Gender Bias in Home Decor Items

24 Feb

I was recently browsing through Bed, Bath and Beyond with my mother this past weekend. She was attempting to refurnish our new house and we were wading through shower curtains and bathroom racks when I saw something that irritated me. I was thinking of buying a shoe rack/shelf for my apartment and I was staring at the pictures on the boxes. I looked closer and discovered that most of the shoes dominating that shelf … were heels. I looked at other boxes and discovered that women’s shoes dominated the pictures on the boxes.

Really? According to these boxes, women’s shoes dominate the household’s shoe rack and the majority of shoes women own are heels. I will admit that I do own three pairs of heels. However, I also own sneakers, sandals, and boots. Also, do men not wear shoes? Can they really function with only two pairs of shoes? I know that my dad owns a pair of dress shoes, sandals, sneakers, more hardy work boots, and snow boots. If he wasn’t too busy to go shopping, I know he’d have more pairs of shoes as well. The shoe racks/shelves themselves are rather small and not made for bigger shoes which is also ridiculous. They should consider all types of shoes rather than just small heels, sneakers, and sandals. It also probably plays a part in why women use these shelves more often than men. Men’s shoes cannot fit very well on them from what I’ve seen.

After this, I started paying more attention to the advertising around me. I never realized but shower curtains seem to have too many flowers and colors. Way too many flowers. The flowers also tend to be humongous. They are all… I suppose, most of them are very pretty. What kind of shower curtains do men buy then? Plain solid colors? Striped ones like this?

I doubt a guy would want to buy this:

Or this:

Not just guys. I wouldn’t buy that second one either. It looks more like a quilt. A very pretty quilt but still a quilt. And then there’s this:

Yeah… I don’t know about that one. Personally, I find it strange although I can’t speak for everyone.

Anyway, the point is that interior decorating seems to be a female hobby according to Bed, Bath and Beyond’s products. However, this is not true. I’m sure there are plenty of guys who know how to decorate their home tastefully and that there are plenty of male interior decorators. Much of what is sold in BB&B targets females as many products that I saw were very feminine. They cater towards simple tastes (like the striped shower curtain) and incredibly feminine tastes (flowers) but I haven’t seen anything that would be seen as incredibly masculine. Items like dishes also had things like flowers and butterflies but then there are plain dishes with simple borders. Are these the sort of things men would like? I cannot speak for men but I think they need more choice too rather than just seeing flowers everywhere. Not all women like huge flowers all over their dishes either. All in all, BB&B gave off the impression to  me that women do all the home decorating. False. Women are not the only ones shopping, thinking of ways to make their home more beautiful. Men do too. Bed, Bath and Beyond – please acknowledge everyone.

2 Responses to “Gender Bias in Home Decor Items”

  1. eszenyme 02/24/2012 at 8:44 am #

    i think there is a huge difference between something (like a shower curtain) appearing feminine and it being made for women. I think the last picture you posted seems to be produced for women (since there is a big picture of a woman on it), but, as for the flowers, I don’t think there is anything gendered about it. As a decorator, I think a lot of choosing items to decorate with depends on balance. For me, I like a balance of masculine and feminine elements in my decor. Too many flowers is just…too much, at least for me. But, even when I have decorated for a male, I have incorporated more “feminine” elements into my design plan. I don’t think there is a problem with decorating all feminine or masculine, but I think assuming that all of the floral shower curtains are only for women and striped ones are the “guy alternative” is part of the problem because it entrenches us in the gender stereotypes you are critiquing. I haven’t seen any literature on exactly which shower curtains were produced for female consumers and I’m not sure it exists. So, I think claims like this should probably be avoided. I see your point and I can definitely agree that there are feminine and masculine items within the decorating sphere, but I also think there are gender neutral items in decorating. There are also items that have feminine and masculine elements. One of the reasons why I turned to decorating as a hobby is because it helped me discover a lot about my identity. For me, decorating was a safe zone away from sexism because I didn’t pay attention to what advertisers try to sell or what the media says I should like. I look at decorating magazines or websites and pick out what I like. The entire reason why we decorate spaces is to show others and ourselves who we really think we are. Furthermore, our homes become safe havens from our outside lives where we may feel other pressures, like how to dress, how to act at work, etc. Because of this, I think decorating gives us a great opportunity to make our own rules, free from external pressure, and create our own identities as opposed to becoming consumers of them.

    • parklena 02/24/2012 at 10:55 am #

      Thanks for the comment! You do make some valid points. While I do agree that there are gender neutral things regarding decorating, the whole flowers for women thing I mention regards more how men are less likely to buy things with flowers because of how they fear others might see it, rather than because they don’t like flowers. The point I was trying to make was more that it’s harder to decorate the way we want to sometimes because of the judgments we fear others might make. I suppose I did not really get my point across (I was having a bit of a hard time with my post). Although I’m interested in what sort of things decorating magazines say (I rarely read those). Our home is indeed a place to show what kind of person we are but sometimes, for me personally, even when I like something, I avoid putting it up because I’m worried about what people might say when they walk into my home.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 335 other followers

%d bloggers like this: