no place for a woman besides on her back, over a stove or somewhere equally as demeaning for male pleasure. I work in radio and am about to quit because a new station in or umbrella who had no females on air (what a surprise) actually has a giant LSU flag that reads in giant bold letters: "man cave." It might as well just have "Nooooo girls allowed, icky!" written all over it. This kind of immature and blatantly misogynistic attitude in a modern workplace is never ok. To have this in a studio hung by the favorites from the boy club spells out to us women exactly how inadequate they believe us to be. In this job I have been objectified, harassed and now excluded. I can't even go in there. Radio has become just as bad as television. But you know, Chris, you go right on ahead and listen to your sports talk show and take comfort that there has never been a lipsticked mouth on that microphone. The reestablishment of phallocentrism is brutal. Would you want your wife, sister and mother to be discriminated in this way at their jobs? It is not ok and I will be leaving the entire industry soon. Because as you so eloquently pointed out, men rule the world and nagging women like me just need to get over it and let the men take their rightful place, which in radio is the other 95% of on air jobs. Maybe I should just go be secretary or a nurse or a teacher. We all know women are incapable of competing in a modern workplace at all because it's the woman's fault for being insignificant. It's definitely not the mans fault! He's just trying to live happily in his man cave and talk to men on the radio about man stuff that matters to men. We all know it's not the men pushing women away ground something they have talent in. Besides a woman is standing there, shouldn't you be discriminating her or sexually assaulting or abusing or harassing in some kind of way so that man can feel more manly? Isn't that all that matters? Men being men??? Chris, you suck.

Anonymous said...

You are such a retard, and you embody the reason I am so god damned disillusioned. I am a man, I'm sorry if that offends you or you find it sexist, but I can't take that back ok?! Women will stereotypically arrange to visit spas, go for coffee, shopping - whatever - with their female friends, because for a number of reasons, sometimes it's nice to take a break! Men need that too, hell, even people of the same gender under the same roof would need that. You simply need to accept on some level that men and women differ in many respects and that is a happy fact of life. Whilst I am not at all saying that this is 100% true 100% of the time, when a man moves in with a woman she will have some pretty strict ideas on what she wants in the house and what it will look like. The man usually accepts this and I have seen countless occasions where male friends have had to throw away most of their favourite possessions in favour of a clean and ordered home. Wouldn't it be lovely if we still had somewhere we could put all that stuff? We're territorial by nature, and out of sheer love we allow our territory to be destroyed.
You know, it really doesn't come down to a matter of sexism, it's a matter of DIFFERENCE. And nobody decided to make this show about "man caves" because they thought women don't deserve one, it's simply because men ask for it more than women ask for it - so there is a market for it. DUH.
Every time I open the newspaper I see an article written by a woman about how men are rapists - always saying in black and white that men rape women. This completely neglects to point out that well over 50% of the news documented cases of child molestation and rape have actually been committed by women in the last 5 years or so. Every time I turn on the television there is an advert or television show where women are giggling at a man for his assumed stupidity or uselessness in any given situation. Every time I log on to a social networking site a woman is posting about how all men are sexist pigs because one man shouted "you're well hot love" in the street - I'll tell you something: I have been groped on the bottom, genitals, and chest by complete strangers who were female, I have been shouted at in exactly the same demeaning way, but I am NOT stupid enough to declare that an entire gender is to blame, nor do I have a voice in the matter because men are so dogmatised by this uninformed feminist front that we simply have to sit there and take it.
A feminist lecturer visited my University several years ago and her attitude was typical of this whole ordeal. She ignored every single male that attempted to engage in debate or simply enquire for more inormation or clarity. Why? Because he's a man and therefore misogynistic uninformed and incorrect. Wow, such an academic way of looking at things eh? She insinuated that my girlfriend giving another guy a pen because he didn't have one was borne out of the sexist assumption that a woman would b more organised than a man and therefore have brought a spare pen - wow, what a woman hating dick! You get so full of indiscriminate hatred and angst probably due to personal experiences at the hands of not so nice men that you make completely incorrect, uninformed and useless accusations about things that really don't matter and have nothing to do with a gender divide, like suggesting that a guy wanting to chill out in a spare room is some sort of huge conspiracy to put women down or "in their place". Women are not all annoying naggers - but this is definitely an annoying nag if I've ever seen one. So please shut up and talk about something that matters.

Anonymous said...

I guess men should not retreat and instead fight for each inch of the house....

guess what... I love that idea...and my renovated T34 Tank will be a perfect in the living room together with my pristine 2 ponder brass gun battery... got 6 of them ready to fire...

my wife adores my men cave...she gets off the kids and sometimes even gets all sexy near my tanks...

women love guns.. who knew :D

Anonymous said...

I solved the dilemma, I kicked the b**** to the curb and now my entire house is a man cave. I do let her clean it once a week though...

Dar said...

"The concept of a man cave in a home is a sexist concept in itself. Born from the "Men are from Mars" school of thought that men need their own special space to flee their nagging mates and decompress by watching sports, playing poker, drinking beer, and smoking cigars, its perceived necessity derives from the traditional notion that the home (and all the work within it) is entirely the woman's domain."

----

Except it's not sexist, but a simple fact. Men and women are different.

I dislike "man caves" because I don't think men need an actual space to be themselves, but if a wife is a nag, then maybe that it necessary.

ocelotlrama jaguar said...

My brain died reading these cancer-ridden, defensive comments.

I think the term is stupid as all hell, but hey, if dudes want a room of their own where they can unwind, fine. They can clean it all their own and shouldn't expect their wives to pick up after them. Can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Anonymous said...

Women shouldn't be getting fanfares for doing normal things and nobody is telling young girls they can't become carpenters, and even if they were, it takes a person of strong ilk to ignore what people tell them. So are we then to assume from this article that women are weak willed? Wow that's pretty sexist.

Erin said...

I actually googled "man caves are sexist" to see if anyone out there agreed with me on this subject and I was not disappointed. My husband and I HATE the concept of a man cave. As if our 3 bedroom 2 bath home is all mine and we need to carve out space that is just for him. It is frustrating and stupid. Our home and all the work that goes into it is both of ours. When we moved in and people started asking him "What are you going to do with the man cave in the basement?" he was baffled. We both pay the mortgage and we both work hard to maintain it.