In a recent interview, Witcher star and avid gamer Henry Cavill said that he doesn’t have a “man cave” for playing games, mainly because he doesn’t have the space for it in his house in London. But for men with families, there’s another reason beyond room capacity why the very notion of a man cave has no place in the modern home: they represent an outdated, pretty sexist view of what constitutes male and female responsibilities.
Case in point: this story in The Sun praises Ryan, a guy who ingeniously created a sanctuary for himself by turning the cupboard under the stairs in his house into a man cave, claiming he needed a place where he could “chill” and enjoy some much-needed “alone time.” What the article fails to mention is whether Sasha, his partner and mother of their 19-month-old child, was given a similar space where she could go for a reprieve from the responsibilities of parenthood. The entire story is framed around Ryan’s needs, and based on an assumption that women neither want nor need a break from caregiving.
In the past, the husband and father might have had a study to which he would retreat when he wanted some peace and quiet, because for the longest time, the division of labor in households skewed very much in the man’s favor. Nowadays, with many straight couples waiting longer to get married and start families, the lines between adolescence and adulthood have blurred — and that is no more evident than in the evolution of the stereotypical “male” space in the home. It is no coincidence that a lot of man cave interior design porn looks like something dreamed up by a teenage boy: a basement mix of arcade, movie theater and sports bar, where grown men with jobs and responsibilities can regress, comfortable in the knowledge that just upstairs, mom is taking care of everything.
The fact that in 2020 we’re still talking about guys needing a special room in their house, where they can close the door and avoid interacting with their wives and children, is bizarre. It perpetuates the old-fashioned cliché that the familial and domestic realm is an innately feminine and emasculating one. After all, the term “woman cave” doesn’t seem to exist. So where do women go when they need a break from doing the majority of unpaid labor in the home, including cooking, cleaning and childrearing? Is the kitchen to be their only domain? Aren’t they allowed hobbies too?
The very idea of a man cave doesn’t give modern men the credit they deserve, because it is based on a tired assumption that marriage and fatherhood are things that are thrust unwanted upon them, from which they must seek respite in the form of recliner chairs and video games. This simply isn’t true, though. Generationally speaking, husbands and fathers now are more engaged in the reality of day-to-day family life than ever before, and millennial dads tend to have very different values from their own parents when it comes to how to raise kids.
Of course, that isn’t to say every guy who uses the term is a lazy, backward-thinking misogynist. Jason Momoa mentioned having a “man cave” in his home during a recent Esquire profile, but he’s also a hands-on dad with nothing but respect for the work of women, having been raised by a singly mother himself. And the Esquire story makes sure to note that, in addition to Momoa’s man cave, the property he shares with wife Lisa Bonet includes a dedicated yoga space where she can have some blissful quiet time.
Men don’t need to entirely give up on the dream of having serene spaces amidst the chaos of a family home. Taking the time to decompress and reflect is an important part of maintaining your mental health. But if you’re not extending that same luxury to your partner, you might just be an actual caveman.
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