Gendered Spaces: House and Home

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Gendered Spaces: House and Home

This essay will analysing the effects of a Victorian household in relation to a widow Afrikaans household. This analysis will be done using gender roles inside the house and outside the house, as well as comparing the spaces with the sexual roles of the Victorian era. Through looking at the spaces and comparing them to a Victorian style. The Annalise will be of the doll house while comparing it to the Melrose house in Pretoria.

In the nineteenth century the private interior space of the middle class were increasingly defined as feminine zone, the opposite of the public world of work that was peopled by men. Within the domestic arena, rooms tended to be additional grouped to either side of a male-female divide, the most explicit contrast being between the ‘Masculine’ and the ’feminine’ (Kinchin 1996:2). The male domain grew to include the hall, library, business, billiard and smoking room. The women’s domain included the boudoir, music room, morning room and bedroom. These were perceived as coming under the feminine of influence (Kinchin 1996:2).

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As Chandler’s Phillips Marlow witness, the home as well as providing shelter is also an icon (Forty 1986:94). The appearance of its contents makes evident what is and what people are meant to do or not do (Forty 1986:94).The home therefore came to be regarded as a repository of the virtues that were lost or denied in the world outside. In the middle classes in the nineteenth century the home stood for feelings, for sincerity, honesty, truth and love (Forty 1986:101). Underlying all these standards, whether in the choice of furnishing style or in the artistic harmonies of colour scheme, came the basic requirement that the environment should kill all associations with work (Forty 1986:102). Elsie de Wolfed (Forty 1986:104) wrote: ‘’We take it for granted that every women is interested in houses that she either has a house in course of construction , or dreams of having one , or has had a house long enough to wish it right.’’

The psychological explanation of the identification of women with houses is not specific to modern society and could not be expected to apply in culture. However, the materials condition of modern society have made women’s association with the home especially strong (Forty 1986:104). Middle class women in the nineteenth century were effectively excluded from all forms of work, domestic or otherwise, with exceptions made for single women, who would work in a few occupations, this would be as governesses or nurses, the enforced idleness of married women was a reflection of the wealth and success of their husbands, rather than consuming leisure themselves, the men consumed it through their wives and daughters (Forty 1986:04). The more womanly a women is, the more she is sure to throw her personality over the home, from a mere eating and sleeping space or an upholsterer’s showroom, into a sort of outermost garment of her soul, harmonised with all her nature as her robe and the flower in her hair are harmonised with her bodily beauty, the arrangement of her rooms, the light and shade, warmth and coolness, sweet odours, and soft or rich colours are not like well-trained servants , they are the expression of the character of a women (Forty 1986:104).

(Coetzee 2015)

The owner of 38 Aristea Ave, Roberts estate calls her home her Little Doll House (Coetzee 2015). The owner is a 52 year old widow, which moved from her big family home to a smaller property after the death of her husband (Coetzee 2015). She was raised on a farm with a brother and a sister (Coetzee 2015). They were raised to provide for their spouses and honour the family, which is similar to a Victorian mentality. Forty (1986:103) states: ‘’One of the grandest points to be attended to, in making the home happy, is to make it attractive. The husband should do his best to render it comfortable and attractive to the wife, as she should to the husband and children.” She is the vice presented of the Mpumalanga women association (Coetzee 2015). The association does community work in their local community and surrounding area. She is a spokesperson for her local community and helps to improve the lives of other women (Coetzee 2015).

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After losing her husband she lost the masculinity in her entire household. All her sons have their own houses but there is one room allocated in the house for when her sons comes to visit (Coetzee 2015). It is the only room in the entire house that has a masculine feel to it (Coetzee 2015).After buying the property the owner set about renovating the house to her specification. It is easy to see why women felt compelled to pursue the ideal of individual personal expression in home furniture (Forty 1986:106). Being a single women she had the opportunity to design what she wanted. Light wood flooring is used throughout the entire house except the bathrooms, washing up area and laundry area. Light brown paint is used throughout the entire space. Lightness was one of the most appropriate word in description of the feminine domain, used both in a literal sense and to imply more abstract qualities analogous to wider cultural values (Kinchin 1996:23).

