Quote of the Day: On Man Caves and Masculinity

Quote of the Day: On Man Caves and Masculinity

Quote of the Day: On Man Caves and Masculinity

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard of man caves. Virtually every home design show on television will mention man caves. If you have married friends, it’s likely not unusual to hear about the husband being granted a man cave. Man caves are everywhere these days. They’re a perfect little spot for men to hide from their families and have time just to themselves. Everything about the man cave revolves around the man himself: the decor, the entertainment, the furniture. But are man caves another symptom that we are losing masculinity? Is it a sign that men are no longer stepping up to their role as husband, father, and provider? According to Brandon McGinley at Acculturated, the answer is yes.

What differentiates the man cave from these more traditional male spaces is that workshops and studies are designed to accommodate a particular, elevating interest. These rooms are only isolated inasmuch as the activities proper to them are best pursued without distraction. With the man cave, however, the isolation from the family—the escape—is the primary purpose of the space. The man cave, therefore, is the image of the traditional male space without its substance.

Of course, a workshop or study could become an escape—a place to hide from family duties or to indulge selfish habits. But this would be a misuse, or abuse, of a space set aside for humane recreations. By contrast, the man cave by its very name announces that it is for me. Whatever happens in the room is merely an artifact of my desires and my personality.

The implication is that the rest of the house—the joint bedroom and the nice kitchen and the kids’ messy quarters and the other TV room—cannot adequately serve me and my precious individuality. (Women, apparently, are not such fragile snowflakes that they need their own room to express themselves. After all, she has the kitchen, right?) Worse, the man cave implies antagonism between the father’s masculine identity and his family identity and duties.

Setting aside a space specifically as a masculine escape from the family signals that masculinity and family life are in tension. Whereas the mother can actualize her full identity in family life, the father, by this logic, can only do so away from family life. This reinforces two damaging notions: first, that the father’s “natural environment” is not in the home participating in communal life, and second, that the family is nothing more than a group of individuals pursuing their own self-interest and self-actualization—and that those interests and identities, especially between the father and his wife and children, are necessarily in conflict.

Both of these notions corrode the cohesion of the family, whose strength as a social unit emerges from and depends on the effacing of the self in the service of community. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of strangers living together.

To be sure, the family cannot be the alpha and the omega of a man’s identity. But neither can it be so for a woman. We all have interests and hobbies and little sanctuaries, physical or psychological, that give us respites from the exigencies of family life and that inform our self-understanding. That’s natural and good. But these aspects of our individual identities should not be placed in conflict with the family identity. After all, personality is most fully expressed not in isolation, but in community.

As McGinley points out, male-only spaces are by no means a new plague on American society. Consider the Victorian era, where after dinner women would sit in the library and talk, while men would go to the study to smoke and drink — no women allowed. The man cave is just the latest reincarnation. But the biggest difference seems to be not that man caves exist, but the implication that the rest of the home is specifically female.

Who designs and decorates the majority of homes today? Women do. All too often, women decorate their homes however they wish, with little concern for their husband’s opinion on the matter, because women always know best. The kitchen is the wife’s domain. So is the living room, the bathroom, and the bedrooms. Men have been effectively shut out of the home by women, so the only thing they have left is the man cave. So while yes, McGinley is right that men may be losing masculinity through the rise of man caves, he fails to understand the reason very well may be women.

Man cave image courtesy of Acculturated.
Man cave image courtesy of Acculturated.

Yes, the rest of the house should be seen as the place that serves the husband. He shouldn’t have to retreat to his man cave to feel like himself. But who is it that fails to make the husband part of the home? It’s part of our culture now, really. Women make the decisions. Watch HGTV and you’ll see countless men chuckle, “Happy wife, happy life” as they decide to pass on their own wishes in favor of that of their wives’. The choice of counter tops and cabinet colors, hard wood floors vs. tile, may not seem like important decisions worth fighting over. But if a husband doesn’t have any say in his own home, then how is it we can expect him to feel comfortable there? Men may be losing masculinity, but it’s because women are robbing them of it, a little at a time.

We see this culturally all the time. Commercials portray dads as clueless oafs (bonus points for being overweight), while their wives are immaculately put together, smiling in a chagrined manner as they clean up the mess that their idiot husbands left for them. Sitcoms are often the same. The husband is lazy, overweight, and does nothing to help around the house. Wives are skinny and beautiful. They’re also nagging shrews, constantly pecking at their husbands and letting them know that they’re a disappointment. Modern feminism has taught women that they don’t need a man for anything, that they can do anything a man can do (and do it better!), and not to let men trample all over them. Feminists told women in the 50s and 60s that being a housewife equaled being a slave, that they were completely subservient to men, and that it needed to stop. Women needed to take charge! Well, take charge they did, and they flipped the script completely. Now men are the ones who are slaves to their wives’ whims, unwelcome to be themselves in their own house, and yet we can’t understand why men want to have one room — just one room — to have for themselves? The better question might be why they have to be relegated to just one room.

