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Australian Geographer
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Masculinity and the Home: a critical


review and conceptual framework
a
Andrew Gorman-Murray
a
University of Wollongong , Australia
Published online: 27 Aug 2008.

To cite this article: Andrew Gorman-Murray (2008) Masculinity and the Home: a critical review and
conceptual framework, Australian Geographer, 39:3, 367-379, DOI: 10.1080/00049180802270556

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Australian Geographer, Vol. 39, No. 3,
pp. 367379, September 2008

Masculinity and the Home: a critical review


and conceptual framework

ANDREW GORMAN-MURRAY, University of Wollongong, Australia


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ABSTRACT There is growing interest in home and domesticity across geography and
related disciplines. A key consideration of this work is the relationship between home,
domesticity, and various identity categories, including gender, race, class, age, disability
and sexuality. What is little developed, however, is knowledge of the shifting relation-
ship(s) between masculinity and the home. In this paper, I critically review a small body
of multi-disciplinary research on the intersections of masculinity and domesticity, offering
some conceptual pointers for understanding and making further inquiries into the
complex relationships between masculinity and the home. I argue that masculinity and
domesticity are interrelational and co-constitutive. On this foundation I review literature
on masculinity and the home across three interrelationships: hetero-masculine, bachelor
and gay domesticities. This theoretically informed critical review thus provides conceptual
insights both into the spatiality of masculine identity work and shifting meanings of
home.

KEY WORDS Masculinity; home; domesticity; identity; heterosexual men; bachelors;


gay men.

Introduction
There is growing interest in home and domesticity across geography and related
disciplines (Mallett 2004; Blunt 2005; Blunt & Dowling 2006). A key consideration
cutting across this work is the relationship between home, domesticity, and various
identity categories, including gender, race, ethnicity, class, age, disability and
sexuality (Blunt & Dowling 2006). What is little developed, however, is knowledge
of the shifting relationship(s) between masculinity and domesticity: as Blunt and
Dowling (2006, p. 112) point out, ‘there is a paucity of research on masculinity and
home’. Nevertheless, a survey across a range of disciplines*geography, history,
sociology, anthropology, and literature, media and cultural studies*elicits a small
but informative body of research on the intersections of home, domesticity and
masculinity in Western societies across the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first
centuries.
In this paper, I critically review this multi-disciplinary research, simultaneously
generating some conceptual pointers for understanding and making further
inquiries into the complex relationships between masculinity and the home. In

ISSN 0004-9182 print/ISSN 1465-3311 online/08/030367-13 # 2008 Geographical Society of New South Wales Inc.
DOI: 10.1080/00049180802270556
368 A. Gorman-Murray

doing so, I focus on the house-as-home, perhaps the key scale of domestic
imaginaries in contemporary society. I begin by conceptualising the mutuality
between domesticity and masculinity, where meanings of home and men’s
identities are co-constitutive and interrelational. I define two key terms*masculine
domesticities and domestic masculinities*to provide a foundation for my critical
review. I then turn to a review of literature on masculinity and the home, arranged
to highlight three prominent interrelationships: hetero-masculine, bachelor and gay
domesticities. This theoretically informed critical review thus provides conceptual
insights both into the spatiality of masculine identity work and shifting meanings of
home.

