The Decline of Male Space

by Brett on January 10, 2010 · 117 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood

Once upon a time, the world belonged to men.


Because men had exclusive power in both private and public life, they controlled their surrounding environment and the way in which space was designed and decorated. Consequently, the world was once a very masculine place.

Thankfully, we’ve made progress in the area of gender equality and women have brought their influence to bear in both the home and the workplace. However, as with many other areas of modern life, the pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other; instead of creating a world that’s friendly to both male and female space, we’ve created one that benefits female space at the expense of male space.

What’s behind the decline in male space and the proliferation of female space? It’s actually a complex and interesting story that goes all the way back to 18th century. Below we’ll explore some of the factors that have contributed to the near eradication of male space in both public and private life.

Decline of Male Space in the Public Sphere

For most of humanity, the public sphere was solely a man’s domain. Up until as far as the 19th century, it wasn’t even appropriate for women to visit outside the home without a man accompanying her.

However, in the last 100 years, areas designated as male space have shrunk because of changes in attitudes towards gender and anti-discrimination laws.

In this section we discuss five public spaces that were once exclusively for men: the workplace, the bar, the barbershop, the gym, and the fraternal lodge/social club.

The workplace. Perhaps the largest male space in public life was the workplace. For many families in the West, the Industrial Revolution created a strict division of labor where men worked in a factory or office and women stayed home to take care of the children. If women did work, they largely did so in “female” industries like textile factories. As a result, the workplace was a predominately male space with rules and a culture that favored male sensibilities.

When women started to enter the workforce in greater numbers during the 1950s and 60s, many men saw it as an encroachment into their space and resorted to crude sexual harassment as a way to keep women “in their place.” Thanks to laws during the Civil Rights era and an increasing sensitivity and desire by businesses to create non-hostile workplaces, such harassment is seen for what it is and shunned by most males today.

The Bar. For centuries, a man could visit a bar and be in the exclusive presence of other men. Because drinking was seen as a corrupting influence on the “purity and innocence” of women, bars were completely off limits to ladies (exceptions were made for prostitutes, of course). Out of the presence of women and children, men could open up more and revel in their masculinity over a mug of cold ale. However, the bar as a men’s only hangout would quickly see its demise during the dry years of Prohibition.

By banning alcohol, Prohibition forced drinking underground. Speakeasy owners, desperate to make a buck, accepted all drinkers into their establishments, regardless of gender. Moreover, the economic and political empowerment women experienced during the 1920s and 30s made drinking by women more acceptable. By the time Prohibition was repealed, the female presence at the local watering hole had become a common appearance.

World War II only further eroded the male exclusivity of bars and pubs. As more women entered the workforce, it became acceptable to socialize with their male co-workers in taverns and lounges after work.

Today, there aren’t many bars around that cater only to men (gay bars being an obvious exception). Instead, bars have become a place where the sexes come together to mingle and look for a special someone (even if just for the night.)

Barbershops. Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, barbershops were bastions of manliness, and one could be found on every corner. At the barbershop, a man could get a sharp haircut, enjoy a relaxing shave, and take part in some manly banter with his barber and the other customers. Unfortunately, several factors led to the decline of barbershops. Perhaps the biggest factor was the rise of the unisex salon. Places like “SuperCuts,” which were neither beauty salons nor barbershops, catered to both men and women. Many states’ licensing boards accelerated this trend by ceasing to issue barber licenses altogether in favor of offering a unisex “cosmetologist” license to all those seeking to enter the hair cutting profession.

Unlike the bar or workplace, the barbershop hasn’t been infiltrated by women; most ladies prefer the salon and wouldn’t dream of having Old George take the clippers to their head. Rather, barbershops have simply become harder to find. Even if you do find one, don’t be surprised if Old George has been replaced with Georgia.

Boxing Clubs and Gyms. Like bars, boxing clubs and gyms were once exclusively male-only haunts. In the time of women-free gyms, men could focus solely on building their bodies and not worry about impressing the ladies. They were dark, dingy places, that smelled of sweat and exhaustion. Free from the sound of Lady Gaga blasted over the speakers, the only noise was of grunts and the clanging of weights. However, in response to the women’s movement, many states and cities passed ordinances prohibiting male-only businesses and clubs. As a result, women advanced on gyms along with step classes and leotards.

Despite these anti-discrimination ordinances, many states have overlooked the proliferation of female-only gyms like Curves that have opened up across the country. Even when men bring lawsuits challenging these all-women establishments, they’re often dismissed. This unfortunate double standard has only aided in the decline of male space and the rise of female space.

Old school boxing clubs have also been in decline for several years. For many men growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, visiting the boxing gym as a boy was as normal as playing video games is for boys of today. The decline in the number of boxing gyms parallels the decline in the popularity of the sport itself. And some of the boxing clubs that are left  have understandably looked to stay afloat by offering “boxing cardio” classes that appeal to women. However, the popularity of mixed martial arts among young men may spur the creation of new male space in the form of MMA gyms. Few females  have found an interest in learning the ground and pound.

Fraternal Lodges and Social Clubs. Fraternal lodges and all male clubs and restaurants have a long and storied history in the United States and in other countries in the West. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, men flocked to fraternal lodges, like the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows, in order to take part in male fellowshipping. At one time in American history, 1 in 4 men belonged to a fraternal lodge of some sort. However, by 1950 membership began to decline as the demands of family life and work increased, leaving men little time for lodge life. Moreover, under pressure from women’s rights groups, some lodges allowed women to join their ranks. But for the most part fraternal lodges remain all-male. Their biggest problem is just recruiting new and younger members.

In addition to fraternal lodges, male only clubs and restaurants served as a place where a man could enjoy a nice rib-eye with their bros and get candid advice on their career and family life. But male-only clubs would start to feel the squeeze when the U.S. Supreme Court held in 1987 that states and cities may constitutionally ban sex discrimination by business-oriented private clubs. With this green light from the Court, many states and cities started cracking down on male-only clubs and restaurants. New York City was especially vigorous in prosecuting male-only clubs. Perhaps the most famous instance of a once male-only club being forced to open membership to women was the New York Athletic Club. Founded in 1868, the club contained dining rooms, bars, an indoor pool, and a block long gym. Facing legal pressure, the New York Athletic Club opened it’s membership to women in 1989 with mixed feelings on the part of members. Despite the legal and societal pressure, a few-male only clubs still exist in the U.S.

Decline of Male Space in the Home

Paralleling the decline in male space in public was the decline of male space in the domestic sphere. This perhaps was even more dramatic for men because, well, it hit so close to home. A man was once king of his castle, but in a blink of an eye he was dethroned. Here’s a brief primer on how it went down.

The Industrial Revolution: The Beginning of the End of Male Space

Before the Industrial Revolution, you could find most men working in or around the home. This was a time of self-sufficient small farmers and noble artisans. A man used his home as his place of business and, consequently, homes were designed to accommodate the needs of the dirty work of farming, blacksmithing, and leatherworking. When you work every day in dirt and grime, you can’t worry about taking off your boots so you don’t soil the rug. That just slows down the work!

Additionally, the home design luxuries we take for granted today just weren’t available to people in this agrarian society. Carpeting, wallpaper, drapes and even glass windows were items reserved for the very wealthy.

Consequently, the home had a predominately masculine vibe. Exposed beams, dirt floors, and earthen fireplaces were the norm. Tools were left here and there, guns hung above the fireplace, the sheep dog came in and out as he pleased, and a man didn’t think about wiping his feet before he came inside. He didn’t have to worry about a nagging wife getting on to him for mucking up the place because the place was already mucked up. But little did men know that the days of a male-centered abode were numbered.

By the middle of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. Families moved from the country to the city, and men left home to work in the factories. Women, of course, stayed home to run the household. Thus a strict work/home dichotomy developed, with women given domain over the latter. The Cult of Domesticity, popular during this time, encouraged middle and upper class women to make the home a “haven in a heartless world” for her husband and children, a place where a man could relax and feel comforted after a long day of toiling in the trenches. Without an earthen floor and sawdust shavings everywhere, the possibility of keeping things clean and tidy became attainable, and women bought carpets, white drapes, and flower-filled vases in the name of creating a soft oasis for their husbands. But what they really had made was the type of place a woman would feel most comfortable, and men fled their doily-laden home to spend time at the bars and fraternal lodges with their boys. The home had become female space.

Victorian Era

Theodore Roosevelt’s Trophy Room at Sagamore Hill

While male space was chipped away at during the 18th century, there were some consolations. During the Victorian Era, upper and middle class homes were built with several gender specific rooms. These rooms were often divided evenly among men and women. Women had sewing, drawing, and tea rooms; men had billiards, smoking, and trophy rooms. One peculiar male room in Victorian homes was the growling room. That’s right-growling room. Apparently growling rooms were a place a man could go to be alone and “growl” when in a bad mood. (I just use the bathroom for that now. )

This period of gender balance in homes would be short lived, however, and male space would continue to shrink as women took more and more control over home life.

