The ‘Man Cave’: Warranted Space, or a Sexist Concept?

Gillian Sisley

Is this trend a healthy expectation, or is it creating further inequality in everyday heterosexual partnerships?

More and more, the concept of the ‘man cave’ has been growing in popularity in North America. In a survey conducted by BuilderOnline.com, 40% of respondents confirmed that they had a ‘man cave’ in their home. A man cave is described as a space where the male head of the household and his male counterpart friends can retreat to to indulge in stereotypically manly activities, such as watching sports, drinking beer, playing video games, etc.

This idea was even played upon for women through the growing trend of 'she sheds', which created an outdoor space in suburban backyards where women could partake in their own stereotypically female activities, such as drinking wine, reading books, knitting, and the like.

But the fact that a female equivalent of this space even had to be created, as an afterthought to ‘man caves’ no less, casts a light on the issue at hand of wives and their desire for a private space of their own often being an afterthought in heterosexual marriages.

To take that to another level, ongoing debates of expected responsibilities between husbands and wives when it comes to child care make this conversation of having a designated gender space more complex. Where the male parental unit in a heterosexual relationship may have a space to escape to in a ‘man cave’, the female in the marriage is expected to continue existing exclusively in the shared space where children are being raised and one can't always find a moment to themselves.

Discussion of this concept of 'man caves' and whether or not they have a place in a healthy marriage has gone viral again through online conversations on discussion boards such as Reddit.

One such post has gone especially viral with 13,400 upvotes and 2,500 comments. In this post, a man asks online users if he is in the wrong, or even a sexist, for not wanting his wife to take part in designing the basement of their new house.

Is a 'man cave' a right, or a privilege?

While some may find this question silly, it is a legitimate question that many online are asking. In a world where we recognize that child-rearing is one of the most difficult jobs there is, parents in search of self-care are seeking spaces to retreat to where they can recharge and address their own needs.

This concept in itself, of parents prioritizing self-care so that they can better care for their children, is a very healthy and important reality. In a survey conducted by the Women's Healthcare Innovation and Leadership Showcase (WHILS), it was that 78% of mothers admitted to putting off their own self-care for the needs of others. This data is especially notable when recognizing that psychologists confirm that parental self-care is essential to the emotional well-being of the children they are raising.

That said, for some men in particular, they may bat for a space in the basement that they can call a 'man cave', where they can invite their friends over at any point to hang out and get away from the rest of their family.

User Evening-Section2887 published a Reddit post on January 11th that covered this very topic, and he asked whether or not he was in the wrong for requesting a 'man cave' of his own.

Who has the right to particular spaces?

In the now-viral post, the man explains that he and his wife are newly married and were able to close on a 2,800 square foot home with five bedrooms.

He explained that there are two living spaces, the basement living area and the main floor living area. He then goes on to state that he expected his wife would take priority over the main floor and designing that space, while he wanted to have full say over the design of the basement.

When the wife asked why she couldn't help with designing the basement, the husband told her that he wanted to create a ‘man cave’ for himself. At that point, his wife became angry with him because she wanted the two of them to be able to agree together on how the basement living area would be designed and used.

The Reddit user finished his post by stating that he was "irritated" that his wife was complaining as he was "letting her design the living area and master bedroom 100% the way she wants", and that he wanted to be able to design the basement living area the way he wanted.

When living with another person, most space is shared space.

None of this is to say that 'man caves' are inherently a bad thing. If all parties can agree that it is a good idea, then that is the business of the couple involved in the discussion of their shared living space.

That said, it is worth noting that there is a clear line drawn here where the male in the relationship is the first to acquire his own space, and the female may or may not acquire her own space as well as an afterthought…If the couple is lucky enough to have enough space to allocate separate floors or rooms to separate people.

Many internet users labeled this concept as being in the wrong. The biggest comment to come up was the issue users had with the husband stating he was "letting" his wife design the rest of the house, and for that reason, he should be allowed to exclude her from the design of the basement.

It is worth pointing out that the rooms that he was "letting" her design were shared living spaces, while he was excluding her from a large space that he was demanding all for himself. In a healthy partnership, psychologists agree that decisions should be made equally and should be jointly agreed upon when those decisions will affect both members of the partnership.

The 'man cave' does not have to be an inherently wrong or sexist concept.

But it is how the space is used or the ways that it is utilized to exclude women that could bring a measure of inequality into the conversation. We all have a right to space, and a right to self-care time in private.

When confronting this question, one should ask themselves whether the men versus the women in the scenarios have equal access to their own private space, or whether one is being favored over the other for no legitimate reason. It is in the case where a man demands a ‘man cave’ while expecting his wife to be satisfied with the shared spaces exclusively, rather than her own space as well to have, that the concept of a 'man cave' can become problematic and discriminatory.

What do you think? Do 'man caves' wrongly exclude women? Or do men have a right to their own private space away from family, to spend with their friends to watch the game and drink a beer?

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Online solopreneur. Tea drinker. Committed optimist. I write about trending news, viral Reddit content, and anything else that tickles my fancy.

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