Conceptualising masculine domesticities and domestic masculinities


Academic analysts and wider society now appreciate that masculinity is a fluid,
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diverse and contested set of identities. This contention has been advanced by
critical men’s studies, inspired by feminist theories that deconstruct essentialist
understandings of gender and sexuality. Connell (2005), Mac an Ghaill (1996) and
Segal (2006) have been prominent, interrogating how masculinities are culturally
constructed in relation to femininities and other social identities (class, race,
sexuality) rather than given a priori. Simultaneously, they have scrutinised how
gendered power relations create relational hierarchies among men as well as
between men and women. There is no homogeneous, universal masculinity, ‘but
rather a wider range of masculine identities that are hierarchically structured
around hegemonic understandings’ (van Hoven & Horschelmann 2005, p. 8).
While varying with geographical and historical contingencies, hegemonic mascu-
linity is the ideal style of masculine identity which legitimises patriarchal relations
between men and women. At the same time, hegemonic masculinity defines a range
of subordinate and marginalised masculine identities. Nevertheless, possibilities are
created for diverse performances of masculinity that challenge hegemonic under-
standings of ‘what it means to be a man’.
Geographers have added to critical men’s studies by demonstrating that the
construction of gendered identities and power relations is spatialised (Duncan
1996; McDowell 1999)*most prominently through the binary of so-called public
and private spaces, where women are normatively identified with domestic and
suburban environments, and men with the world of paid work. In this context,
masculine identity performances are often defined in relation to their working
environments (Smith & Winchester 1998). Indeed, McDowell has noted that ‘the
very definition of hegemonic masculinity in industrial capitalist societies is bound
up with labour market participation’ (2005, p. 19). But she also indicates that ‘the
construction of masculinities occurs in a range of institutions and spaces from
the family to the school, on the football field and its terraces, as well as in the
workplace’ (2005, p. 20).
Home, then, is also a key site for masculine identity work. In terms of hegemonic
masculinity, men’s identity at home is ‘breadwinner’ and ‘master of the house’ in a
normative heterosexual nuclear family household (Chapman 2004). But as Smith
and Winchester (1998) suggest in their Australian study of alternative masculinities
at the work/home boundary, home also generates opportunities to contest
hegemonic masculinity. Exploring men’s changing cultural practices at work and
home, they found that while the constraints of paid employment enforced ‘austere’
Masculinity and the Home 369

hegemonic models of masculinity, the private space of the home enabled men to
negotiate alternative masculinities, where they could be expressive, emotive and
engage in domestic labour and child care. Likewise, in her study of gender,
domestic objects and everyday life in England and Spain, Pink (2004, p. 118)
argues that through men’s increasing engagements with domesticity, ‘new domestic
masculinities depart from’ the ‘traditional masculinity of the housewife’s husband’.
She also points to the diversity of these ‘new domestic masculinities’ enacted in the
home: ‘Different masculinities are constructed, lived and represented uniquely in
relation to the structural, spatial, material, visual, sensory and social elements of
men’s homes’ (Pink 2004, p. 119).
While the home enables ‘new’, diverse styles of masculinity, these changing
domestic masculinities equally contest normative imaginaries of home. For
instance, Pink (2004, p. 135) argues that her male informants’ ‘home creativity
challenged traditional and gendered uses of space and artefacts’. Such conten-
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tions respond to a strong theme within work on home and domesticity which
emphasises the links between home and identity-construction (Wise 2000; Blunt
2003; Noble 2004; Blunt & Dowling 2006). This literature demonstrates that
neither home nor identity are fixed, but mutually and ongoingly co-constituted.
Homemaking*the ongoing work of making a house into a home*is the process
by which changing, cumulative identities are reflected in and supported by the
home (Blunt & Dowling 2006). Specifically, cumulative identities are progres-
sively embedded in the home through daily practices and routines (Wise 2000)
and the accumulation and arrangement of personally meaningful objects (Noble
2004). As one ‘makes home’, one accumulates a sense of self. Simultaneously, the
material results of identity-affirming homemaking activities can contest normative
discourses of home.
Two powerful associations inform dominant domestic imaginaries: femininity
and family. At various levels, home is imagined as a feminine site; Domosh and
Seager (2001, p. 2) contend that ‘women’s identities and women’s interests are
bound up with the idea of, and the literal form of, the home’. Domestic
imaginaries naturalise household labour as the ‘care’ work of wives and mothers,
characterised as ‘domestic angels’ (McDowell 1999). Against the husband as
breadwinner, the wife is positioned as ‘homemaker’ (Chapman 2004). Relatedly,
home and family*meaning the heterosexual nuclear family*are widely synon-
ymous. The ‘dominant or ideal version’ of home presented in the media, popular
culture and public policy ‘typically portrays belonging and intimacy amongst
members of a heterosexual nuclear family’ (Blunt & Dowling 2006, pp. 1001).
As Valentine (1993, p. 399) argues, ‘the ideology of home . . . derives much of its
meaning from this identification with the asymmetrical family’. But through the
subsequent review I outline how a consideration of different men’s homemaking
practices contests and subverts the dominant associations of home with femininity
and/or family.
This discussion asserts mutuality between domesticity and masculinity, where
meanings of home and men’s identities are co-constitutive and interrelational. To
highlight this conceptualisation I explicate two terms: masculine domesticities and
domestic masculinities. By domestic masculinities, I mean the way both ideals of
home and changing homemaking practices have (re)figured masculine identities.
By masculine domesticities, I refer to how men’s changing engagements with
domesticity can refashion dominant discourses of home, providing insight into the
370 A. Gorman-Murray