Suburban Living: The Elimination of Male Space

Male space in the home was exchanged for family space.

The period after WWII was filled with dramatic changes in American life. One of the most powerful changes was the migration of white, middle class families from cities to the suburbs. Large developments like Levittown provided returning vets a chance to buy a piece of the American Dream for a relatively affordable price and get started on raising a family.

The rise of suburban culture with its emphasis on creating a domestic nest, usually meant sacrificing male space for the good of the family. Home designs in the 1950s exchanged the numerous, smaller rooms of the Victorian home for fewer, larger rooms. The goal was to create more open space where families could congregate together and bond while watching the Honeymooners on TV.

With no room to call their own, men were forced to build their male sanctuaries in the most uninhabitable parts of a home. Garages, attics, and basements quickly became the designated space for men, while the women and children had free reign over the rest of the house.

Men filled these rooms with the trappings of manliness- animal heads, discarded furniture, and pictures of sports figures (or women) would adorn the room. They would use their “man caves” as a place to retreat to when the demands of work and family life felt suffocating. Here they could play cards with their friends or tinker around, working on their car, reading the paper, or doing some woodworking.

But even these undesirable areas of the home would be taken away from men. Basements and attics became game or entertainment rooms to be used mainly by children. And even the least feminine of all places-the garage-would be cleaned up and domesticated.

According to Andreas Duany, an architect and consultant for the New Urban Development, three things occurred that feminized the garage: 1) sheetrocking, 2) the emergence of the storage industry, and 3) home association requirements to keep garage doors closed.

To organize their garages, men had built their own system of workbenches and shelving. But women felt this amateur, rustic solution was still too cluttered. Everything must now be put away in sleek, manufactured cabinetry and plastic storage tubs, with all of a man’s tools and knickknacks hidden away behind a shiny facade.

Sheetrocking covered the once unexposed and manly wood frame in garages, resulting in garages that looked less like a garage and more like another room inside the house.

Finally, homeowner association guidelines that required garages to remain closed made an already inhospitable room even less desirable by shutting out the light and air.

With every room co-opted in the house by women or children, and with few bastions of manliness in the public sphere left standing to escape to, men were relegated to claiming a solitary chair as their designated male space. (Think Archie Bunker and the dad from Frasier.)

Even in a time where men and women are supposed to decide about home décor together, dimes to donuts the women makes the final call. Take the cliché joke of a couple moving in together. It’s usually the man who has to throw out his “silly man things” to make room for the more sophisticated tastes of the women. At that moment, a man realizes that there’s no hope for him to have a place of his own.

Why Male Space is Important

Alright. So you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Isn’t it a good thing we’ve gotten past this archaic gender segregated stuff?” Yes… and no. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of the progress we’ve made, but again, the pendulum has arguably swung too far to the other extreme, leaving men without their own space.

We often underestimate the effects our surroundings have on our psyche. Architects, interior designers, and feng shui experts understand this profound impact. Even famous feminist writer Virginia Woolf understood the importance that space can have on an individual.

In her 1928 essay A Room of One’s Own, Woolf passionately argued that the reason women hadn’t produced as many great literary works as men was because they were denied the same opportunities afforded their male counterparts. The central argument in her essay was that women needed a room of their own in a world that was predominantly male so they could be alone and connect with their true identity and creative impulses.

Eighty years later, it’s the men asking for a room of their own.

Just as male friends play an important role in giving men satisfaction and in shaping their manliness, so does male space. It’s important that men have a place where they can take off their social masks and revel in masculine energy.  For many men, the bureaucracy of corporate culture can leave them feeling powerless and emasculated. Having a “man cave” at home, a place men can deocrate as they please and do what they want in can give them a much-needed sense of control, empowerment, and of course relaxation. And spending time in the company of other men at an all-male hang out can help a man reconnect with his manliness

It seems in the past 10 years or so businesses and home designers are starting to recognize the importance of male space. Cottage industries have sprung up dedicated to designing “man caves” in homes, and many a man dreams of building a tiny house in the woods or backyard. Barbershops are coming back in a big way, and men of my generation are becoming interested in joining fraternal lodges like the Masons. Some pioneering men are even starting clubs of their own. After a period of decline, I think we’re seeing the start of a renaissance in male space. With all that’s going on, now is a better time then ever to carve out your own inner sanctum of manliness. So get to it. Your man cave awaits.

{ 114 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tim Woolery January 10, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Excellent – couldn’t agree more. Bravo, sir…bravo.

I think the article may have missed an important piece – one that perhaps you left out intentionally. What do we do about it?

I have given some thought to it, among the other duties of being a husband and father and I think it boils down to this: We are obligated to care for our needs as much as we care for others. We have an obligation to step up and remind our families that our needs are important, too, and then do the important job of meeting those needs without telling everyone around us that they are obligated to ‘give back’ what we are missing. It would do a lot toward breaking the cycle of ‘entitlement’, showing people how to do for themselves as opposed to expecting others to do it for them.

I really enjoyed this – thanks for sharing.

2 Will January 10, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Great article! Now AoM just need to publish a good piece on the creation of a “man room.”

3 Steve January 10, 2010 at 11:45 pm

“Consequently, the home had a predominately masculine vibe. Exposed beams, dirt floors, and earthen fireplaces were the norm.”

You’re equating masculinity with poverty. That’s ridiculous. These may fit common masculine aesthetic sensibilities in some parts of the world now. People still live in similar conditions today. I can’t imagine the men of the house think, “Yeah, I like how this place looks. The insects and dirt and the hard floor don’t bother me at all.” Who wants to come home to a house with a dirt floor?

And on men making their own furniture in their garages, you write: “But women felt this amateur, rustic solution was still too cluttered.”

My female roommate is damn messy. Do not present women or men as two single-minded masses.

American society has come a long way in how it thinks of gender, but you have some work to do.

4 John Dickerson January 10, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Wowza. Just when I think AoM can’t get any better, you put up an article like this. Fascinating and really interesting. I learned a ton I didn’t know. Now I want a man cave. More specifically I’d like a secret room that can only be accessed by pulling on a book in a bookshelf. Is that too much to ask?

5 Brett McKay January 11, 2010 at 12:09 am

Hey Steve-

Thanks for your comment. I think you may have misunderstood me. I’m not advocating much in what male space should look like today. I agree, a home with dirt floors would be a crum dum place to live.

The goal of this piece was mainly trying to explore the history of male space. If you read any literature on gender history, you’ll find exactly what I described. Men historically found places that were rustic, open, and close to nature appealing, where as women sought to refine and organize their environment with all the hoopla of the Cult of Domesticity.

Henry David Thoreau’s cabin near Walden pond is a perfect example of this. Also, at the turn of the 20th Century a man movement started in reaction to what many saw as the effeminization of males because of the Industrial Revolution. What did these men do? They went out into the woods and built shacks with dirt floors and rustic wood frames with earthen fireplaces. For them, getting back to nature and reveling in dirt and grime meant being manly, while being clean and tidy and neat was effeminate.

So while today’s men and women might not fit these descriptions, historically they did for the most part, and that’s what I was reporting in this piece.

6 Seth Q. January 11, 2010 at 12:18 am

Fascinating piece! Definitely some excellent fodder for cocktail conversation.

I thought it was an interesting point about households becoming more focused on children. I walk into people’s home’s these days and it looks like the place was decorated and furnished just for kids. Toys everywhere, crummy furniture, etc. I think it’s gotten worse in the past 10 years because more and more parents aren’t letting their kids run free outside, so they have to make their houses into mini-playgrounds.

I don’t know if I have a point with this, just an observation of mine.

7 Sarah Joy Albrecht January 11, 2010 at 12:19 am

Not only should men and women have personal space to retreat to, I think it’s essential for women to consider men in the overall decoration of their homes.

There nothing more disgusting in home decoration where every surface is covered in chintz floral and overpowered by floral potpourri. When I enter homes like this, I think, “Where is the man in this house?”

One of my favorite homes was of my friend Jeanine. Their home was small, and there was not enough space for her husband to have his own room (although, he had a beautifully organized garage that was off-limits to the children).

However, she tastefully displayed his taxidermied hunting trophies in the great room of their home. She made sure there was space for his Popular Science by putting a nice basket next to an armchair – just for him. She chose neutral colors with earthier colors as accents for the walls – not pastels. She did have some flower arrangements, and she did keep a curio cabinet of more womanly knickknacks in the foyer. However, her husband was _present_ even in the way her home looked. They had a great marriage and mutual respect for each other. It showed in all aspects of their life, down to the brass tacks. I complimented her on this once, and she said that she was very _mindful_ of including her husband in her decorating and _making him feel welcomed in his own home_.

8 Michael January 11, 2010 at 2:48 am

@Steve: I don’t know if you’re going overboard or making a joke.

Brett reiterates his own point perfectly, but he’s got it right: a man needs space to be a man, and the very nature of “American society coming a long way in how it thinks of gender” means we have to seek that space – which perhaps be more than a videogame room – more purposefully than we used to. It’s not women’s “fault,” it’s just a side effect of a higher functioning (in some ways) civilization.

