This article I am reading titled, Tranquil Havens? Critiquing the idea of home as the middle-class sanctuary, written by Moira Donald has really got me thinking about the divisions of a home, and certain places in the home specifically feeling equivalent to a “work place.” At a point in the article she speaks specifically about the division of spaces within a home, based on gender as well as based on role within the home, i.e. servant versus homeowner.
She says, “when individuals crossed boundaries, their reading of the same space would have been very different. The role of each person overlaid the physical divisions within the domestic space. The feelings of the maid who rose early in the morning to blacklead the grates in the upstairs rooms would have been very different from those of the male house-holder first entering the room to the welcome of a blazing fire… the same space held different meanings for those whose lives were lived within it.”
Granted, this article is part of a larger book titled Domestic Space, Reading the 19th Century Interior, so one might say that the principles and focus of the article are a bit outdated. I would say, yes perhaps, but also, no. I’m finding this idea of separation of spaces and specific rooms within a home based on gender and work very interesting. I’m investigating and thinking about how this applies to today’s homes and domestic settings. What spaces in a home are seen as feminine, and which spaces are seen as inherently male? What objects within a home also create that same sort of gender binary or separation? One that immediately comes to mind is a classic recliner chair. What is more middle class american than Dad kicked back in his LAZ Boy watching football while mom does the dishes from a Sunday dinner? I mean, I know that’s what was happening in my house as I grew up. My Dad may not have been in a LAZ boy specifically, but he was definitely half asleep in his recliner 9 times out of 10. Even now, just yesterday I FaceTimed my sister while she was visiting my parents and as she panned around the space she was in, my mom was drying dishes, and dad was hanging out in his chair watching football. My sister lives with her fiancé and I see very much the same sort of happenings occurring there. My grandfather had a beautiful leather recliner in his living room as well that no one else really sat in, because of course, that was his chair. Funny how one object can be so universal in who occupies it no? Wondering when it will be my turn to sit back, relax, and fall asleep in my recliner chair… will it ever be?