diverse, fluid gendered and sexualised meanings of home. Together, these two
terms provide a foundation for my critical review: I argue that different interactions
between men and their homes produce different masculine identities and domestic
environments. I have identified three prominent interrelationships across the
literature: hetero-masculine, bachelor and gay domesticities. In the following, I
tease out the configurations of masculine domesticities and domestic masculinities
across and within these interrelationships.

Hetero-masculine domesticity
Hetero-masculine domesticity refers to performances of heterosexual masculinity
at home, comprising diverse relationships, some more ‘traditional’, others
producing new masculinities and domestic imaginaries. Above, I explicated the
relationship between hegemonic masculinity and home*breadwinning. In this
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context, men are viewed as largely absent from home (Chapman 2004), but
expect to be waited on and cared for while at home (McDowell 1999). In this
normative relationship, ‘a man’s home is his castle’, a respite from the world of
work. Feminist scholars decry this as problematic as it fails to acknowledge the
unremunerated labour performed by women as wives and mothers (McDowell
1999; Domosh & Seager 2001). While these objections are clearly valid, pointing
to an inequitable gendered division of labour, they also fail to adequately engage
with the nuances underlying the notion of a man’s home as his castle, or to tease
out variations in this context. Moreover, they reinforce dominant associations
between home and femininity.
Against this background, Tosh (1996, 1999, 2005) has examined the contours of
middle-class men’s relationships to their homes in nineteenth-century Victorian
England, providing one of the most sustained scholarly engagements with
masculinity and domesticity. He argues that while the ‘nineteenth-century cult of
the home is commonly associated with women . . . and children’ (Tosh 1999, p. 5),
‘the triumph of domesticity in Victorian middle-class life answered primarily to the
needs of men, in response to the gathering pace of urbanisation and industrialisa-
tion’ (Tosh 1996, p. 10). He thus agrees with feminist scholars that ‘the root of the
new evaluation of domesticity was the separation of home from work’ (Tosh 1996,
p. 10), but also argues that the home was central to masculine identity during this
period, in a deeper manner than evoked through the ethos of ‘breadwinning’. Three
particular themes that run through his work challenge both the evocation of
domestic masculinity as simply breadwinning and domesticity as a solely feminine
endeavour.
First, he contests the oppressive domestic imaginary of hegemonic masculinity by
asserting that ‘companionate marriage stood at the heart of the Victorian ideal of
domesticity’ (Tosh 1999, p. 27). This philosophy insisted that just as a wife attends
to her husband at home, a man was to be equally attentive to his wife’s needs.
Second, affirming the synonymity of home and family, but rendering this a
masculine pursuit, Tosh (1999, 2005) emphasises the importance of fatherhood to
domestic masculinity. Fathers were expected to nurture their children’s emotional
and social needs (Nelson 2003). Finally, this attention to wife and children was
bound up in a period of religious revival, reinforced through men’s domestic
practices: men were expected to lead their families on a spiritual path at home,
through family prayers and Bible study. This had individual rewards as well: ‘what
Masculinity and the Home 371

bound men to the home’ was ‘the conviction that home was the proper place to
cultivate one’s spiritual well-being’ (Tosh 2005, p. 161), while the ‘restorative
power of the family circle’ provided a moral compass for the working man (Tosh
1999, p. 33).
While the Victorian era of domestic masculinity is past, Tosh (1996, p. 14) insists
there are ‘striking signs of continuity’, particularly ‘the phenomenon of the New
Man whose loyalties and energies are centred on the home’. Since the 1990s, the
‘New Man’ has received considerable attention in popular and academic writing
(Singleton & Maher 2004). The New Man has emerged in the liminal space of the
work/home boundary as a result of Western women’s greater workforce participa-
tion since the 1960s. He is particularly associated with Generation X men (born
196579) who ‘have only ever known a society characterized by women’s greater
involvement in the workforce . . . and the reality of the feminist movement’
(Singleton & Maher 2004, p. 228). As an ideal partner for the ‘New (Working)
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Woman’, the New Man is intimately involved in the domestic sphere, doing his fair
share of housework*parenting, cooking and cleaning. The New Man is, thus, a
new model of hetero-masculinity moulded through perceived greater participation
in domestic activities and labour. As a result of his domestic masculinity, the home
is also expected to be de-feminised, and housework de-gendered.
Such images abound in popular culture. One of the most notable is Jamie
Oliver, made famous through a series of cookery and lifestyle programs, including
The Naked Chef, Oliver’s Twist, Jamie’s School Dinners and Jamie at Home.1
Moseley (2001, in Brunsdon et al. 2001) and Hollows (2003) have outlined how
Jamie’s programs exemplify the New Man, permeated with a concern for family
values: he takes care of children, cooks for family and friends, and wants to
ensure school children have healthy meals. But these analysts also point to
tensions in his New Man image. They argue that to construct cooking as a
‘recognizably manly’ domestic activity, Jamie’s performance also draws on the
figure of the ‘New Lad’*an exemplar of the backlash against feminism and the
New Man in 1990s British culture. This is shown through his use of everyday
‘street’ language to describe cooking, his fusion of cooking with the New Lad
lifestyle centred on drinking and sport, and his easy mobility between the
domestic kitchen and metropolitan public spaces. Through such elements, Jamie,
like the New Lad, ‘occupies the domestic but is not contained, or defined, by it’
(Hollows 2003, p. 242).2
Similar tensions exist in ethnographic studies of the New Man. Some researchers
have found that despite the rhetoric of the New Man, women remain responsible
for the bulk of domestic labour in most cohabiting heterosexual relationships
(McMahon 1999; Pilcher 2000; Baxter 2002). Moreover, differences remain in the
meaning and value of domestic labour for New Men and their female partners. For
instance, Singleton and Maher’s (2004, pp. 2301) Australian-based study of
middle-class, Generation X, cohabiting partnerships found that ‘Gen X women . . .
were ‘‘domestic managers’’ (i.e. task initiator, standard setter, ultimately respon-
sible) and Gen X men ‘‘compliant helpers’’’. While these men approved ‘feminist
discourses of equity’ (p. 229) and were prepared to engage in domestic labour, like
the New Lad, most tended to prioritise work, sport and lifestyle over housework.
Yet Singleton and Maher found one area of significant change: parenting. The
fathers in the study valued spending time with their children and prioritised
parenting over other activities. Against the distant-father-as-breadwinner, ‘New
372 A. Gorman-Murray

Dads’ were engaged in child-rearing at home and emotionally involved with their
children.
Despite tensions and contradictions, these various studies demonstrate that since
the nineteenth century the home has been a keen site of masculine investment and
identity work across Western societies. These activities have helped to shape
domestic masculinities*the ‘nurturing’ Victorian father and companionate hus-
band, the New Man and the New Dad. Simultaneously, they have challenged the
home as a site of femininity only, creating masculine models of domesticity related
to spiritual and moral well-being, shared domestic labour and fathering. But more
must be done. One area still to be unsettled is interior design, which remains
problematically bound to discourses of femininity (Osgerby 2005). Yet recent press
articles suggest that a man’s investment in design and décor provides material
support for his own identity and well-being within a cohabiting heterosexual
relationship (Minor 2005; Jellie 2005). Such contentions need scholarly scrutiny,
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and would richly augment our understanding of new configurations of hetero-


masculine domesticity.