9 Playstead January 11, 2010 at 3:09 am

Fantastic topic. There was no sadder scene to a movie than in “Juno” when married guy Jason Bateman realized that in his entire huge, house, he had only a large closet to keep all the stuff he loved in. That hit me like a punch in the face.

10 Richard | January 11, 2010 at 3:13 am

I agree with this. The mans’ space has gone. There used to be a place in a pub where just men would go and other places where just women would go. It’s all so merged now.

11 Mark January 11, 2010 at 5:40 am

I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and I abhor the concept of hunting for sport. However, I wear suspenders for both comfort and style, I prefer wood to carpet, and I have a certain taste and style that is my own. One may even say it’s “manly,” however, to me, that is the very pinnacle of manliness – being yourself and owning your style.

Now, in my senior year of high school, my family moved into a new house. Coming from a rental, I was now given the opportunity to paint my room. I chose a dark, forest green. My parents commented that it was too dark, but I stuck with my choice – it suited my style. I spent a good amount of time making my room my own – the walls are nearly completely covered with posters of movies like Rocky and It’s A Wonderful Life along with Norman Rockwell paintings and other wonderful things that compliment who I am, and surrounding them all is that fantastic dark green paint. It’s the finest looking room in the house, and it’s always received compliments – especially from my once concerned parents.

My personal great distaste for the “modern over-feminism” generally comes in the form of home decor (as I don’t really care about things like bars or gyms), and it isn’t necessarily because of it’s femininity – it’s simply because I think it’s ugly. Quite honestly, I would have just as little interest in many “manly” areas… at least, as much as it may be dictated by today’s men. So, when I meet a woman and get married, it won’t be as Hers vs His in terms of decoration and home setup – it’ll be a case of giving our home an overall sense of class, warmth and comfort.

And as long as I have a space in which I can quietly write, I’ll be more than thrilled to invite my male friends to spend time with me amongst my family, because one does not negate the other. The key to pioneer times, despite the natural environment, was the homestead – a family living in close proximity because that was what the time called for.

So, I see this great off-balanced shift towards feminine influence over the home more as a sign of a growing trend in incompatibility between couples and their priorities. I would hate for either myself or my future bride to have our sense of style and personal taste relegated to just one room apiece. I would much rather make my home OUR home, and find a level of comfort that encourages her to invite her friends over for special girl’s nights and for me to do the same with “the guys.”

Otherwise, what’s the point of being married?

12 Graham Hutson January 11, 2010 at 6:28 am

Male on male interaction is important but without women the whole environment tends to become a bit boisterous. Plus there isn’t a lot to look at.

As for the male space in the home, there’s always a shed. Every man needs a shed, and it’s a place a woman will rarely venture because of the presence of spiders.

13 Terri January 11, 2010 at 7:02 am

Excellent and thorough coverage of a relevant, important manly topic. However, you are on sacred feminist ground. Like Jeremiah Johnson passing through a Crow burial in Sydney Pollack’s film, you have unwittingly started a conflict.

Though you have written truthfully without malice, you will pay for trespassing on a taboo, politically protected subject.

Watch your scalp. Feminist will be gunning for you. Continue not stereotyping men as bad and women as good will cost you.

Keep up the insightful, good work.

14 Wendy January 11, 2010 at 7:20 am

I agree with the comment that homes are much more children orientated these days and that children don’t play enough outside.
It seems to me that Brett is conflating a woman’s needs with those of the children in the home! I don’t think that homes are overly women centred these days.
Personally, as a woman, I like a home that opens up to the outdoors the best, and like a rustic feel. Think of the traditional pagan, women centre belief systems which sanctify nature.

Also, there may have been a decline in male public space but females didn’t have any public space to begin with. There’s an overall decline in decent public space in the world, for example with the encroachment of cafes and restuarants onto sidewalks and into parks. In general, men have greater income to be able to afford to sit in these places which were once available to everyone, including young people with no income.

I’d just like to add that I read the blog because I do believe there is a decline in male self esteem and a need to understand male needs better, particularly as a mother of a boy.

Best Wishes,

15 Daetan Huck January 11, 2010 at 7:21 am

I think that Albrecht hit spot on: both men and women need private spaces and both partners should be present in the common areas. I can understand marriages where either the man or woman dominate the public space, but I will strive for equal representation in my marriage.

I see the double standard: in Washington, single-sex gyms were banned, but gyms like Curves opened. Yet, the state legislature changed the bill to allow single-sex gyms for BOTH sexes. You didn’t describe the success: The Blitz, a males-only gym. It looks like men haven’t lost any “ground”; they’ve maintained their private training areas as needed (at least in WA). Though, go to any Crossfit gym and you’ll be delighted to find better athletes than yourself; approximately 30% of whom are female.

Not to mention that I love to hear “Paparazzi” blasting over the radio while I do my squats and deadlifts. Some of the best workout partners I’ve had were women. Both men and women deserve privacy at home, in clubs, and barbershops/salons if they want it. The gym, the bar, and the workplace are exempt; come on, you can share, they won’t bite!

16 Jonathan Cunningham January 11, 2010 at 7:47 am

I think it’s important for both genders to have spaces of their own. Men need places to be men and women need places to be women, sometimes for different reasons. In the case of gymns, men need a place where they can work out without worrying about impressing the ladies and women need need a place where they can work out without being oggled by men.

That being said, we shouldn’t negate spaces that provide healthy interactions between the genders.

17 Bruce Williamson January 11, 2010 at 8:47 am

I found the section regarding fraternal groups interesting. I am a Pennsylvania Freemason and I wonder if we will see the time when we will be coerced to accept women into our group.

I followed the link to the list of gentlemen’s club in the US. The list for Pennsylvania is incorrect the Cosmopolitan Club is a all woman club.

I have my spaces which are the basement, shed and one bed room as a study.

18 G. Alphonse Menard January 11, 2010 at 8:48 am

I think my girlfriend’s dad has got it made. In his basement, he has an unfinished room for a workshop where he keeps all of his woodworking tools and his gun locker. I’ve had more than a few talks with him down there cleaning guns, doing some woodworking, or just shooting the shit over a cold one from the beer fridge. This is also the one room in the house where he smokes his cigars. The room smells like sawdust, tobacco, and machine oil … in short, all that is man.

19 NRT January 11, 2010 at 8:56 am

Don’t ignore the decline of men’s leadership and participation in religion:

“Why Men Hate Church”
“Why Men Hate Going to Church”'s%20participation%20in%20episcopal%20church&pg=PT5#v=onepage&q=&f=false
“Matrilineal Ascent/Patrilineal Descent: The Gender Imbalance in American Jewish Life”
“Where have all the Men Gone?”

20 Eric January 11, 2010 at 9:09 am

No wonder I spend so much time either (a) trying to get a perfect straight-razor shave in the bathroom or (b) at the bar after work. It’s all clear now!

21 Kevin ( January 11, 2010 at 9:26 am

This is a nice article–I really haven’t thought about the evolution of bars, etc. I agree with the other comments: men and women should have some options to build camaraderie with the same sex, and there’s often a double standard when it comes to discrimination.

22 Erick January 11, 2010 at 9:30 am

This was a great article, well thought, well written. As for what a man cave looks like, it can look like whatever you want it too. There really is no set rules for a “man” cave. I mean, if you feel that light pink, with white lace trim and lots of ponies is what you want in your man-cave, have at it by all means. But for most, its going to be things that recognize what we are, hunters and providers, hence things like animal trophys, or a place to make things of wood. Man can invent a thousand ways to make chores easier, work faster, and beer taste better, but he can never ever escape his genetics.

23 Chris January 11, 2010 at 9:44 am

Why create space at home? Men are kidding themselves. At the inevitable divorce the woman will get the man’s space with his stuff anyway. America has one of the highest divorce rates in the world of about 190 countries. It;s not if she gets the your space and stuff, it’s when.

24 Marc January 11, 2010 at 9:46 am

An important aspect that is left out is that male space is somewhat easier to find when budgets aren’t constrained. Look for instance at homes large enough to have a “library” and you find a dark room, usually of dark woods and leathers, perfect for a man. Eliminate a TV, and you are unlikely to have much, if any, intrusion from the rest of the family, as the woman of the household is less likely to seek out a dimly lit space for her reading. second, you’ve left out one of the largest contributors of male space in the world – golf! While women also play golf, on any given day at the week, at a private club you’ll find men and men only before a certain hour on the golf course. or, you’ll find at any point in time on any course, a group that is solely men, and the nearest woman is at least 150 yards away.
I would be interested to see if my hypothesis here is correct, in that wealthier men are more likely to have more of their own space.

Also, that list on wikipedia is terrible. it admits that many of the clubs listed now accept women, and leaves out many notable clubs that are in fact men only. one such club is Burning Tree outside of D.C. Many notable men, and only men, have been members.