The open plan living space with the entrance goes against the Victorian ideal of separate spaces. She decided to demolish all the internal walls between the main living spaces, kitchen and dining room creating an open plan effect. Being a widow the owner had to make all the decisions in terms of finishes and décor, as seen in figure 4 the owner opened the entrance into the family room, in the nineteenth century the entrance and the drawing room would have been separate spaces in this house all the main rooms flow into each other

The kitchen with its white cupboards give a lightness to the space, while concealing everything behind cupboards. The sliding door as seen in figure 2, hides the ketal and cups. The stainless steel appliances are built-in and a brown creaser stone top is used as the work surface. In the nineteenth century the kitchen was separate from the main living area and was allocated for the cooks in higher classes of families. In this house the kitchen becomes the heart of the home, this is a space were a man and a women can easily come together, though this room has more of a functional design then an emotional design, making it more masculine. The kitchen also forms part of the main living spaces, making it easier for people to communicate within the different areas of the house.

The sun lounge as seen in figure 3 is decorated in a variety of furnishing different chairs are used in this space. All the furniture has a feminine element to it. Soft furnishing used to make to house more homely, the dark leather sofa can be seen as a masculine touch in the room and a contrast to the other furniture. The ornate carpet in the room brings all the elements together. A small desk is incorporated into the lounge bringing the formal study in the Victorian era that was allocated to the man. A day bed is placed opposite the table for the owner to rest on it during the day, in 1878 one critic described both bedroom and drawing room as ‘devoted to lighter and more feminine purposes (Kinchin 1996:23).

Passage

Bedroom

She also decided to break down the wall between the master bedroom and study, creating an open plan study and bedroom. She wanted a space where she could work and rest when she wants. The main bathroom was completely rearranged to suit her needs. She also divided the second bathroom into two smaller bathrooms creating an en-suit bathroom for every bedroom in the house.

In Conclusion the Doll house is a feminine house with a few masculine touches through it due to her sons. Over the last two centuries the home has changed considerably most obvious in its appearance, the most important change within the home has been the shift from its role as a source of moral happiness to one of physical happiness (Forty 1986:10). An article in the family friend in 1869 emphasised the moral value of beauty not only in the home but in the wife as well (Forty 1986:10). I feel that the owner is more feminine due to being brought up on a farm and in a way that a women had to be able to provide the right life style for her husband. The owner has only been able to express her femininity in the house after being widowed. Priorities for money changed after the sons moved out and the death of her husband, giving her more spending money for creating her personal space. This has allowed for a more decorated space over a functional space, making it a feminine space.

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References:

Cavallaro, D. 2001. Part II: Social Identities: Section 4 Gender and Sexuality. In Critical and Cultural Theory. London and New Brunswick: Athlone.

Coetzee, C. Owner of house. 2015. Interviewed by author. [Transcript]. 22 May 2015.

Forty, A. 1986. Chapter 5: The Home. In Objects of Desire: Desire and Society Since 1750. London & New York: Thames and Hudson.

Gordon B. 1996. `Women’s Domestic Body: The Conceptual Conflation of Women and Interiors in the Industrial Age’. Winterthur Portfolio. Vol. 31 No. 4 pp. 281-301.

Kinchin, J. 1996. Interiors: Nineteenth-Century Essays on the “Masculine” and the “Feminine” Room.” In Kirkham P. (Ed). The Gendered Object. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press.

Rothchild J & Rosner V. 1999. Feminism and Design: Review Essay. In Rothchild J, (ed). Design and feminism: Re-visioning spaces, places, and everyday things. New Briswick, New Jersey, and London: Rutgers University Press.