Where Men Hide

Where Men Hide

James B. Twitchell
Photographs by Ken Ross
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/twit13734
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  • Book Info
    Where Men Hide
    Book Description:

    "If you ask men if they spend any time hiding, they usually look at you as if you're nuts. 'What, me hide?' But if you ask women whether men hide, they immediately know what you mean." -- from Where Men Hide

    Where Men Hide is a spirited tour of the dark and often dirty places men go to find comfort, camaraderie, relaxation, and escape. Ken Ross's striking photographs and James Twitchell's lively analysis trace the evolution of these virtual caves, and question why they are rapidly disappearing.

    Ross documents both traditional and contemporary male haunts, such as bars, barbershops, lodges, pool halls, strip clubs, garages, deer camps, megachurches, the basement Barcalounger, and Twitchell examines their provenance, purpose, and appeal. He finds that for centuries men have met with each other in underground lairs and clubhouses to conduct business or, in the case of strip clubs and the modern rec room, to bond and indulge in shady entertainments. In these secret dens, certain rules are abandoned while others are obeyed. However, Twitchell sees this less as exclusionary behavior and more as the result of social anxiety: when women want to get together, they just do it; when men get together, it's a production.

    Drawing on literary, historical, and pop cultural sources, Twitchell connects the places men hide with figures like Hemingway and Huck Finn, Frederick Jackson Turner's theory of the American frontier, and the mythological interpretations of Joseph Campbell and Robert Bly. Instead of blaming the disappearance of the man-cave solely on feminism, simple fair play, or the demands of Title IX, Twitchell believes this evaporation is due as well to the rise of solitary pursuits such as driving, watching television, and playing videogames.

    By blending together anecdote, research, and keen observation, Ross and Twitchell bring this little-discussed and controversial phenomenon to light.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51054-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [viii]-1)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-24)

    If you ask men if they spend any time hiding, they usually look at you as if you’re nuts. “What, me hide?” But if you ask women whether men hide, they immediately know what you mean. That is the subject of this book.

    Studying the man cave is not how I’m supposed to be spending my time. My usual vocation is teaching Romantic poetry to college students. However, my recent avocation has been studying commercial culture, especially advertising. I realize that sounds paradoxical, but it makes sense to me. I teach what we are supposed to know, but I’m really...

  4. Photographer’s Note
    (pp. 25-27)
  5. 1. The Deer Camp: THE HUNT
    (pp. 29-39)

    What you see before you is distinctly American. It is a hunting camp, more specifically a deer camp. The word that best describes it is ramshackle, a word that holds within itself a curious prediction. A ramshackle construction is something so poorly made that its imminent disintegration is embraced by the builder. In other words, he builds it in order to keep on repairing it.

    Look carefully at the room and you can almost hear the stuff falling apart. Those drooping polyurethane lines carrying water to the shower will fall, the beer signs will need to be hammered back in...

  6. 2. The Boxing Ring: SHAME AND HONOR
    (pp. 41-51)

    The image you see before you, the boxing ring, is a touchstone of male anxiety. As such it is rigorously formatted. The standard size is twenty feet by twenty feet. Although this sparring ring is at floor level, the fighting platform is usually about two feet off the ground so the crowd can see what’s happening. In a competitive ring, the corner posts, used to attach the ropes, also serve as supports for the platform and are slightly inside the fighting surface. The platform extends about two feet past the ropes, making room for the seconds. The four one-inch manila...

  7. 3. The Fraternal Lodge: INITIATION OF BROTHERHOOD
    (pp. 53-65)

    What you are seeing here is the last gasp of a very special kind of hideout. It is a Masonic lodge in a small town in New England. It’s about to fall over. The same scene could as easily be in any state or in any Canadian province. In fact, it could be in almost any European country as well, although it would look a little different.

    This lodge (Friendship #24, chartered January 15, 1852) happens to be in northern Vermont. The building is barely standing. Go inside on meeting night and you’ll be met by a few septuagenarians, an...

  8. 4. The Snuggery: FATHERS, SONS, AND TRAINS
    (pp. 67-79)

    In the Victorian country house there were a number of gender-specific rooms. Milady had her apartment, to which she and her chums “withdrew” after dinner. She also had a boudoir or a private room adjoining the bedroom, which men never entered without permission. And she had a morning room or breakfast room that was open to guests and family of both sexes. As well, she had claim to the drawing room, as it was the launch platform for the promenade into the dining room.

    By contrast, the gentleman had a few more rooms: the library, the billiard room, a gentleman’s...

  9. 5. A Room of His Own: TWO OF MAN’S BEST FRIENDS
    (pp. 81-91)

    Poor Oedipus. In the midst of other woe, our ancient hero stumbles across the Sphinx, a winged lion with the head of a woman. This she-beast sits at a crucial crossroad and asks passersby a riddle. If they can’t answer, she eats them. All around her are piles of skulls and bones. Here is the riddle: Who in the morning walks on four legs, at midday on two, and in the evening on three? Although Oedipus was profoundly confused about who he was, he certainly knew what he was, and he says, “It is man!” (Crawling baby—adult—old man...

  10. 6. The Garage: CAR AND CALENDAR
    (pp. 93-103)

    Anyone who says men are not as sentimental as women needs to observe a middle-aged male looking at this image. Check around his eyes for telltale puffiness. Maybe he feels the way a woman feels when she looks down into a perambulator and sees a cooing baby clutching a rattle. What they both see is something small and beautiful, and what they both feel is a yearning to tinker. You could put this car in the guy’s living room and he wouldn’t miss a beat. If that is hopelessly demeaning to men, so be it. My best friend has a...

