Of Man Caves and Woman Caves

I spotted this magazine yesterday at the checkout line in Home Depot. According to Manland, the “ultimate man cave site,” this magazine is “a special-edition magazine from the publishers of WOOD Magazine.” Paging Dr. Freud–WOOD Magazine sponsoring Man Caves? Will Rigid Tools be an advertiser? The Man Caves editors get to have lots of fun coining new words like “mantastic” and throwing around headlines like “Chromed-Up Harley Hangouts.”

From the preview on the Manland site, it seems Man Caves Mag delivers the usual man cave aesthetic package of neon beer signs, motorcycles and flat screen TVs. The editors of WOOD, promise that their Man Caves Magazine will “go behind the scenes to reveal what makes their personalized man space so popular—sometimes the most popular room in the entire house—and find out how they pulled it off on budget.”

Man Caves Mag caught my eye, because our friends at Zapf Architectural Renderings are working on a man cave remodel of the Root Simple garage. It will look something like this:

But seriously. Man Caves Magazine got me pondering gender equality issues. Why no Woman Caves Magazine? A haphazard Google image search for “woman cave” turned up things like this:

Looks like a room that’s never used.

I’m curious if Root Simple readers have man or woman caves. What activities take place in the woman cave? What room of the house does it occupy? Does your woman cave take up less square footage than the man cave? And gentlemen, if you have a homesteader’s man cave what’s in it? Is the man/woman cave trend just another manifestation of the decedent American clutter culture a UCLA study just documented? Comments!

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36 Comments

  1. My (wo)man cave is my craft/hobby room. Mostly large plastic tubs of yarn and spinning fibre, my sewing machine, chests of fabric, bookshelves. Also includes the giant bag of chicken feed, my wood/metalwork tools, my Star Wars collectables, the ironing equipment and the wardrobe full of medieval garb :P .

  2. I have a man cave of sorts, but we don’t really call it that. I have a rock climbing training wall and some hangout space.

    I think the theory is that in the “typical” American household, the woman takes the lead on decorating the house. Thus, there end up being some things that the man likes but the woman banishes from the house. The mancave is born as an opportunity to showcase these items.

  3. A fellow my husband worked with last year boasted that he had redone his entire garage in camouflage: the walls, the flooring – yes, even the camouflage recliner he had in it. Apparently, there are hunting supply kinds of places that specialize in all things camo. We never got to see this piece of manly art, but imagining it just makes us dizzy.

  4. We just moved into a home with a finished basement that includes a “fifth” bedroom that we really don’t need. My husband decided it was a great place for a custom-made Dungeons & Dragons game table that a friend made (who no one else has room for). Now every two weeks he hosts five buddies for game night. It is a perfect use of the space.

    As for the Woman/Man Cave issue, I’m much more inclined to dedicate spaces to meaningful hobbies, be them his or mine, rather than just a space where our respective chromosomes can “be.” I have books everywhere in our home so my hobby is really spread out. His actually demanded it’s own space and since we have it, I’m happy to let him have a “game” room. I’m never excluded, they just have a solid group of players and I don’t want to infringe on some of his only social time with them and usually I plan my book club for that night anyway :)

  5. The pink room is the equivelent of all those rooms as kids we were never allowed to set foot in. I had aunts who would have stuff in the house, decorative things that were for “show”. That whole room is for “show”.

  6. We have a shared cave with a blood-red shag carpet, a couple of couches, a huge tv and guitars, amps, drumkit and PA. We watch tv, we rock out. We both love it.

    And the rest of our house is decorated in tandem as well. I guess it helps that we have kind of non-standard taste, furnishings and art.

  7. I have a woman cave I guess, but I call it my craft room. It’s just a place to hold all my yarn, cloth, etc. since i make some of our clothes, all hats, scarves, mittens, etc., and pretty much every gift anyone receives from my family. It’s a working room that I enjoy despite it’s lack of “decor.” when we moved in our current house, I was glad to have a place to store all my supplies in one place. It’s really bumped my DIY attitude up to the next level. I personally feel that “caves” of any sort should be a useful part of the house. Space that’s not being really used is space you don’t need.

  8. We sort of have our “own” spaces, though we share. His is “the boy’s room”, a spare bedroom that he intends to turn into a man cave, but is really just storage right now (and probably for a good while yet). When we bought our house, I claimed the front room (I think it was meant to be a dining room) as my library. Two entire walls have full bookshelves floor to ceiling. The room houses our guitars and a baby grand, and still has enough floor space left over for working on projects. I am very very fond of my library. :)

  9. In our house, the closest thing to the “man cave” is the library/office where the BF goes to play his MMOs – there’s no specific decorating in there, just all the computer connectivity. It also houses our walls of bookshelves.

    As for a woman cave, I had a craft room for a while to store my sewing machine, fabric/yarn supplies, and the guest bed. Things have shifted and my “room” has been scattered throughout the house to make a more definitive “guest” room, though my sewing machine may find its way back there soon. Being a SAHM, “my” space is typically the corner computer in the dining room, strategically placed so I could stay plugged in and watching kids simultaneously. Using a cave is mostly for when I am so hypersocialized I just need time AWAY from everyone without interruption.

