“Women have sat indoors all these millions of years, so that by this time the very walls are permeated by their creative force, which has, indeed, so overcharged the capacity of bricks and mortar that it must harness itself to pens and brushes and business and politics.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
The other night I was listening to one of my favorite Pandora Radio stations when an advertisement broke in for an apartment rental search company. The selling point for the ad was that a couple’s search for an apartment together was successful because it had a “man cave for him and plenty of closet space for her.” I had to stop what I was doing because of its two implied messages. Women need closet space? Men need a “cave” in order to retreat from their partners and/or children? The ad reeks of sexism and notions of a privileged class. It assumes that women have an overabundance of clothes and shoes and need substantial storage for them, and only men are entitled to an extra room just for themselves.
I don’t know about you, but I have one closet that houses all of my clothes and shoes for every season. When I was married, I shared that closet only by storing my out- of- season clothes in a makeshift hanging area in the basement. That very same area also housed the family’s cold/wet weather gear. (My home has no closet space on the first floor so when colder weather does arrive, we hang our coats in the mudroom.) All of my other clothing items are stored in a dresser or in a plastic container under the bed. I believe that this is quite efficient, practical and frugal considering the fact that I am a runner and yogi in a four season climate. Would closet space be a possible selling point for me if I moved to a new home? Sure! But not because I am a female in search of wardrobe storage! Seriously, 3 closets for 3 people ( 2 are male) is quite a tight arrangement.
The need for a man cave is a 21st century idea born of the sexist belief that women control all household matters-cooking, cleaning and decorating- and enjoy those responsibilities. Hence, because men now must also be more “sensitive”, it has resulted in their emasculation. They need a space to freely express themselves. Further, this concept presumes that all men are alike-they yearn for a place to hang their deer heads, NASCAR posters and read pornography. It has become so commonplace globally that Ikea opened a store in Melbourne, Australia with a “manland”. The space was created so that men who didn’t want to join their partners in shopping could have a place to relax and enjoy themselves in a “manly way”. There are now man cave websites dedicated to decorating ideas and contests for the best caves, among other things.
The truth is that they are few of us in this world who have the square footage to enjoy a room of our own. Heck, I write this blog from my kitchen table because my desk shares space with the living area! If someone is watching TV or the boys have company, the only other choice is my bed. And besides, the kitchen table is less crowded than my desk is! Additionally, my yoga mat is on the rug in front of the desk and my strength training equipment shares space with my washing machine, furnace and other basement storage items. We are squeezed but it seems to work.
For most of us living communally is an economic reality- we need help with the rent or mortgage. For others it is a lifestyle choice: marriage, children or one half of a couple. I think the trick is to find a way to have your creative “space” and share it within this realm. Didn’t we learn this in Kindergarten?
I have no doubt that I aspire to a clean and orderly home that is decorated as an aesthetic expression of my life and identity. However, this is not because I am female! I am the homeowner; I have pride of place just like everyone else.
Truthfully, I have never given a thought to designing a room of my own. Maybe I need to engage in some fantastical thinking. And so do you! When my dream space is complete, I’ll share it with you and invite you to do the same.
Enjoy the reverie!