Bachelor domesticity
The ‘bachelor’*a man living alone*is one of the most evocative figures of
domestic masculinity, his very identity defined in relation to his housing and
homemaking practices (Snyder 1999). The bachelor subverts both normative
domestic imaginaries and hegemonic models of domestic masculinity. As Snyder
(1999, p. 19) argues in her study of bachelors in nineteenth-century novels,
‘[b]achelors were thought to be the antithesis of domesticity’ to the extent that
bourgeois domestic ideology was defined by companionate marriage and familial
intimacy within a single-family dwelling. The single man living alone refused not
only such normative domestic imaginaries but also hegemonic models of domestic
masculinity based on marriage, fatherhood and spiritual leadership of a family. At a
time when adult masculinity was defined by responsibility for others, self-sacrifice
and intimacy, the bachelor was seen as immature, over-worldly, decadent, and
worst of all, selfish (Snyder 1999).
But Snyder (1999, p. 35) notes that, paradoxically, ‘bachelors were sometimes
imagined as exemplars of domestic life’. Contesting dominant domestic ideology,
some saw the bachelor’s selfish resources as the very means for creating a refined,
comfortable home. As Oliver Bunce’s 1881 Bachelor bluff asserts:
. . . refined and perfect domestic comfort is understood by men only. . . .
Women are not personally selfish enough to be fastidious in these
things. . . . They are neat because they constitutionally hate dust, not
because neatness is important to their own selfish comfort. (pp. 1920, in
Snyder 1999, p. 41)
Despite its problematic gendered essentialism, this passage exemplifies a counter-
discourse which affirmed the virtue of bachelor domesticity and insisted that
domestic refinement was a particularly masculine trait. Bachelors, unencumbered
by wife and children, were free to enact these masculine refinements in their homes.
Domestic selfhood thus brought rewards for the bachelor: arranging accoutrements
provided a material, aesthetic framework for emotional and personal well-being.
Masculinity and the Home 373

These notions are further developed in literature on archetypal bachelor


apartments in American magazines and films of the 1950s/1960s (Cohan 1996;
Osgerby 2005). For instance, in 1956 an unidentified designer created a model
bachelor apartment for Playboy magazine; their description reflects the bachelor
ethos of domestic selfhood:
A man’s home is not only his castle, it is or should be the outward
reflection of his inner self*a comfortable, liveable, and yet exciting
expression of the person he is and the life he leads. But the overwhelming
percentage of homes are furnished by women. What of the bachelor and
his need for a place to call his own? Here’s the answer, Playboy’s penthouse
apartment, home for a sophisticated man of parts, a fit setting for his full
life. Here a man, perhaps like you, can live in masculine elegance. (Playboy
1996 [1956], p. 63)
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Countering the work on hetero-masculine domesticity, ‘masculine elegance’ in


these bachelor apartments was reflected in material terms through layout, designer
furniture and technological advances*an ultrasonic dishwasher, induction hot-
plates, binaural hi-fidelity stereos, and switches in the lounge and the bed for
controlling music and lights. As Osgerby (2005, p. 100) thus argues, ‘the bachelor
pad was the spatial manifestation of a consuming masculine subject’, anchoring a
bachelor ‘ideal’ of stylistic expression and commodity consumption. Indeed, such
modern designs and technologies were integral to the imagined performance of
bachelor masculinity, accessorising virility, ensuring control and comfort, and
assisting the seduction of women (Cohan 1996).
The 1950s/1960s was also a period in which the suburban nuclear family
household was normalised in public policy and social norms across Western
societies. As such, the goal of mid-century model bachelor apartments, like
Playboy’s, was to provide a viable alternative to the suburban single-family home
for those men who resisted a path of hegemonic masculinity (Cohan 1996;
Osgerby 2005). This philosophy is echoed in Pink’s (2004) work on modern
bachelors in England and Spain. Many bachelor interviewees linked their
housework and home creativity to narratives of self-identity. In doing so, they
sustained the nineteenth-century bachelor ethos of domestic selfhood*home as a
site of self-expression unencumbered by familial obligation. Moreover, some
stressed that the materiality and use of their homes challenged conventional
family homes, expressing different priorities and values. Here, bachelor domes-
ticity subverts dominant domestic ideologies of femininity and family; home
becomes a space which affirms and supports men living alone. Similarly, in his
1999 ‘House for a bachelor’, Sanders argues that ‘the surfaces that clothe the
building*glass, wood panelling, mirror, television screens, and Astroturf, etc.*
work like clothing that wraps the body, helping the bachelor to fabricate identity’
(p. 100). Such contentions are important, demanding greater attention. Single-
occupancy is notably rising among young men (Clark 2003; Baker 2006), but
little research has focused on contemporary bachelors and how they sustain a
sense of well-being through domestic practices.
There is another domestic arrangement that also qualifies as a form of bachelor
domesticity*all-male share-houses, where groups of two or more men cohabit.
Such bachelor share-housing is portrayed in television programs like The Odd
Couple, Friends, Last Man Standing and My Name is Earl, and practices of share-
374 A. Gorman-Murray