25 STL Mom January 11, 2010 at 10:25 am

My personal experience of space in the home is almost the opposite of this post. Last year, I complained that my husband had his own room, the kids had their own rooms, and I was the only person who had to share with everyone else (the family room is not MY room). We cleaned out a basement storage room, and now I am happy to have my own space. Our spaces aren’t the same. He has a light-filled office with antique desks and fancy ergonomic chairs, and I have a basement room furnished with hand-me-downs. On the other hand, I’m the one with the clutter and he’s the neat one, so it’s good that my room is hidden away.
But is ours the only house where the husband has a home office and the wife uses her laptop at the kitchen table? I doubt it. I bet lots of men use their “man space” to play computer games, not work on their cars. They still need their “man space”, but it will look a little different.

26 Frank Gilroy January 11, 2010 at 10:52 am

Excellent article. I am a big proponent of “real” barber shops. Not everyone knows what a real barber shop is. When you do find one in your area, you’ll know it. Hold on to it and be sure to get to know the barber, how likely it is he’s mentoring a replacement etc. I’m lucky to have found a real barber shop in my area with a barber that is only about 10-15 years older than me. I’m set with my “man space” for awhile.

27 Trish Lewis January 11, 2010 at 10:55 am

I had to laugh because halfway through I was thinking, man this sounds like Wolf’s A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN and then you referred to that. Great essay, Brett. I couldn’t agree more.

28 Mike Lewis January 11, 2010 at 11:22 am

Overall, women now dominate culture. Everything has been feminized. From the church to the home to the workplace. It is hard to find any space for men. I don’t have a space. In fact, it leads to part of my depression…not being able to be out with the guys in our own place.

29 Maxwell Pinto January 11, 2010 at 11:23 am

Excellent article…here are my views:

Men and women should operate as a team, both within a corporate environment and outside one with synergy in mind. Members of either gender should not feel threatened by the presence or performance of the opposite sex. What we need is a positive approach to life and business in an attempt to increase personal, corporate, national, and international welfare, instead of engaging in a power struggle which is gender-oriented.

The social, cultural, and political attitudes of modern society have enabled women to seize some power from men, despite being treated unfairly by unethical leaders, who continue to reinforce the “glass ceiling.” Women understand that fruitful conversations promote sound business relationships and teamwork, thus contributing to an improvement in the bottom line.

Women are usually well organized: they manage a dual career, as homemakers and professional employees. Women often regard their fellow employees as family and take time to ascertain their personal needs. Hence, they can sometimes be taken undue advantage of. Competition is strange to most women because they were groomed for caring, rather than winning!

Fay Weldon, a writer, stated, “Worry less about what other people think of you, and more about what you think about them.” A former mayor of Ottawa once said, “Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought of as half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult!”

When women start to follow in the footsteps of many men, by being intoxicated by power, they lose their identity and bearings. Women should focus on a diplomatic approach and learn how to exude self-confidence while maintaining self-respect and deal with the competition without being intimidated or taken undue advantage of.

Women who achieve powerful positions in the corporate world may be subjected to personal and professional attacks because of their gender. Independent women are strong, fearless, and in control of their homes, families, emotions, and their working environment. They tackle problems with a heads-on approach, being steadfast in their pursuit of success and happiness.

I have a policy of distributing free abridged versions of my books on leadership, ethics, teamwork, motivation, women, bullying and sexual harassment, trade unions, etc., to anyone who sends a request to

Maxwell Pinto, Business Author

30 fred January 11, 2010 at 11:46 am

Have to agree with Steve, this article is a step backward.

31 G. Alphonse Menard January 11, 2010 at 12:11 pm

There’s been quite a few posts about why porn is degrading to women and why real men don’t need porn. Also, this post was pretty clear that women should have their own lives and their own space, and it’s good that we’ve moved beyond men suppressing women. This post simply laments the fact that a lot of men don’t have space or time to themselves, which is important in any relationship. If I was with my girlfriend 24/7, I’d go crazy, and so would she. It’s better if I take some time every now and again to hang out with the guys. A few good ways to do this are attending Knights of Columbus meetings, going to a smokeshop, and grilling up steaks at a friend’s apartment with no girls around. It’s refreshing to get away once in a while, and I’m sure most girls think the same way.

32 Saeed Halim January 11, 2010 at 12:13 pm

This is the greatest website online LOL

im sending this to my mom so she can understand my dads space a little bit better

33 CoffeeZombie January 11, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Sadly, as long as women are in the corporate world, public-sphere man-only places will continue to be “desegregated.” Why? Because when men gather, business often happens, and career-oriented women expect to be a part of that (and, really, how can we claim to be giving women an equal place in business if we’re shutting them out of any part of the business world?).

34 Natasha January 11, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Fascinating read, Brett! I’ve long attributed issues like this to the age-old “battle of the sexes”, but now I see a lot of this is due to economical factors. Thanks again for another great article. I might not be a man myself, but I find this website very entertaining and enlightening. If only I could get the boyfriend to read it!

35 Brucifer January 11, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I DETEST the term “man cave.” It was probably coined by a woman, in any case. It smacks of men having to beat a defeated retreat from female social hegemony. “Man cave” conjures up images of Neanderthalish and juvenile behavior therein. Most women I’ve heard use the term, use it in the same patronizing and condescending manner in which they call their husbands by the diminutive term “hubby.” (those same women would, of course, rail against being referred to by the diminutive “the little woman.”) “Man Cave” also insidiously allows the female to lay righteous claim to all the rest of the abode. Don’t be so proud of your “man cave,” gentlemen. It merely means you’ve been put on the Reservation where you won’t cause trouble.

36 Jack January 11, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Mike Lewis wrote ¨Overall, women now dominate culture. Everything has been feminized. From the church to the home to the workplace.¨

Very true. One Labor Day in my men´s group at church. I honored men – any weather, any time I see with eyes men – maybe one woman – maintaining my city´s infrastructure – rail, road, electric, water, and more. But based on the reaction, a person would have thought that I committed a crime to honor a man. Chill Americans.

37 Brett McKay January 11, 2010 at 1:00 pm


Can you explain why this post is a step backwards?

38 Bobby January 11, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Anyone who takes this as an offensive slam against feminist rights is an oversensitive radical, reaching at straws to be in a conflict where one doesn’t need to exist. At no point did this article imply that we should revert our social state so that women are repressed and stripped of their rights.

Any man or woman with some degree of zest for life will want some space to call their own. I’m personally itching to remedy this situation. This article helped understand this need in a more broad context.

I’m a 25 year old man who works from home doing web development, as well as having a project studio to record music in free time. While there are no gender-related issues in how the space is divided, it’s more an issue that apartment life with roommates also takes away much, if any, personal space. If you need space to create, the way a separate garage / shed / studio would allow, apartment life makes it difficult for a man to thrive, creatively. Basically when living in a shared apartment, your bedroom (assuming it’s a situation where each roommate has their own separate bedroom, vs college dorms where multiple people share one room) is your only dedicated space. I live in a mid-sized city, so a bedroom here is roughly an 8 x 10 foot situation. It’s fine as a bedroom, but really, how much can you do when this is your only safe haven?

The trouble, however, is for anyone in a similar situation, the only real answer is renting a larger space and not sharing it. The world is becoming a very crowded place, with the luxury extra space coming at a premium. For anyone able to get more space, I imagine it would be a sanity saver.

39 JR Cooper January 11, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I agree that men and women should have their separate spaces. My view aligns with commenter Marc above. If you are fortunate enough to afford a larger home, you will most likely have your own space. For the rest who have more meager dwellings, every inch of living space must be shared. My girlfriend and I have a small home. We discuss and decide on the decor together (sometimes too much). Even with her profession as a kitchen designer, she would run every detail by me (with an annoying response “You’re the kitchen designer, it’s your kitchen.”). My viewpoint is that today, it is the man and woman who are purchasing the house, not just the man. A “mancave” in my situation would be selfish. Luckily I have several bachelor friends to visit.

40 CoffeeZombie January 11, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Brucifer: That’s not been my experience with my wife. When we bought our house, I claimed the basement as my man-cave. My wife said, “Fine, that’s a place you can be messy and loud and whatever and it won’t bother me. BUT, the rest of the house belongs to *both* of us, not just me!” And so it does; I get to have more input than I really care to have in what happens in the rest of the house. Of course, most of what my wife wants to do with the rest of the house is appealing to me, too, so I guess in that sense we just fit together. :-)

At the same time, I think you’re mostly just reiterating the point of the article: that the “man’s space” has shrunk these days to the point where we’re lucky if we can sequester a whole room to ourselves.

41 Travis January 11, 2010 at 1:18 pm
42 Lesley January 11, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Interesting article, well written!
I think it’s important for both men and women to have their own “alone” time, or time only with same-sex friends. Women stereotypically spend this time shopping and getting manicures and men spend it grilling and drinking beer. Although, I’m not so sure either gender having their own physical space is moving in a forward direction.