  11. 7. The American Barbershop: “NEXT GENTLEMAN”
    (pp. 105-117)

    A barber joke from my parents’ generation goes like this: A farmer goes into town to get a haircut. He patiently waits his turn. The barber says, “Next gentleman.” The farmer jumps up and says, “Not so fast. I thought I was next.”

    To appreciate this joke one needs to understand the egalitarian nature of the barbershop. The barbershop is a place where all men—well, almost all men—are treated as equals. True, you may defer if you want a particular barber, but the standard behavior is, or used to be, this: you drop by, you wait your turn,...

  12. 8. The Baseball Dugout: CHEW, SPIT, AND FIGHT
    (pp. 119-127)

    If you ever wonder why there is so much brawling in modern baseball, here’s one reason for it—the dugout. Oddly enough, this simple and essentially unnoticed space for men has had a profound effect on American culture. What happens here reverberates throughout all athletics, and hence through all male behavior.

    That cave you see before you is a baseball dugout. It’s essentially a shed with a bench. In no other game are the active players isolated in such a confined area, almost like animals in a holding pen. What makes it a dugout is that the den is usually...

  13. 9. Getting Outta Here: MY WHEELS, MY SELF
    (pp. 129-145)

    When I was growing up in the 1950s my father would often “go out for a drive.” Almost every weekend he’d say, “I’m going out for a drive.” He had a series of Plymouths, one of which was a V-8 Fury—the car driven by cops. But most of his Plymouths were green and dreary and embarrassments to me. Sometimes he’d ask if I wanted to go along. I had two older sisters. I don’t remember him asking them. When we got into the car we always went to the same place—out to watch Interstate 89 being built through...

  14. 10. The Recliner Chair: HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT
    (pp. 147-153)

    Sometimes the best hiding place is the most obvious. As Edgar Allan Poe’s famous detective C. Auguste Dupin notes in The Purloined Letter, often the best place not to be noticed is the place right at the end of the pursuer’s nose. So for the male who wants some time alone, as for the purloined letter, occasionally it’s best not to head for the cellar or the club; just sit there quietly right in the middle of the maelstrom—hiding in the eye of the storm.

    The savvy sleuth Dupin finds the mysterious letter sought by the police literally hanging...

  15. 11. Strip Clubs: HIDING BEHIND THE OGLE
    (pp. 155-163)

    In the mid-1990s, Lorrie Beno sold auto parts for a Canadian company humbly named Magna International. Magna makes everything from seats and mirrors to running boards and door handles for the Big Three automakers in Detroit. Lorrie’s job was to schmooze with the purchasing agents of the car companies and then make the sale.

    The competition was intense, as there were many suppliers of essentially the same products. Magna was the fifth-largest supplier in this county and so had to be aggressive. Even today, selling bent metal and plastic is very much a male business. In fact, selling car parts...

  16. 12. “Aah lurve this place”: THE MALE WAY OF EATING
    (pp. 165-181)

    In 1939 the Swiss sociologist Norbert Elias published The History of Manners, the first volume of his monumental work, The Civilizing Process. It was a transformative work in the history not just of culture but of gender. It showed how so-called polite behavior was up for grabs. Of all the places Elias went to track down the roots of behavior—bedroom, bathroom, public rooms, churches—none was more historically important and socially contentious than the eating (much later dining) room.

    In medieval times how and where you ate was a prime site of the never-ending food fight over how to...

  17. 13. The Workshop Warren: HAMMER TIME
    (pp. 183-197)

    What is before you here is a smorgasbord of hand tools: wrenches (adjustable, Allen, socket), awls, saws (rip, crosscut, hacksaw), sanders, staplers, clamps, caulking gun, chisels, pliers, drill bits, T square, files (flat, rat-tail, rasp), hammer, mallets, hand plane, knife, nail set, paintbrush, screwdrivers, hand drill, pry bar, sandpaper, snips, drills, soldering iron, staple gun, vise, wire strippers . . . The pegboard holding the tools and the work space are in a basement or a garage. Three questions: how did this stuff get here, why was it so important for men about a generation ago, and where is it...

  18. 14. On the Job: HIDING OUT IN THE OFFICE
    (pp. 199-213)

    This is where I work in the summer. It’s not much in the way of an office, but it’s just enough. What makes it just enough is that the space is all mine and my wife and daughters have trouble getting in. We call it the “hidey-hole,” and it’s decorated, as you may be able to see, so women won’t feel at home. The bed seat to the right is hard and the pillows are lumpy. There used to be a Gary Larson cartoon on the door that said something like “Of course it’s a mess; whadya expect of a...

  19. 15. Male Bonding for God: MEGACHURCH AND PROMISE KEEPERS
    (pp. 215-233)

    Take a look at any medium-sized city of today. In almost every city over 200,000 there is a church growing like Topsy, doubling its membership every few years. These new churches result from a strange confluence of marketing, population shift, consumer demand, consumption communities, entertainment economy, a yearning for epiphany, and, as we will see, the ancient and awkward desire of men to bond. These churches even have a new name: they are called megachurches.

    While scholars may call them “postdenominational churches” or parts of the “new apostolic reformation,” megachurches are more commonly called “full-service” or “seven-day-a-week” churches. Detractors call...

  20. Conclusion
    (pp. 235-243)

    When I first conceived of this project I often thought of it as an architectural folly. A folly is a fanciful structure like a pagoda or grotto on an estate, more a tribute to the squire’s silliness than to any compelling need. So when you see the word emblazoned on a sailboat—like Fred’s Folly—you know that Fred is at least aware that he doesn’t really need the boat. It’s just for fun. In fact, the etymology is French; a folie is something that delights, nothing more. Many country houses in France still bear the name La Folie. As...

  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 245-248)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 249-249)