While thumbing through a recent issue of The New Yorker yesterday, I stumbled upon a short passage about what seems to be a modern version of the He Man Woman Haters Club from The Little Rascals. To wit:
At a conference of New Urbanist planners and theorists, in 2006, the architect Andrés Duany identified a budding crisis in American life: the decline of “male space,” which he defined as zones “where the enthusiasms of Super Bowl day are unchecked year-round,” and where “the men are not factually corrected when they exaggerate.”
A decline of male space? Really?
The den, with its knotty-pine panelling and mounted moose heads, used to suffice, before it was subjected to a cultural makeover and emerged as the “family room,” relegating Dad to the garage. Then Sheetrock and the Container Store, with its “completely insidious” plastic cabinets, conspired to feminize the garage, and man was effectively neutered.
A lack of mounted moose heads is enough to neuter the American male! (Insert your own Sarah Palin moose hunting joke here.) Duany is particularly incensed over the criticism of an illegal rec room discovered last month in a raid of the Capitol complex in Albany, a room that apparently was very much a no-girls-allowed clubhouse.
“These cats were escaping a code of behavior that probably was not male enough,” Duany said the other day. He’d seen a picture of the janitors’ lair, and likened it to the Victorian idea of a growlery: a room in which to grouch and put your feet up. “If females had inhabited this space, and outfitted it with neat chairs and a mirror and a makeup cabinet, it would be, ‘Oh, the poor women; it’s because we didn’t give them a sitting room,’ ” he said. “There would be absolute sympathy.”
Right, because every female would decorate their room the same way, including an entire cabinet for makeup. What Duany conveniently ignores, of course, is the fact that women have to operate within the bounds of “male spaces” all the time and not vice versa. It may be a pleasant fantasy to pretend that men have to retreat into their caves to get away from the feminizing influence of modern society and girly interior decor (the horror, the horror!), but it really is just a fantasy.
Duany granted that the “New York Senate scene seems pretty male,” but called the level of discourse that occurs in government “superficially civilized,” and pointed to the removal of spittoons and canes as a contributing factor in the decline.
It “seems pretty male.” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the understatement of the week. Um, and what on earth do spittoons and canes have to do with anything?
“This is not a trivial subject,” Duany added. “We worry about the thirteen per cent African-Americans and fifteen per cent Hispanics. Well, there’s fifty per cent males who are very ill served by our physical environment.”
This is point at which I start ripping my magazine into tiny shreds. There’s only so much “WHAT ABOUT THE MEN????” shrieking I can take before having a coronary. I’ll send Duany my doctor’s bill.