It’s (Still) Good To Be King

The other day we found some Christmas ornaments that reinforce the notion that the home is the man’s castle, the couch is his throne, and other examples that likens a man to being a king for no apparent reason. The ornaments are shaped like ties, for the male breadwinner of the family, and say “King of the Remote,” “It’s Good to be King,” and “CEO of this House.”

These statements all imply the same thing; that the man is the MAN of the house, the one in charge, the decision maker, the CEO, and that it’s good to be king. And the tie suggests that the man is the family’s breadwinner (he is more likely to be the only breadwinner as well), works in a white-collar environment, and is probably successful or influential. Because he is the CEO of the house, he should be the one making the decisions; after all, he is the one working, and probably the one more apt to make decisions anyway. Since the CEO works so hard and then makes the vital decisions at home, he should be the “King of the Remote.” He should come home, dinner should be ready, and then he should settle in on the couch, watching his favorite sporting program. Since he is CEO of the house, his domain is the living room, so it is best to leave the kitchen and laundry room to the woman, because those are the rooms that involve domestic work. After all, domesticity is the realm of the woman, and royalty the reward for the man (note that women are rarely called queens, but referred to as princesses, as seen in the advertisement below).

The notion that men and women simply do not just coexist in (or even share) a home, but have their own gendered spaces is evident when referring to the kitchen as the woman’s realm and the “mancave” or living room as the man’s own space. This idea is obviously not new.

With the title “Living’s as easy as 1-2-3: Extension phones to save your family time and steps,” an advertisement for Bell Telephone System from 1963 (found in National Geographic, Vol. 123, No. 5) depicts the kitchen and living room as gendered areas. The phone can be used in three areas, but here we are concerned with the first two: “In your kitchen, a space-saving wall phone makes living much easier for Mom. She can make and take calls while she keeps an eye on dinner cooking or children playing,” and “In the family room, where you all relax…” Interestingly, only mom is mentioned and pictured in the photo of the kitchen, whereas in the picture of the family room we see a dad and (presumably) his daughter relaxing. Even though the text specifically notes that the family room is a place where “you all relax,” mom is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps that is because dad is the “King of the Remote” and “CEO of This House,” whereas mom is in charge of dinner for the evening.

Clearly, there have been changes brought on by the women’s movement since the 1960s, but the domesticity of women along with the claim that men are  (and should be) CEOs of the home are stubborn and persistent stereotypes that remain in all forms of advertising even though these two examples are separated by five decades.

Picture one of the Christmas ornaments and picture two of “Living’s as easy as 1-2-3” were taken by Hennie Weiss and are shared under a creative commons license. You are free to share, copy and redistribute the work as long as attribution is given. You may not make commercial use of the work.

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