Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Mr. Fixit"

Steven Gerber, Do-It-Yourself: Constructing, Repairing, and Maintaining Domestic Masculinity

Posted by Hannah Bolton

Steven Gelber introduces domestic masculinity to us as the creation of a male sphere inside of the home. The idea of space is presented, noting that when women began to work in the office, men felt they were being civilized and losing their manhood—therefore they needed to create something that gave them a new purpose, a new meaning for being a man. While previously hired help was called in to repair things, the Do-it-yourselfer found family bonding and masculine identity within the home. He explains that while men were the head of household and brought home the money, they often had very little to do there. The women raised children, while men were occupied with something else in another room, or left to meet up with friends (separating themselves from the family). Domestic masculinity was the answer to reacquainting themselves with manual skill, taking pride in something, saving money, and participating in family activities while retaining a masculine style. Do-it-yourself was most of all thought of as leisure. Work around the house was not work—it was recreation that soothed the stressed minds of men after being in an office all day. Working on things gave them a sense of satisfaction that may have ceased to exist within their jobs. This change also brought fathers and sons closer. Fathers passed on specific skills to their sons, a form of masculine bonding. The housing market was booming in the 1930s, and because home ownership was popular among the blue collared, do-it-yourself was an activity that transcended class rather than gender. Although you would think that poorer homes had to save more money, rather than the rich, Gelber explains that men from all classes recognize do-it-yourself as not quite a chore, but something taken up voluntarily. It was a mixture of everything: leisure that was work-like and chores that were leisurely; the tasks were performed by middle-class men acting like blue-collar workers and blue collar workers acting like middle class homeowners. It was in other words, a hobby.

An example of the man carrying the heavy tools, the son helping him, and the wife directing them on what to do.

This advertisement for Dutch Boy paint indicates that the women were not Do-it-yourselfers, but the helpers or assistants. Also, it was typical for the woman to point out something that needed to be done, rather than doing it on her own. ("Honeydew")


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