Masculinity may well be in danger in today’s culture, but who is to blame for it? Certainly men are, because they were party to the demasculinization of American men. It didn’t happen to them; they were willing participants. But women cannot do everything they can to emasculate men, and then turn around and moan about how there aren’t any real men left. Women can’t make the entire house their territory, and then complain about how man caves are immature. If we want to make a case against man caves, then we need to look at who the real culprits are: women. Because until women start treating men as equal partners in their lives, their homes, their marriages — and not like a very large child that they have to take care of — well, how can we really blame men for shrinking away?

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5 Comments
  • GWB says:

    (Women, apparently, are not such fragile snowflakes that they need their own room to express themselves. After all, she has the kitchen, right?)

    Wow, this is a little clueless. And you nail it with:

    the rest of the home is specifically female.

    Ironically, it’s very likely that the man’s income is what pays the mortgage – and he doesn’t get to enjoy what he pays for.

    We see this culturally all the time.

    One of the radio stations here has a “Man vs Woman” trivia contest weekday mornings during drive time (you can win tickets or whatnot). When the woman wins, they play a bit of “Girl On Fire” (from the Mockingjay movies) then a very short bit that sounds like a Gilda Radner bit from SNL, being snotty about winning.
    When the man wins, they play The Man Song. It’s a parody of a strong man, always qualifying his boasts with submission to his wife.
    It is everywhere.

    I understand very well the mentality that would give up rather than continue to beat your head against a wall. You retreat, you insulate.
    If a woman wants a man out of his man cave, she needs to not just want to “include” her husband in what she is doing, but to encourage what he wants. She doesn’t have to be “one of the guys” but she has to be willing to let him watch a football game on the living room big screen, and bring him a beer and a sandwich – make him feel like HE is important, and he is much more likely to make her feel like SHE’s important.
    Women have been lied to for SO long about this stuff.

  • henry green says:

    Why is anyone surprised. There was once a time when masculine talents were valued and accepted. Boys were brought up to be men. I went to a YMCA Camp for ten years that was run by fine men who were coaches and ex military. I then attended an all boys military school. Today, rather than teaching boys self discipline in school, they are medicated to be docile. You were brought up not to complain, to defend yourself, and be respectful of your elders. Women and girls were to be treated with respect and protected if endangered. Men had a role to play to defend and provide for the family. Today that role has been ridiculed and reviled by the elites in our society, including the feminists. The day will come, I fear, when those talents will be needed again, but there will be no one to answer the call.

  • Merle says:

    I have my man cave ( I really don’t, but just pretend ) and she wants to take it away? Guess what – no more “girls night out” for you! You just knocked yourself off that pedestal!

    Act like you got a pair, or better yet, grow a pair you whiny metrosexuals.

    Maybe that’s why I have been with my wife since 1969 – we don’t play those silly ass games.

    Merle

  • KRS says:

    The house belongs to Sweetie, but I don’t need a man-cave – I have the yard, garage, workshop and bathroom (kids will bother you everywhere except the bathroom) – all places where I perform productive tasks that enhance my masculinity. I also have a hiking trail nearby to take the dog on hour long walks every day.

    Sweetie loves that last one – the dog is big, young and full of teeth, so she’s happy for the break.

    People like Brandon need to grow a pair so they do not waste their time on rationalizing their silly prejudices as thoughtful analyses – after all, the lawnmower blade needs resharpening. Step up, Brandon.

    Also, cudos to you, Ms. Fiano for your kind-hearted rebuttal.

    As for Sweetie and me, I suppose the house is divided into his and her zones. The places where the homeowner is most likely to be found bleeding are his; every other place is hers, including the bathrooms. Which is cool, because her places are always warm and comfy. I get fed terrific meals and I don’t get injured.

    We have two daughters and The Boy. Every time I’m working on the house, car or piece of equipment, Sweetie kicks The Boy outside to help me because she’s not going to let him be one of those wusses who can’t fix his own garage door and fusses about nonsense issues like Brandon.

    We’re married 25 years and have yet to experience our first fight.

    Loving the Sweetie.

  • j walter says:

    Anyone wonder why marriage rates are collapsing?

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