Since hunter-gatherers women have led domestic life, and men hunted and protected the home and family because biologically this is what we are inclined to do.
Times change and so have our traditional gender roles, and this is a good thing in my opinion, but putting the emphasis on segregating a home so men can be “be men” doesn’t make much sense to me. I think there should be more emphasis on equality in terms of what men and women are naturally inclined toward, and I believe men have fewer outlets for this these days.
Absolutely men should be able to be themselves, especially in their own homes, but both men and women have to compensate to some degree when a “home” is established. Spending time with other men doing manly things should fill this quota in the same way it is expected to for women. Asking for a male-only, or female-only ( for that matter) space in a home might be moving in a backward direction.

43 Ken Parker January 11, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Thank you for another great article, however I do have to agree with Brucifer and his feeling about the term “man cave”. I was thinking many of those same things as I read the article and especially as I read some of the comments.

Graham Hutson wrote: “As for the male space in the home, there’s always a shed. Every man needs a shed…”

So now are we to be exiled from the house altogether and completely “been put on the Reservation where you won’t cause trouble”, and we just retreat and let the patronizing continue to grow. And some seem to be happy to be patronized: “My wife said, “Fine, that’s a place you can be messy and loud and whatever and it won’t bother me (CoffeeZombie post 40). Or the statement: “and she said that she was very _mindful_ of including her husband in her decorating and _making him feel welcomed in his own home_.” (Sarah Joy Albrecht post 7), Wow it must be a sign of ‘mutual respect” that she kept in mind to let him feel welcome in his own home. I mean who wouldn’t feel welcome because “She made sure there was space for his Popular Science by putting a nice basket next to an armchair – just for him.”

STL Mom, I have to agree with you on the fact that “lots of men use their “man space” to play computer games, not work on their cars”, many of my married friends use the space for computer games, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, their wives have their spaces for their hobbies also.

Maxwell Pinto your next book should be titled “In praise of the working woman.”

Again Brett, I found this to be a great article with some really insightful information, I look forward to many more.

Thanks again for a great site.

44 Chris R. January 11, 2010 at 3:42 pm

@Chris #23: That’s such a poor attitude, perhaps contributor to the high rates.

I found this article amusing especially since Me and my Wife recently bought our first home. We had a small one car garage at our previous apartment and moved up to a two car garage. I wouldn’t say we fought over the use of the garage, we both knew I wanted to work on my trucks there, but to the extent of which was what we argued over. I always told her: “I don’t care what you do with the rest of the house, but the garage is mine.”

The garage is not a storage shed, it’s a workshop. the garage is a place to do the dirty work. I live in suburbia, and the garage is the only place I can really work on things, and when it came time to strip the cabinet doors down I sure am glad it stayed that way. Now I just need to run that 220 Line for the welder and radial arm saw…

Perhaps if more families read the article on de-cluttering your life you could have a garage that is a workspace that could be used to build, rather than buy, the things they need in the home.

45 miss Morgan January 11, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I’m sorry, but this is embarrassing. Men who feel that they are losing space in their homes should stop whining about it, man up and change it. Women don’t “own” the private or public sphere. Sadly, this article seems only to reflect archaic gender stereotypes rather than perhaps suggest ways for men to take control of their space.

46 Shannon January 11, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I find many of the generalizations in this article to be borderline insulting. Women didn’t band together as a group to campaign against open garage doors. I can’t think of a single real woman I know who has decorated with florals and doilies. In my house, the “heart” of the home is the entertainment center, where my man spends hours blissed out on cable TV and video games. His baseball bobble heads co-exist with the books on my shelves, and he picked out the bland beige furniture.

On a less personal note, there have been several attempts at developing a men-only gym franchise: Cuts For Men, Blitz for Men, Nitro Fitness for Men. Cuts was developed by the same company that started Curves, and guess what? There wasn’t a market to support it. My guess is that, like my boyfriend as his friends, many straight men are too paranoid about being mistaken for homosexuals to frequent male-only establishments. If you think there are no places for men to hang out ad bond in public, try visiting a Hooters.

I normally think this website is a great idea, but this article needed more research and less bitterness.

47 Rob Drimmie January 11, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Every now and then I am ashamed to subscribe to this feed. Today is one of those days.

It’s not that the gist of the article is wrong or bad, but it’s framed in such whiny “them wimmens took all our stuff!” dressing that I’d be embarrassed if someone saw it over my shoulder. If you lack the place to properly express your manliness, or engage in your manly problems that is your own damn fault.

48 CoffeeZombie January 11, 2010 at 4:50 pm

@Ken Parker You’re totally taking what I said out of context. The point I was making was that *I* chose to have a man-cave, but my *wife’s* ideal is that we *both* share the house. She doesn’t want me relegated to the “man-cave”, and when I choose to do something like sit in the living room listening to classical music and enjoying a gin & tonic, she tries to not bother me.

49 Keith January 11, 2010 at 5:18 pm

I have to say my basement is the only place in this damn house I want to occupy. It’s my business office, library, weight gym and workshop. There is a little brick patio out the back door I built myself. There’s an old TV salvaged from a client. The space is unfinished, cluttered, dusty. I’ve heard it said that making a man sleep on the couch is not punishment because it’s like camping. The basement is my space where I can camp and they can have the rest of the house I was extorted into buying. Sometimes my son comes down to work out with me. I look at the turn of the century (19/20th) mansions like the Biltmore and Hyde Park and colonial houses around here like Mount Vernon and Monticello. Men and women often had separate bedrooms as well as living spaces. Togetherness ain’t always all it’s cracked up to be and has contributed to cultural castration.

50 Philip Brewer January 11, 2010 at 6:02 pm

I’m not sure this is the same point that Steve is making in #3 or the opposite point, but the Victorian-era room was enabled not just by manliness but also by generations of landed wealth.

The suburban-era room may be limited by social moves to exclude manly activities from the household sphere, but it is definitely limited by the fact that suburban families can’t afford Roosevelt-scale mansions. If they’d had another 12 rooms it might have been a lot easier for the man to keep a study, library, or den devoted to manly pursuits.

51 Brett McKay January 11, 2010 at 6:07 pm

If you see whininess in this article, than you are simply projecting your own feelings into it. There is no blaming of women going on-this is simply a report of what happened and is entirely researched based. Don’t shoot the messenger, these are just the historical facts. I’m sorry if those facts make you uncomfortable. Perhaps if you pointed out specifically where I blamed women we could have a conversation, instead of just speaking in vague generalizations.

Most of what is detailed here had nothing to do with women actively trying to eliminate male space-the decline of barbershops, the decline in popularity of boxing, the baby boom, the rise of the suburbs, the Industrial Revolution-these were just cultural movements that changed male space.

Women were behind things like anti-discrimination law suits, but on the whole the loss of male space happened for a variety of reasons, most of which cannot be chalked up to some kind of plan by women to take away male space. So again, if you’re reading it that way, you’re simply reading it wrong.

52 Brett McKay January 11, 2010 at 6:11 pm


While it’s true that having “gendered” rooms was limited to the middle and upper classes during the Victorian period, it wasn’t the case that all these homes were Roosevelt mansion-esque in size and wealth. Victorian houses were divided into much smaller rooms-today’s suburban houses could have more rooms, but people today tend to prefer less walls and more open space.

53 Dr. Rod Berger January 11, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Very informative post with lots of research time put in…thank you for that. I would have to say that you are correct that the male space has eroded to a great degree which has had a two-fold effect:
1. It reduces the space that men have for themselves and their sons and;
2. It limits the space within which a man can share male bonding time with friends outside of bars etc. to more openly communicate.
I will leave with this thought…Not only has our gender lost “space”, but we have lost our place in the American family. Maybe the lack of fathers in the family has, in great part, reduced our need to have male space within the home…too many men are absent fathers.
A sad state of affairs that will have to remain for awhile as the rest of the world figures out what to do with the Normal Males out there.
Dr. Rod

54 Dennard January 11, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Nice article, Brett. My dad has always had a workshop to put his extensive tool collection and to tinker with whatever he wants. And he and I have only ever gone to barbershops to get haircuts. I’m glad for him, and for me, that he has modeled these manly behaviors for me. But, anyway, two thumbs up from me for this article.

55 Jeanne January 11, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Ok – where to start! Frankly I think we should drop the televised presidential debates and get this subject up in front of the camera, good grief – who knew!! I bet we’d blow the the ratings out of the water OR come to think of it, the men could fish in the water, that’s manly isn’t it? OK…ok, I’m just kidding!! JUST KIDDING!!! Really, an interesting piece to say the least. I must say that I agree with Sara Joy – that everyone needs a place of their very own, everyone needs privacy. Mark – WOW! Nicely said. And to Brucifier – I hate to tell ya this, but, I have heard the words “man-cave” more from men than from women! Sorry guy. For sure, a home filled with frills, lace and flowers would drive me insane – get the straight jacket, seriously! I see your point Brett. But as Michael said, I too didn’t know if you were joking or serious. The thing is (also as Michael said) we are higher functioning civilization now than we were 50 or a 100 years ago – and thank God for that! In life there are gains, there are always losses, always – things change. Maybe everyone’s space has been encroached upon. Homes used to be larger and yards used to be bigger, perhaps there was just more room for each his own space or room – we live in a small 2 bedroom, logistically we simply don’t have the room for each his/her own room conveniently equipped with uninterrupted space/time. Logistically we live in smaller spaces now. But also times have changed and we have moved forward in many ways as a whole. Let’s not get stuck on what’s been lost or what doesn’t work – how about we find a solution. If you need your own space and/or uninterupted times, let those you love know. Maybe if not an entire room, part of one or maybe you go bowling with the guys – whatever you want! My point is pretty much anything can be worked out – even with us ” women-folk”!!! (Again – JUST KIDDING!).