house living are receiving attention from researchers (Natalier 2003; McNamara &
Connell 2007). These widespread images are significant, revealing an alternative
set of bachelor domesticities and attendant identities which diverge from single-
occupancy generally and the ‘playboy’ model specifically. This elicits another
research avenue, calling attention to the need to unpack the notion of a singular
bachelor ‘lifestyle’ defined by living alone and stylistic consumption. How do men
‘share’ and ‘divide’ living spaces and domestic activities, and what does this reveal
about changing masculine identities and practices? Simultaneously, bachelor share-
houses subvert the normative imbrication of home, femininity and family, offering
alternative performances of domesticity underpinned by ‘male-bonding’ and
intimate friendship (McNamara & Connell 2007). Further analysis of bachelor
share-housing could thus provide rich detail on shifting meanings of home.
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Gay domesticity
Gay domesticity also subverts normative links between home, femininity and the
heterosexual nuclear family. Connell (2005) and Segal (2006) describe gay men as
the most subordinate and marginalised group in the hierarchies of masculinities.
Gay men are also more closely associated with domesticity in cultural discourses
than more privileged styles of masculinity. This is not surprising: to maintain the
dominant status of hegemonic masculinity in a patriarchal social order, subordinate
styles of masculinity ‘are almost always characterised as more feminine’ (van Hoven
& Horschelman 2005, p. 8). For gay men, this means being caricatured as
effeminate in manner and interests*including the assumption of keen attention to
normatively feminine pursuits like domestic styling. Sanders (2002) contends that
post-war Hollywood movies, for example, featured an array of effeminate gay
interior decorators, widely disseminating this cliché. He also argues that the
affected performance of the gay interior decorator was often juxtaposed to the
‘macho’ heterosexual male architect, drawing a direct comparison which affirms
hegemonic masculinity as a productive force for progress, while gay masculinity is
confined to home, rendered ineffectual and frivolous.
But recently gay domesticity has become a celebrated phenomenon. This is
evident in the visibility of gay men on lifestyle television across anglophonic
countries, particularly programs concerned with homemaking. Attwood (2005,
p. 92) contends that home makeover shows ‘favour the depiction of gay or camp
men, both as designers and contestants’. This is perhaps epitomised by Queer Eye
for the Straight Guy. The premise renders gay men ‘natural’ domestic experts with
inherent flair for tasteful domestic styling. Some analysts are concerned that this
problematically replicates the conflation of gay masculinity with femininity (Meyer
& Kelley 2004; Ramsey & Santiago 2004), but Pearson and Reich (2004, p. 230;
also Hart 2004) suggest that Queer Eye’s gay homemaking challenges hetero-
normative domesticity: in renovating straight men’s homes, the Fab 5 ‘rework
everyday objects and practices through a queer sensibility, . . . enact[ing] counter-
hegemonic tactics. By queering mundane objects, the Fab 5 redistribute space,
thereby creating ‘‘play’’ within the hetero-order.’ I have extended this contention,
analysing how the presence and homemaking practices of gay male couples on
Australian ‘reality renovation’ shows queers the heterosexual family-based ideology
of home (Gorman-Murray 2006a).
Masculinity and the Home 375