  10. I have a woman cave. It is in the basement. It holds all of the tools of the house (I share with him when he’s acting competent) and a long bench with lights over it for starting seeds. Underneath is compost, worm bin, fertilizer, extra pots. It is not fancy, mostly very dusty and dirty and yet functions as needed.

    I suspect the psychology is a reflection of the fact that we don’t have neighborhood bars or fraternal societies where men go to bond with other men. I see male bonding as somewhat weak in many parts of our society (gamers being an exception) and the man cave is an individualized attempt at satisfying that need for a place for men to hang out together and socialize. I find men socialize over or through external things such as cars, sports, fixing or doing something together. Women can and do socialize over that but also through the kitchen, and sometimes just sitting and talking. Or women’s socializing is through activities that requires less space/ are more portable (ie knitting or stamping). I’m not trying to split the sexes here, just observing that some patterns still hold and that the emphasis on a man cave is an individualized attempt at filling a real social need for men. “individualized attempt” being the same thing as everyone on the block needing to own their OWN piece of tools and equipment for everything instead of borrowing from a neighbor.

  11. We have a joint man/woman cave called “The Blue Room”. It holds our bicycles (3 of his, 1 of mine), and his bike tools, plus all of my power tools and woodworking stuff. It also holds all of our camping and sports gear. But I also have another room in the house that holds all of my craft stuff but it doubles as our library and guest room.

  12. I have a woman cave — and we actually do call it the woman cave. It’s an RV on our property that I used for sewing. My husband has an office. There’s also an outside workshop, but that is not explicitly his, so I’d say we have about the same amount of space.

  13. Since I have been divorced for 31 years, it’s all mine. However, the basement has a work bench and all sorts of tools that guys have used and allowed to feel free to be out of my view.

    I have a sewing room upstairs that has storage for all Christmas decorations in a window seat. There are five machines in there, a Butterick pattern cabinet for storage, a dining table for cutting or wrapping gifts. The architecture serves as decoration with the whole room end a bay with the window seat and a fabulous fireplace. Guys are fascinated by this room but are not allowed to use it. Actually, no guy has ever wanted to use that room…lol. The upright freezer lives there, too.

    In two rooms are seven bookcases for my extensive “library.” Once, I had a party where people, women and men, just gravitated to books, and people were reading passages to each other. More than half of the books are fiction, lots of books for literary research. Surprisingly, people searched out information about the subject at hand that led us to books–mythology of some sort.

    My “den” that has very many old fashioned (antique)things, lots of antique lamps, is a favorite of men friends. “Comfortable,” they say. They seem to like all the floor lamps and upholstered, comfortable furniture.

    Now, if I were married, I have no idea what a guy might bring or want. However, the Harley stuff could just stay in the basement. Actually, a guy with strong Harley interests would not be interested in me. I am sure I might have to grit my teeth lots.

    Before this post, I have thought about man caves and briefly have thought what the ex might have put in one. Nothing, not one thing or interest comes to mind. He still has no interests or hobbies or sports activities.

    The pink room was garish to me, and I love pink and rosy shades. That would not be my choice for a “woman cave.” Nothing in my house has so much pink or froufrou to be offense to a guy.

  14. At our old apartment, we had two bedrooms and one was a mancave of sorts. What it really became was a clutter cave where we stored too many bicycles and art supplies. Now we live in a 400 sq ft apartment and have significantly less clutter and, lo and behold, we find we have no need for a man or ladycave.

  15. I’m planning a woman cave! It’ll be in our garage, which isn’t super exciting, but it’ll be my soaping studio! Which is very exciting!

    I think the female equivalent would be a craft or hobby room. :)

  16. Once upon a time men used to have the garages all to themselves. When the doors were open it was an open invitation for their men friends to drop by. All their toys and fix-it things were out there. They could get away from the gals who usually socialized in the kitchen, dining room,or living room. Now the garages are all cluttered with stuff and in most you can’t even park the car. So I guess the man cave is the new garage area. And yes, I am OLD.

    • I agree.

      And the new man caves are sort of flashy, expensive but unsatisfying re-creations of these improvised masculine retreats. They’re all about what you buy, and what you can show off to your friends, rather than being about the rich texture of the shared experiences that may have happened in the old garage while, for instance, two friends shared a beer and poked at a broken lawn mower.

  17. My girlfriend is an artist, and her studio is definitely her “woman cave.”

    I guess I don’t really have a “cave,” unless you count the back yard, where I like to work in the garden.

  18. Oy. Gotta love those gender stereotypes. Everybody should have their own little space where they can do what they want to, but the stereotyping involved in discussions of “man caves” is really, really awful.

    I have an office/sewing room where my computer and craft stuff live (I’m a woman, BTW). My (male) partner has an office with two computers and some camera gear. The only TV we have–not flat screen–is in the garage so I can watch Netflix movies while I exercise. Both of us hate pink. We rarely drink beer. We’re both into bicycles, not motorcycles (and my partner has particular contempt for Harleys–just told me the other day that they’re “crap”).