56 Nataraj Hauser January 11, 2010 at 6:58 pm

I found the article interesting, and the comments at least as much so. Men HAVE had everything for most of recorded history, and the unfolding of that privilege is well set out in this article. In some households, yes, the pendulum has indeed swung too far and the chintz-covered, knick-knack clutter is appalling. However, men could grow a set and choose a partner who will be his partner. In my house, we have much fine art on the walls, quite a bit of which was chosen by my wife who manages a fine art gallery. My opinion counts most of the time. Additionally, I have a wall of ‘sharp, pointy things’ ~ swords and fighting knives that I have either trained with or merely admire ~ nicely displayed. Art, if you will. We have naked-women photographs hanging as I am a photographer by trade and we are naturists by inclination. We have motorcycles, his and hers, and the “manly” gear appropriate to them as well as a garage suitable for working on them (she does her own routine maintenance on her bikes…yes plural). And…my wife has candles, lots of candles. But at my request they are not perfumed candles! There is music I play, loudly, only when she is not home. This is all a long way of saying we cooperate, indulging each other and allowing quirks and desires. No sane decorator would approve of our décor, but that’s sort of the point here, right? It is ours, created in balance and partnership. I should add that I’m a dancer and a black belt, I cook well, sew my own buttons back on, write HTML, read voraciously, and enjoy long walks on moonlit beaches. I got’cher art of manliness right here! Contrast that with a much more typical male who watches sports on TV as a primary activity, dresses atrociously regardless of circumstance, and shirks housework despite having a wife who also works outside the home. That is a child, not a man.

57 Ann January 11, 2010 at 7:02 pm

I have to say that I find it frustrating that while this site seems to have a good number of female fans, whenever an article even remotely suggests that we may have messed up along the way, then they get insulted. For some reason they seem to think that a men’s website, should pander to them all the time.

It’s also frustrating when I see comments like Shannon’s that simply play into the stereotype of women being unable to make a good argument. Shannon, the article says that homeowner associations, which I believe have historically been co-ed, were the ones that made the closed garage door policy not women, and doilies, as the article says, were used in Victorian times, which would pretty well explain why you don’t know women who use them!

I wish other women could admit they we may have made some missteps too. I don’t see this article as blaming women at all. It just makes both men and women aware of how we have arrived at how things are.

58 Carlos Infante January 11, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Great post and it’s been something I’ve been thinking about for sometime now. It is important for any individual, be it male or female, to have a space for him or herself, luckily for me I found my room, which I share with one of my brothers, as my personal space, since the rest of the house feels a little too crowded. I’ve also considered starting my own club/ fraternity, getting members isn’t a problem, but I’m still working out the details so I can actually start it and not just leave it up in the air, like many ideas I’ve had over the years.

59 Jack B. January 11, 2010 at 9:23 pm

“Male dominance” is very much overstated in this article.

60 Brew January 11, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Hell. Yes. You couldn’t have nailed it better, Bret. And here’s some inspiration for your man-cave development:

61 Jen January 11, 2010 at 11:32 pm

It seems to me that personal space in the home is important to everyone. This should be a factor when selecting a living space that is considered – is there a place for each person in the family to go to have alone time? I don’t consider all the open places in my home to be ‘mine’, they are ours. My husband and I each have our own rooms to be private in, which are actually rarely used, but then we like spending time together. We each encourage the other to have time alone with friends… it seems to me that anyone who is having a problem with personal space at home really needs to have a discussion with their partner.

The comments above about men’s clubs hit the nail on the head – excluding women from an arena where business deals are made excludes them from ever being able to be equal in the workplace. That said, I am not sure why any group would care whether there are men or women involved – if you share interests, then who cares about gender? I go to a Krav Maga studio which has both men and women, and I doubt anyone has a problem with that. I will also state though that we periodically hold seminars at this place for women’s self defense. Men are not allowed to participate except as ‘attackers’, and I have lobbied to also hold a men’s self defense seminar so that men can also have the experience of defending against an attacker full on. If you are worried about what women think of you at the gym, I’m not sure what to tell you. Why would you care? Personally I am not against gender exclusive groups per se. These are just musings…

62 Captain G January 12, 2010 at 12:55 am

That’s awesome. As those guys might say, good on ya mate.

63 Chris M January 12, 2010 at 2:23 am

I’m 20 and just last week I visited a barber shop for the first time. Needless to say I’m done with salons.

64 Sergant January 12, 2010 at 8:22 am

For me early mornings at a comfortable table doing my studies before anyone in my family is up yet is the best manly space-time in the world. You should try it and you will fill that you own the world.

65 Sarah Joy Albrecht January 12, 2010 at 8:29 am

(43 Ken Parker) You laugh! C’mon, the Pop Sci was an example of making him feel welcomed. Not all wives are so kind…. and then they wonder why their husband goes straight to the bar after work until the wee hours every night.

66 cgirl January 12, 2010 at 9:51 am

I guess I need some advice. I admit, I have made most of the decorating decisions in our house, because when I asked my husband what he wanted he said “I don’t care” So I chose to decorate the house as I saw fit, rather than be a nag. But I feel that it doesn’t reflect him very much, and I don’t really want to marginalize him. Any one have any ideas for how to coax him to express himself more?

As far as guys not having a place to go themselves, I agree this is true. But my problem is that I CAN’T get my husband to get out of the house. I don’t know what I can do to encourage him to go out with friends more (I’d love to have the house to myself for a couple of nights a week) but short of saying “I need time to myself, would you please go away for a few hours” I can’t seem to figure out how to non-combatively ask for this.

So we’ve ended up switching roles. I now am taking classes and go hang out with the gals, just so I can get away from him. I love my husband, but he can be very needy and I need time to recharge.

67 Leo hesser January 12, 2010 at 10:41 am

I long ago built my man cave in the basement, no-one goes down there but me. I have all of my tools and a workbench, my free weights, heavy bag and a stereo. Everything I could want.

68 Brew January 12, 2010 at 10:42 am

cgirl: Many activities can involve groups as easily as soloists. Does your husband like to play cards, videogame, watch sports, read books? Does he prefer physical or mental activity? What do you see him get excited about? Some guys are just homebodies or reserved enough that you must pull their opinions out of them.

69 Shannon January 12, 2010 at 1:41 pm

@ Ann: I will acknowledge that my comment about the garage doors was misguided, and I should have referred back to the article for accuracy. The part that actually bothered me was in the next paragraph: “But women felt this amateur, rustic solution was still too cluttered.” I object to the idea of an entire gender taking the blame. There are obviously many exceptions to every generalization, as shown in the variety of comments above. And I was using the example of doilies symbolically to point out at the modern women I know don’t, in reality, choose traditional feminine trappings such as ruffles and lace and chintz. Again, there are probably exceptions.

As I said, I think this the site is a great idea, and more often than not encourages men to be better men. I haven’t seen an equivalent for women, but if there is one, I would love the link. I think it’s important for both men and women to explore their identities and their context within society, and it would be great if we could have respectful conversations about it, rather than knee-jerk defensiveness.

I’m not trying to make an argument or say that women are flawless. I’m stating my opinion on this particular article. I look around and see sports bars, strip clubs, pubs, tobacco shops, billiards rooms, garages and workshops aplenty. My town even has barber shops. There are also men’s groups and men’s retreats. If a man is looking for man space, he can find it. And it is an actual FACT that there have been several attempts to establish chains of men-only gyms. You can look it up.

70 Kenton January 12, 2010 at 2:04 pm

I would also have to add for male space in public places is the shopping mall. How many clothing shops are devoted only to women, I’d say quite a few. And the male only clothing stores seem to be way out of my price range. One thousand dollar suits and one hundred dollar shirts for an example. And like most stores with male and female clothing, female’s clothing takes over about eight tenths of the store. And guys are left with a little spot in the corner. I just wish there was a place (for males only) were young guys could get clothing that would not cost an arm and a leg. If anyone knows of a place like I’m discribing, I’d love to find out where it is.

71 Living with Balls January 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I couldn’t agree more. Even the bathroom, once a sanctuary for men, has been taken over by women. Bathrooms are being overrun with scented candels and pink bath towels.

