I shared some initial criticisms of Matt Walsh’s man-baby argument that wives “force” their husbands to build man caves because men don’t have enough space in their own homes. Here is the tweet that started it all:
Above, Walsh’s tweet complains says, “The lack of male spaces in our culture begins in the home, where a man is often forced to set up his ‘man cave’ in the garage or the basement if he wants any space to himself in the home he owns and pays for.
Clearly, a man built this “man cave” because his wife places an excessive number of pillow shams on the marital bed.
Despite my irritation with his tweet, I do feel for Walsh (or, rather, the men Walsh says are treated so poorly by their wives). I’m a woman, and I dislike much of women’s culture. I am generally uncomfortable in a living room filled with essential oil diffusers (or, before that, Scentsy candles or, before that, bowls of potpourri) and legions of throw pillows. I don’t understand putting two-foot tall decals of inspirational words on your wall. Shiplap, burlap, barbed wire, tin–they look fine in a house, but I don’t have the stamina to go to Hobby Lobby to decorate like that, and Pinterest looks like a lot of emotional work, even before the work of making the stuff on there.*
Above, a scene from Along Came Polly gets to the heart of the throw pillow problem afflicting so much of women’s culture.
Of course, if someone likes that stuff, cool for them. I’m not here to yuk someone’s yum. I just mean that, if you are partnered with someone who likes the particular style–which I associate so much with evangelical Christian women’s culture–it can be a bit overwhelming to encounter it every day in all your space.
But, again, I see this as, at least in part, a problem that conservative Christianity created. If women and men didn’t have to be so distinct, maybe women could ratchet down the Branson Chic?
I see all of this as another tension that conservative women have to negotiate: be pretty to your husband but not so pretty that you tempt other men. Make enough effort that everyone can see that you are trying (because otherwise you’re lazy and disrespectful to your husband) to be attractive but not so much that you’re vain. Make your home welcoming, and make sure that it serves as evidence that you, not your husband, takes care of it (If others know that he does the housework, this would be almost as bad as them knowing that you earn more money than him.)–but not so feminine that he has to go play Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus to feel like a man.
Lots of women are caught in this bind. You’ve got to be like the Not of this World clothing line: “dedicated to fitting in with the current trends while also standing out with the powerful messages of Christianity” so you can “boldly [proclaim] the truth of the Gospel while offering fantastic fit, contemporary designs, and high-quality materials.” Oh–and boys still have to like you both because you are different from them and because you don’t make those differences matter when they don’t want them to matter.
It’s a tough spot to be in.
*I DO like terrariums of succulents, so maybe one day I’ll get the hang of the rest of this stuff.