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Mancaves And Masculinity

Published: May 1, 2015

Marketing’s Risto Moisio is a specialist in consumer behavior whose forthcoming article titled “Man Caves and Masculinity” in the Journal of Consumer Culture with Cal State Northridge co-author Mariam Beruchashvili is an attention getter.

In it, Moisio asks how man caves, which he defines as male spaces in or around the house, contribute to the construction of masculinity at home.

“Our research challenges the perspective that male spaces emerge in opposition to the feminine conception of home,” wrote the member of the university since 2007. “Findings from interviews with American suburban men reveal that male spaces represent therapeutic venues that help men in alleviating identity pressures created by work as well as domestic life and aid revitalization of men’s identities as fathers and husbands. Circumscribed by egalitarian ideology and the family ideal, male spaces also foster paternal and fraternal bonds instrumental for creating masculinity at home.”

Plus, Moisio was surprised at how elaborate some man caves are. Guys need an exclusive space to hang out in their homes, he feels, a refuge where they can enjoy what they love, whether it is a sound-proofed basement that doubles as a rock and roll lounge; a room where ski fans can chill out with a roaring fireplace; or a golf-lover’s paradise featuring a virtual reality driving range.

“Some people build giant rooms in their homes equipped with giant TVs. Such flat-screen TVs may seem lavish for some but home makeover shows have repeatedly convinced us that they are a ‘normal’ part of the American home,” he said. “It might therefore not be out of the realm of possibility that some end up spending $10,000-plus on their mancaves.”

That level of fiscal commitment brings up a related issue in Moisio’s research.

“What arrangements do men make with reality to create these rooms?” he asked. This is something that remains unclear as Moisio is still carrying out research on the topic and in fact asks readers to volunteer in his research. Mancaves seem to strike a chord in his research participants’ lives and to understand them further, he asks those interested in participating in such a study to contact him at rmoisio@csulb.edu.

Moisio traces his interest in man caves to 2007 with the debut of the DIY network’ series “Man Caves.” He realized the topic represented an area overlooked by academia.

“While there is a literature on men outside the home, academics seem to have forgotten that men spend many hours at home, too,” he said. “There is more to life than the conventionally masculine institutions of work and sports. Plus, I don’t think that home life is a watered-down version of the public arena. I think it is something at least equally but most likely even more meaningful.”

Moisio earned his BBA in marketing from Finland’s Satakunta Polytechnic in 1998, then a master’s in international marketing from the University of Southern Denmark followed by a doctorate in marketing from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

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Moisio’s research convinces him that man caves represent a state of mind as much as a place.

“It’s a way of thinking. You are ‘man-caving,’” he said. “When you look at the origins of American culture, you find the frontier mentality. The man must go out there and find a piece of land, put a stamp on it and that is his achievement. That is something we are still dealing with today.”

Responding to some critics who try reduce man-caving to animal behavior of nesting, he has a hard time accommodating the idea that what we see as man caves may have much to do with any biologically prompted imperatives.

“It is socially constructed behavior,” he said. “We have the idea somewhere in the back of our minds that man caves are one way of realizing who we are as men. Even with our new metrosexual ideas about what men are supposed to be like, what women are supposed to be like and how we ought to treat each other, the more times change, the more we see the to look into the past as a time of good old days. That’s a utopia, of course. We know the good ol’ times don’t really exist but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful.”

Man caves play more of a pivotal yet complex role in men’s identity work at home than previously thought, Moisio has written.

“Man caves are not just the retrograde expressions of masculine ethos premised on escaping the influence of the female and feminine domesticity,” he said. “Rather, man caves emerge as therapeutic, integrative spaces. They operate as venues for weaving together the multiple aspects of men’s identities at times overwhelmed by professional and familial obligations. Man caves afford men a place for reinventing themselves as more fully functioning males integrated within the home, family and the fraternity of other men.”