72 JB January 12, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Male centric gyms ARE lacking these days. A place like the Blitz is simply Curves for men. Today men who lift weights aggressively are ostracized if they grunt too loudly or drop a heavy deadlift. I’m certain women would be called out as well, but “most” women do not work out the same way as men. One corporate gym (Golds?) even has an alarm that sounds when someone grunts too loudly.

CrossFit gyms are notable exceptions.

Anecdote. The old YMCA I used to work out at had a weight room that was not male only, but usually only men used it. It was in the basement of the Y, was dark, dank, and had a radio that you needed a pair of pliers to use. There were DB’s up to 120 lbs, old York Bars, two power racks, a few pullup bars, a few benches, a glute-ham, and space for deads or cleans. I saw the men down there 3 or 4 nights a week and we knew each other well. We loved working out down there. We loved it when young guys would come down to work out, and then return to become one of the guys. It was as if we were adding to our tribe. And, there were a few ladies who were regulars too. We welcomed everyone, but, it was a decidedly male space.

Would we have liked an updated space with new bars & weights, sufficient lighting, and a new stereo? Hell yes. Did we need it? No.

What the guys and few gals who worked out down there liked was the unwritten rules: first come first serve for the radio; lift heavy if you want; grunt if you want, but only if it’s warranted; shooting the shit is OK so long as you are not interfering with someone’s workout; if a lady does come down to lift, be respectful, no off color jokes, and no swearing; no jokes or snickering about any workout that anyone is doing, or any amount of weight anyone is using; show respect to get respect.

That Y was demolished and a new Y was built in its place. The “free weight area” is now in a huge open room next to the “machines” and hamster balls, erghh, “cardio equipment.” It is a really nice gym. There are beautiful studios where “classes” are held and kids go to Karate classes. Do men still use the free weight area? Of course. Do some men take advantage of the classes? Certainly. But, there is no noise, no laughter, no outward striving. The rules are laser etched on placards and command: “No ‘power cleans’, dropping of weights, or other ‘Olympic type lifts’ permitted”, or “Respect others by being quiet during your workout.” There is only solitude and the din of machines.

I still run into some of my lifting buddies from that old Y. Often, we look at each other knowingly. And, there is a quiet understanding that the images on the row of mirrors in front of us, reflecting the local news from the row of TV’s leading the platoon of iPod clad treadmill soldiers, are reverberations of a space that is decidedly antithetical to the manly ideal.

73 The Other Steve January 12, 2010 at 4:10 pm

A male dominated hobby can help create male space. An old standby used to be football games. The guys would get together to watch a football game, drink beer, eat junk food, and yell at the television or each other. The ladies would generally get out of the house for a few hours.

Lately there are about as many female football fans as male, but that doesn’t mean the guys can’t have a weekly guy-event and not invite the girls. In fact, I expect a lot of the wives and girlfriends would understand this need better than the guys do themselves.

I’ve never been much of a football fan, but a bunch of guys and I get together to play games on Tuesday nights. (RPGs) My girlfriend has a group over every Thursday night to work on art projects.

Neither event was specifically conceived of as a single-gender affair, that’s just how they turned out. I’ve been invited to Art Night, and attended once or twice for a special event like pumpkin carving at Halloween, but generally I just find something else to do on Thursdays.

74 John January 12, 2010 at 4:26 pm

In our family, the situation is not as you describe. I’m the one with the ‘home office,’ which is really just a room for myself where I both work and relax, while my wife is the one who wants her own room, but so far has never had one. Our family areas are largely gender-neutral.

And I prefer public places with both men and women over places where only men meet.

75 Ed Stephens,MD January 12, 2010 at 4:27 pm

The Educational Space
Male Studies: A New Academic Discipline

76 Mr Miyagi January 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm

The decline is so very true. I predict that in 10-12 years even our military will start to see a decline in male space as women fill up the ranks and we do away with the “don’t ask don’t tell policy.” Seeing all of this even happen in my own corporate workplace makes me wish I worked at a Beer brewing plant.

77 Jonathan January 12, 2010 at 6:32 pm

I really enjoyed reading this brett, fine job sir! Me and some friends will be converting my basement to a man cave soon. My wife and i have compromised on the house…She gets to decorate the main living areas as she sees fit, and i get the basement to do whatever i want. Demo has already started in the basement, maybe i will post pictures as it progresses. The main thing is, that with a little bit of compromise, both men and women can learn to live happily together.

78 Jonathan January 12, 2010 at 6:37 pm

the ultimate guy space!

79 Steve Puma January 12, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Interestingly enough, there has been a huge resurgence of barbershops in Northern California, especially Walnut Creek, where I currently live.

Having grown up in New Jersey suburbs, I saw the barbershop go the way of the dodo. You could only find them in more urban areas.

When I moved to NorCal, I noticed that there were babershops everywhere, and I’m not really sure why that is. The ones that existed about six years ago, when I first got here, were primarily owned by barbers over 50. As a matter of fact, until 2 years ago, I never had my hair cut by a man who was under 40!

However, across from my favorite cigar shop, a barber shop opened, and the three barbers where all in their early 20′s! They are the tatooed, blue-collar types that have been glorified by shows like Monster Garage, American Chopper, and a million others.

Not only do these guys love their jobs, but they are really good at it! They even do killer straight-razor shaves for $20-$25! The shop itself has a 42-inch flat-screen, Playstation, and vintage race car posters.

They became so popular, that two more similarly-themed shops opened in the area, and one is so busy he only take appointments. This brings the number of male-dominated barber shops within a 4-block radius to five!

I don’t believe that these things are totally dead, they are simply waiting for a new generation to define them, and I believe that this generation is trying to reclaim some of its male- and working-class- heritage in it’s own way.

Some days, when I really need a lift, I do my own “man spa day”, which includes a haircut, straight razor shave, and several hours of cigars, liquor and good conversation in the cigar lounge….litterally 10 steps away! Everything a body needs!


80 Joseph M January 12, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I agree that men need “male space” but I think this can be found in the people you associate with… not so much where you do it. Bricks and mortar are not the foundation of brotherhood… it’s the bond of friendship you share with your male friends.

At private clubs they still have men and women’s space… it’s called the “locker rooms.” Today’s locker rooms have tables, leather chairs, and various amenities. Then.. there is common space that both genders can use. So you see, you can have your cake and eat it too.

81 Julian January 12, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Church is another public place that was traditionally an important place of rest and rejuvenation for man, that has been sidelined by modern western cultures. So, due to the misbalanced ratio, feminine trends take place which lead to a vicious cycle.
Man needs to reclaim his natural inborn desire for his spiritual life, and not neglect it, for the good of himself and society.

82 Rick Juliusson January 13, 2010 at 2:20 am

Even as a stay-at-home dad, she’s still the King of the house. So it is apparently gender, not household responsibility or time in the house. You just inspired me to write a ranting/reflective blog entry ( on why there is not one thing of mine on the walls, but 9 of hers.

83 rudy January 13, 2010 at 11:23 am

I often see “man rooms” that just look like bars with stripper poles, a bar, and a big screen TV – I look at these as dissipative, self-indulgent consumptive spaces that don’t enhance manliness – they denigrate it. Man rooms are a space where you can go and fulfill your essential manly functions – self-exploration, self-improvement, tinkering, and production. I look at “man rooms” with nary a hammer, lathe, book, punching bag, or weight set with derision.

84 Tiffany January 13, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Enjoyed the article. I’m more or less a natural-born tomboy, and there’s not much I like less than floral patterns, laces, useless knick-knacks and the color pink. I love old hardwood floors, etc.; functional classy masculine stuff. I’d love to see more of it. I think that I would be very sad indeed to be barred from these types of places all the time, however.

85 Kelsey January 13, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I definitely agree with this. I’m a woman (though not a very feminine one), but it drives me up the wall when I see wives relegating their husband’s belongings to the garage, attic, basement, or a closet. A blogger I sometimes read recently wrote about how she was trying to find a way to get her husband to give over his bedroom closet so she could have more room for shoes! If I were that husband, I’d be pissed!

I really dislike how our society has really swung too far in one direction. Men are now seen as idiotic, unclean brutes who don’t know how to take care of themselves. In my experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

86 Steve Puma January 13, 2010 at 5:33 pm

I have to agree with the poster that, if men and women have the same interests, then there is no reason to exclude either one. For example, my favorite cigar lounge in Walnut Creek has a distinctly manly décor and vibe: leather chairs, dark wood, etc., but women are always welcome. The thing is, the vast majority of those who hang out at the lounge just happen to be men, which likely mimics the higher interest in cigars and pipes by men in our society.

The real problem lies in the fact that so many people want to ban pursuits like smoking even when the only people involved are willing participants, i.e. owner-operated + customers, who are enjoying a legal product. There is a minority of the population that is dead-set on forcing their own ideas of what people can and cannot do onto others, and until people stand up for their rights, it will continue to get worse.

I only hope that the few places left where you still can enjoy a cigar, etc., are not regulated out of existence.

