Forget the whole “cave” thing please

No, the counterpart to the “man cave” where men go to escape the dreaded pesky women who clutter up everything (except most movies, most tv shows, most workplaces, most sport, most news coverage, most religious administration…) and watch football on Giantscreen TVs – the counterpart to that, I say, is not the “mom cave” where women go to heat canned soup for men.

One reason: “mom” is not the counterpart to “man”. The counterpart to man is woman. The word “mom” is the counterpart to the word “dad”.

Notice right away how the whole thing has veered into totally non-counterpart territory. On the one hand we have men, who are people, who do things in the world. On the other hand we have moms, who do mom things. What happened to women, who are people, who do things in the world? Why do men get to have a whole big open category while women get a partial tiny closed category? Why are men left to define themselves while women are defined as parents and nothing else?

Another reason: the kitchen is not a personal space where a woman can go to escape pesky men or obligations or anything else. The kitchen is the opposite of a “woman cave”.

How long is it going to be 1955, anyway?


  1. octopod says

    Wow! It’s like OE “wif” (a female human) turning into “wife” (a person with a certain job), except kind of backwards in some way?

  2. brucegee1962 says

    My idea of the “man cave” concept is that it goes back much farther than the 1950s — back to the 19th century and the whole idea of the entire home being the woman’s domain, while the man was supposed to be primarily concerned with what was outside the home. The equivalent of the man cave was Mr. Bennet’s study, into which he could retreat and out of the way, leaving the rest of the house to his wife.

    “When Mr. Collins could be forgotten, there was really an air of great comfort throughout, and by Charlotte’s evident enjoyment of it, Elizabeth supposed he must be often forgotten.”

    Which is hardly a good model for modern domestic happiness, but it at least helps explain where the concept comes from.

  3. says

    Ah, interesting example. Charlotte chose the back drawing room to be her particular room, and at first Elizabeth thought that was odd, but then she figured it out – the front room faced the road, and if she’d chosen that one Mr Collins would have been forever darting in to look for Lady Catherine’s carriage.

  4. says

    Of course in the same time period the word (one of the words) for male human was ‘were’ which is now specialised for werewolves. I don’t know what that means.
    Also note that ‘wif man’ became ‘woman’.

  5. brucegee1962 says

    I’ve always thought it was interesting how Charlotte, despite clearly despising her husband, seems to end up one of the happier characters in the novel — certainly far happier than Lydia. The message seems to be that an upper-class woman ought to be able to arrange things so that she only sees her husband at mealtimes and occasionally for procreation, and thus it doesn’t really matter whether she likes him or not.

    Again, not a great message for the modern era, but perhaps what those man-cave proponents wish to return to.

  6. Andrew B. says

    Ha, and now “man cave” has it’s own tag. Are you expecting a great deal of man-cave related stories in the future?

  7. says

    Ooh, I don’t think Charlotte ends up happy at all. Almost the last we hear of her is Elizabeth’s summing-up thoughts on leaving Kent – “it was lamentable to leave her to such society.” The authorial pov is that once the pleasure of her poultry and garden have worn off it’s going to be pretty gruesome.

    No, if there’s one theme that runs throughout Austen it’s that shitty marriages are shitty. Each of her novels has at least one, and they’re nightmares.

  8. brucegee1962 says

    Of course, what’s absent in the novel (and in all Austen’s novel) are children, so it’s possible that after Charlotte has a few of her own, they will keep her occupied.

    On the other hand, even though Mr. Collins probably won’t have much to do with them, she’ll still have to put up with Lady Catherine coming around every day to tell her the “proper” way to raise them. So on balance, I’ll defer to your analysis.

    Charlotte’s marriage still isn’t as shitty as Lydia’s, though. I think part of the message is that, if you’re going to be miserable, you’ll be a lot less miserable with money than without it.

  9. says

    Children aren’t completely absent in Austen’s novel. Sometimes they’re around, being more or less annoying. The little Knightleys for example.

    It’s also very possible that after Charlotte has a few of her own she will die. I once noticed while reading a bio of Austen (Claire Tomalin’s I think) that the rate of death from childbirth among the women she knew was about 50%. I know that sounds grotesque and impossible, but it’s true.

    Anyway Mr Collins would still always be there. Servants would do most of the childcare work, but Charlotte would have to take breakfast dinner and tea with Mr Collins. He’s a complete nightmare. Even if Lady Catherine moved to Bath, Charlotte’s life would be awful.

  10. theoreticalgrrrl says

    I think mom is the counterpart because there are only two kinds of women in patriarchy/male-supremacist culture, madonnas and whores. A good wife is just a mommy replacement, taking over the cooking and cleaning and laundering that mom used to do for you as a boy and single guy. The other type of woman is subhuman garbage, so they don’t deserve to be anybody’s counterpart.

  11. rnilsson says

    Leaving aside (for one moment) the whole literary discourse, may I briefly inflict my completely unfounded, or at least unattributable, notion that “wife” shares a root with “weave”, as in “the one who does the weaving”. Thanks.

    // The one in briefs who surfs (that very web what the wives weave) 😉

  12. says

    I don’t think that holds since cognates are only found in West Germanic and North Germanic but are absent from Gothic. In OE wife is ‘wif’ and weave is ‘wefan’, ‘wǣfon’ (don’t know if that macron will show over the æsc).
    Perhaps you’d be happy to know that lady comes from ‘hlǣfdige’: loaf-kneader i.e. bread maker; lord from hlāford’, ‘hlāfweard’ bread keeper!

  13. octopod says

    Mm, ok. So “wer” is obviously cognate to “vir”, which is male in Latin and in German both; I’ve seen the usage “wif man”/”wer man” for OE, as well as “wif” and “wer” standing alone. So did OE use “wif” to mean both “woman” in general *and* “married woman” in particular? And if the latter, did it imply that you were talking about her husband the way that it does in modern English? — that is, a relationship-word, just as one would not really call someone a cousin unless the person to whom she was cousin was somehow involved int he conversation?

    Also, 50%, holy shit. No wonder Austen tended to go past that bit; I suppose it was not really within the emotional range in which she was trying to write. Why was it so remarkably bad right then and there, I wonder? — that can’t possibly be the overall human average!?

  14. says

    Wif was only ‘woman’. A married woman was a cwēn: and, yes, that is modern queen!

    “Ladies and gentlemen” would (I can’t remember if exclusively) be something like ‘wifmann ond wǣpnedmann’: the weapon in question possibly being the penis rather than (or as well as) anything more lethal.

  15. embraceyourinnercrone says

    octopod @14
    I don’t have the access to look up the best chart on historical maternal mortality due to pregnancy/childbirth at the moment (I will try to find it) but to give a little perspective here is a list of famous women who died in childbirth (I know Wikipedia is not the best source) :

    Famous women who died in childbirth

    In countries were women do not have access to good obstecrical care the death rate and also the rate of permanent damage from child birth (fistula, etc) is still quite high. In the U.S. we have a maternal mortality rate that is still too high, probably due to lack of access to preventative medicine and affordable healthcare (high rates of pregnancy-induced hypertension, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, etc)

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