A man’s home may be his castle but the home realm has long been assigned to women. A division of labor bucked with the feminist movement, outsourced by the wealthy, reclaimed with the Third Wave stay-at-home family CEO mom, but still much in the purview of women. The kitchen, especially, is symbolic of this division. Misogynists bark at us to get back in the kitchen. Second Wave feminists railed against the kitchen. Secretary Clinton famously stated during the 1992 campaign, “”I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.” Love it, hate it, be neutral, the kitchen is ours whether we want it or not.
Until recently. Maybe it’s because more adults are single and single for a longer period of time than before. Maybe because people realized men can be awesome in the kitchen and women aren’t always the best cooks. In my interior design career, I came across many a male client who quipped, “That’s up to you, I don’t do that stuff.” Which is great to have a client who trusts your expertise, but difficult when you can’t get input at all into what they’re looking for. Between my old job and graduating from school, a shift occurred in the collective unconscious. I now work for a man who has an incredibly discerning eye for design. He’s no longer an anomaly.
The Wall Street Journal’s Debra Jo Immergut asks, “Is the Kitchen the New Man Cave?” According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, men are becoming increasingly involved with driving kitchen design. Perhaps it’s the rise in popularity of cooking shows with top chefs who are male. Or men feel more comfortable taking on traditionally feminine things and fashioning them into the manly version. The designers Immergut interviewed said that their male clients are generally interested in top technology such as induction cooktops, integrated apps and appliances, sub-zero refrigerators. The wine fridge has now been joined by the kegerator. Gone are the frills of neoclassical trim and loudly patterned granite. Now the kitchen is sleek and modern with high contrast colors and streamlined cabinets that look like they came out of a luxury car factory.
Being in the design field and understand how strong a role the built environment plays on a person’s psyche and health, whether they realize it or not, I am glad that men are paying attention and getting involved in the design of their dwellings. To achieve true gender equality, it has to be acceptable for each gender to access and experience the traditional purviews of the other. Women have been swinging bats at the glass ceiling for a while now. Perhaps it’s time men took a swing at the glass kitchen.
As Martha-Kitchen-Queen-Stewart says, “It’s a good thing.”
Kitchen image above: Designed and digitally rendered by CRE3A Creative Design Solutions