87 Sir Lancelot January 14, 2010 at 4:18 am

I find the idea of a “man cave” extremely patronizing. First the very name seems to imply that men are some sort of unevolved beasts, and, secondly, it’s reminiscent of kids’ rooms, some sort of ghetto when they can play so they don’t bother the grown-ups.

88 Richard Watson January 15, 2010 at 10:43 am

Very good, slightly similar to Michael Mcyintrye’s comedy dvd “live and Laughing”. He does a Hilarious piece of the “Man Drawer” definitely worth a watch.

89 Robert Black January 16, 2010 at 1:46 am


You are onto something sir. I am 23 years old and 6 months married. My wife and I have a wonderful relationship. She is organized and runs the household well. We are traditional in our roles as husband and wife and she defers to me on the larger matters such as furniture, paint schemes, or remodeling and we have together created an male/female eclectically decorated household where we have both had all girls and all boys nights respectively. We have essentially created a “home cave.”

Just this evening we were packing up loads of unneeded items for a saturday morning yardsale and my criteria for what was kept or sold was “functionality” or “sentiment” or for a few items both. Here I would like to include the quote that was used in the article on this site called i believe “Back to the Basics” or something along that line.

Simplicity! Simplicity! Simplicity! Let your things be as one, two, and three, not
not a hundred or a thousand. Your happiness is in proportion to the things you can
do without. -Henry David Thoreau

(thanks brett)

To conclude and coagulate this posting I begin to close with: simplicity is manly.

And last but not in the least the short of it: As a man, being able to create an environment of cooperation as well as firm leadership is key in maintaining your sense of having “control of your surroundings.” Being a good and loving husband also a key factor in true manliness, for it will give you the reward of a submissive and respectful wife. Ultimately in a relationship of love and respect everyone is a winner and your resulting “home cave” will be an area of shared style and comfort to both you and your individual groups of friends.

90 Dave9 January 16, 2010 at 6:05 pm

“It has been said that a shed is to a man what a handbag is to a woman – both contain all the essentials for surviving in the modern world and in the same way that no decent man would ever consider looking in a woman’s handbag uninvited, so no reasonable woman would dream of setting foot in a man’s shed.” –from Men and Sheds

91 Ryan @ Planting Dollars January 19, 2010 at 2:54 am

I think man spaces are declining and the number of manly men are declining as well, like a species on the brink. Since moving to Hawaii two months ago I’ve yet to find a man’s man as a friend. Instead I’ve found a guy with a hair straightener, another who has a love affair with his iphone, and yet another that has an obsession with tight clothing.

I can also relate to the previous comments about the lack of manly workout facilities. In high school and college the gym were places that I’d lift with other guys and feel open to push myself to the max, this included yelling and yes, occasional a grunt or two. Now at 24 hour fitness I am surrounded by frosted tip fake dudes who wouldn’t even know how to power clean. There’s not even a squat rack!!! C’mon!

92 MovieGirl January 19, 2010 at 10:14 am

My, what an imagination you have! While I am entirely sympathetic to the perspective that feminism has severely damaged our culture and society, I wonder what research you did. If you read biographical accounts of American colonial or pioneer life, you’ll find that even men cared about hygiene. On farms especially, animal care required cleanliness and order.

93 T.B. January 25, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I’m tired of bending over backward. “Masculine” became a dirty word in my lifetime (I’m 49), because, you know, men are solely responsible for every lousy thing that’s happened in the world. Ergo, if men stop being “masculine,” life will be just great.

Doesn’t work that way, Gloria Steinem.

As I’m bald, the only “male space” available to me is the gym (with its ancient boxing room). New York cigar bars are too expensive, as are the regular bars. I don’t know where I’m going with this; guess I shouldn’t post with a fever.

94 Amanda Patchin January 25, 2010 at 3:38 pm

This is something I recognized fairly young. I’ve long loathed the kinds of houses that look like the woman, and the woman only, decorated them.

I was fortunate to marry a man whose taste almost exactly aligns with mine so decorating our home has been easy and agreeable. We have clean blend of contemporary, modernist, and traditional styles. My husband designs and builds all of our furniture too. Our house is very small so neither of us have exclusive space, but we converted the spare bedroom into a library and either of us are comfortable retreating there for solitude. I’m very happy to have that space where I can store my books and find quiet to read and write (our two small sons keep the house very noisy). My husband also has his shop where he, his dad, and his brother all run their own small businesses.

95 Finnian January 28, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Ah… a male space. (insert sigh here)

I used to have one. It was a tiny, one-car garage attached to our little ’50s bungalow. I built bookshelves in that garage and night stands, too. Shaker night stands out of cherry. I stained and varnished and installed a new front door, and built a doghouse for our new puppy. I put shelving in that garage to store tools and our camping stuff. I hung my mountain bike from the rafters. There was a bed for the dog and a cabinet for my fly fishing gear. It was a great little space, a place where I could go to design and dream and build things for my home and my family. It was where I could create something tangible and hold in my hands the product of my labors.

Alas… it is gone now.

We moved from that wonderful little bungalow to Los Angeles, where we cannot afford a house. At least, my wife and I cannot afford one in a neighborhood where we feel safe raising our sons. We live in a cool little apartment in a complex built in the ’40s. It has charm and style, and we are happy and productive. Really, I cannot complain.

But, God! I miss that little garage…

96 Andrew Raker February 1, 2010 at 6:49 am

“We are a generation of men, raised by women.”-Brad Pitt in the movie “Fight Club.” I love my girlfriend and all, but I need my time. If that means anything to anyone, please say so. I agree with this article 100%. I will stand by Brett by the way in all that he is saying. I read the article. And I must agree with Brett. A major problem these days is when men need space its almost impossible to go out and find a good place. Bars are way to expensive, and if you find an “all male bar” it is usually associated with something inappropriate, and looked down on. The Home Depot, and Lowes wont cut it either. Lets face it. There are not a lot of places anymore to go to for where men, for once, can be REAL men. Even the gym’s have allowed women to go and workout in them, but when a male decides he wants to do something (no matter how far-fetched it is) and can only be done in an all-women only gym, all hell breaks loose. Dont deny it. You see it everyday. Although when a gym decides to be just an “All male gym,” you have no idea what you have just done, and you just have asked for trouble. I thought about it, and if a male decided to do that, the Feminists would rally and say you have to allow women here, or we will slap a lawsuit on your ass. Why cant it be just the same if a man wants to go to a “Curves” gym? You say that to a woman there and then all of a sudden you just “Mentally abused her,” and now your in jail and feel like an asshole. Im just pointing things out from what I<<<<-(refering to myself and myself alone) has seen.

Look all Im saying is that men need their space just as much as women do, but in today's society, people are way too sensitive, and do not know how to face facts. Men need a place to go and to call their own, without the hypocracy and judgement of women. I respect women. I really do. But like from the quote from above, its true.

I am obviously a very outspoken person, and Im not afraid to speak my voice. I also represent my own views and opinions. No one has to agree with me, but I ask if you start a debate with me, then please be respectful about it and show maturity, because thats how I will treat you.

I DO NOT BLAME WOMEN. I am not a sexist, and as well I will add that I do not support the Feminists. Just like I do not fully support all Male-Dominated society. We just want our place. :)

97 NolanN February 2, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Check out this TED talk from Sam Martin on “Quirky Man Spaces” –

My “home office” is a tiny room with a 13 inch TV, a robust VHS collection, and a huge painting of Buffalo. It also doubles as a guest room, unfortunately, still its hard to imagine life without it.

98 Shannon February 4, 2010 at 1:41 am


Being a fellow Tulsan, what clubs or lodges would you suggest or do you belong to locally?


99 Justin Lawson February 13, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Great article, it’s amazing who weak men have gotten about demanding our own space to live and breathe without estrogen-filled banter invading our conversations. I love women like their is no tomorrow, but there has to be some kind of safe haven to run to, lol…. Thankfully the barbershops around me have stayed primarily a man’s domain, but I do see the unisex shops and parlors popping up slowly but surely. Men are not going to be allowed to pee standing up in another 15 years or so! LOL…..

100 Mike March 1, 2010 at 4:36 am

The decline in male space also correlates with a decline in male empowerment. I am 52 and my father did whatever he wanted without consideration of my mother. I get to do about half of what I want with my wife disallowing the other half. My sons will I am afraid get to do nothing they want, unless it includes and is approved by the wife. Even male space like the locker room is now encroached on by female reporters but surprise!!!double standard as we can’t go into theirs
As male only golf courses and YMCA’s get turned into family friendly, get ready for “adult male unfriendly”, i.e. no beer,locker room shrunk to nothing to make way for women’s and childrens, no swearing, no shirtless,no quiet, no fun.
guys should stick up for themselves as they would never be allowed to elbow their way into a women’s or children’s rec center but the converse could take over ours. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child but it takes a man to build a village. Speak up for yourselves young guys, or you will end up virtual slaves with your only pleasure pretending to actually like going to first birthday parties and baby showers at the converted Elk’s club-don’t forget the pampers!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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