  19. We joke about the garage being the “man cave” because that’s where my husband brews beer, smokes the occasional cigar and hosts poker games. But by no means is it decorated by any stretch of the imagination – in fact you’re more likely to trip over a carboy or a wrench going through there than see a well maintained motorcycle on a rotating display (give me a break). But seriously, I do what I want with most of the rest of the house, so if he wants to “own” the garage, well, go for it. :-)

  20. This may be a bit off topic, but this discussion reminds me of all of the things that bother me about those home improvement networks on TV, with their obsessions with granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and all manner of over-the-top “stuff.”
    I’d like to see a discussion about what one of those networks would look like if the shows were designed with Rootsimple readers in mind.

    • Mancave mag is definitely a marketing gimmick. Not that men haven’t always had retreats, but it seems now those places are supposed to be geared up with toys.

      And as to your second point, it’s hard for networks to market to folks like us because we don’t buy a lot. A few years ago we were talking to a tv production company about helping with a homesteady tv show (this has happened a few times and never goes anywhere) and they’d ask us who would sponsor the show–ie what kind of products would we push and we’d scratch our heads and say,”Uh…baking soda? Duct tape?” And then the show idea would get dropped.

  21. The need for personal space depends a lot on the lifestyles of the individuals. Can see either gender wanting some down time, personal space. Women can escape to a bathroom with candles, bubbles, and music. Guys, not so much. After my guy took over my studio with his car stuff storage, moved into my greenhouse. When he followed, had to draw a strict line. We’re together 24/7 – I don’t intrude when he has his head in the engine bay, he’s to leave me alone to putter in the greenhouse.

    • A man most certainly can retreat to the bathroom. They spend enough time on the toilet, they can spend time just sitting on the floor or take a bath. And why should a woman have to retreat to having a bubble bath if she for her personal space?? It’s not good for the skin; especially in the cold winters. The whole house is not for women only. If it were, my house would ALWAYS be spic and span. :) But it’s not… :(

      Who says baths are only for women? Never saw that rule before.

  22. Cindy – I second that but I suspect us readers are too busy making stuff, doing stuff and getting on with our lives to “decorate” or even to host such a show in our homes ;)

    • exactly– see my comment to her as well. No high power advertisers, and then yes, you’re right…no would would host it…or watch it! Because really, who has time for tv?

  23. My two cents, in bullet form:

    –the current man cave buzz is most definitely a marketing scheme which takes an existing tendencies and tries to commodify and fetishize what had previously been a casual, improvised spaces created by men.

    –Man caves should be differentiated from true working spaces. Both men and women have or share working spaces, but the new man cave while based on an old timey garage hideout is too fancy for work. It’s a relaxation space.

    –Men have always had garages or dens or sheds or icehouses or whatever where they could go to hide from the wife and kids, and where their buddies could visit them and be similarly insulated. Mr. Bennett had a man cave in Pride & Prejudice (his library). My dad had a basement room where he could smoke cigars while watching the game with his friends.

    –I don’t think women–mothers, at least– have the option to hide. They have to be available. So if women are gathering together in a home they’ll be somewhere accessible, like a kitchen. Sometimes women have craft rooms, but these are not social spaces like man caves.

    –I don’t assert that this gender divide is 100% true for every household, but I’d say there’s truth in it. It’s not true for Erik and me. Despite his joking about his man cave dreams, I have the cave in this house (my tiny shed/office) and he doesn’t. My shed is a retreat, though. It is not an entertaining space.

    • Nice post. That’s what I always say. If I want to sew, I sew in our bedroom. He has his hobby junk overtaking our spareroom; which canNOT be made into a guest room due to that. At least my sewing doesn’t take up a whole room.
      Homes used to be for the whole family.. the ‘man cave’ is for a man who basically doesn’t want interaction with his family. If he did, he’d not need all the entertainment crap in it.

      If we ever won a lottery, we’d add on to have a real guest room. But the other room would still remain like it is.. only going into it for his hobby work. If he decided to make a ‘man cave’, well that’s fine. Time for separate houses by then. There’s no freakin way he’d be sleeping with me if he spent all his free time in a separate rooom.

      A long time ago, men weren’t in the home. They were out in the fields till nightfall. Poor babies.. maybe they should go back to the fields instead of complaining about their OWN space. Meanwhile, moms have to ALWAYS be available for the kids. The dad isn’t going to be; he’s too interested in watching tv and playing games!

  24. Hello all,

    I’m one of the guys featured in this publication. I just wanted to set the record straight that not all the spaces are “sort of flashy, expensive”.

    Everything in my space including the electronics (fixed by me), were either a craigslist freebie, yard sale find or built with recycled materials. I’m proud to say my entire space cost me less than $300 dollars. To me anybody can spend money (like the D.I.Y. Network show and some of the featured spaces)but the real fun and creativity comes having little or no money to work with. Thats the point of all this for me.

    BTW, I welcome all women into my “Man Cave”….as long as they bring beer :)

    PS. If your husband has a Velvet Elvis you been dying to purge from your space bring it to a “Man Cave” and we will give it the respect it deserves.

    • Hey Beer Can,

      Very cool–congrats on your resourcefulness. And good luck finding the Velvet Elvis.

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