Moreover, the notion of the domestically inclined gay man has some basis in
material processes in the ‘real’ world. Several analysts have drawn attention to the
role of gay men in processes of inner-city gentrification in the anglophonic West
since the 1980s (Bouthillette 1994; Knopp 1998; Collins 2004). Gay men are
perceived as key agents in these processes by the wider public as well, and while
gentrification is properly concerned with housing regeneration rather than
domestic lifestyle, this widespread association of gay men with the ‘trendy’
renovation and aesthetic revitalisation of inner-city housing contributes to popular
wisdom that gay men are houseproud and domestically stylish (Gorman-Murray
2006a). This is explicit in a recent interview with an inner-city real estate agent
featured in Domain, one of Sydney’s leading real estate publications: ‘Poh Ling Ee,
of LJ Hooker Newtown, says gay residents can pave the way for gentrification.
‘‘Everyone loves where the gays go because the prices go up. They’re very
houseproud and they do the place up’’’ (Nicholls 2005, p. 2).
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Against the background of mainstream interest in gay domesticity, my work has


sought to understand why home is important to gay men (Gorman-Murray
2006a,b,c, 2007a,b, 2008a,b; Waitt & Gorman-Murray 2007). Drawing on
archival and ethnographic research, I have argued that gay men have a deep
investment in their homes which is distinct from the popular images of the
interior designer or trendy gentrifier. Examining the domestic lives of gay men
across inner-city, suburban and regional areas, I have found that in a society
which continues to marginalise sexual difference, gay men’s homes are key sites
for constituting and affirming non-heterosexual identities, relationships and
communities. Most public spaces are heterosexed, where performances of
homosexuality are unwelcome and often met with hostile reactions. Statistics
show that gay men are more likely to be assaulted in public than straight men
(GLRL 2004). Consequently, gay men often modify their behaviour in public
(Kirby & Hay 1997). In this context, the relative safety of the home becomes
crucial for the unhindered performance and affirmation of gay masculinity.3
I have also explored how gay homemaking challenges conventional domestic
discourses. I have argued that fashioning domestic environments that affirm gay
masculinity subverts the dominant heterosexual family-based ideology of home
(Gorman-Murray 2006a,b, 2007a,b, 2008a). The result is a ‘queering’ of home*
the creation of homes which normalise gay sexuality as a legitimate, valuable
dimension of personal identity and wider society. For instance, the affirmative
home becomes the only place where many gay men can reconcile their sexuality
with other facets of their identity which may otherwise be antithetical to
homosexuality, like ethnic-cultural heritage, familial connections and spiritual
beliefs (Gorman-Murray 2007a,b, 2008a,b). For others, the family-based ideology
of the home is reconfigured, and its heteronormativity displaced, through using
their domestic environments to create same-sex relationships and families, or for
sustaining wider gay/lesbian friendship networks (Gorman-Murray 2006a,b,
2007a,b). Moreover, gay men’s homemaking practices counter the link between
femininity and domesticity. Some of my respondents insisted*opposing the
stereotyped effeminate gay interior designer*that their homes were products of
masculine tastes unmitigated by femininity. For example: ‘There are no real
markers of femininity that are present in most heterosexual homes, like laceworks,
pinks, that kind of thing’ (David, 40s/Newcastle).
376 A. Gorman-Murray

More work remains to be done; there are significant gaps in our understanding of
gay domesticity. One of the most urgent is the domestic needs of older gay men. It
is now 3040 years since the ‘gay liberation’ era of the 1970s, and for the first time
there are increasing numbers of ‘out’ gay men entering older age cohorts. Access to
home-care and/or nursing homes sensitive to sexual difference is a growing concern
for older gay men (Domingo 2007), and demands greater attention from social
researchers (Waitt & Gorman-Murray 2007). Another important avenue of inquiry
is gay men’s parenting practices (Mallon 2004). What are the implications of
paternity for domestic performances of gay masculinity? How might gay fathers
reconcile their sexual and paternal identities at home? These and other questions
remain to be thoroughly explored.

Conclusion
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In reviewing multi-disciplinary work on masculinity and domesticity, I have usefully


conceptualised men’s relationships with their homes as co-constitutive. The terms
masculine domesticities and domestic masculinities capture this co-creativity. The
notion of domestic masculinities draws attention to how men’s identities are made
through domestic ideals and homemaking practices, while masculine domesticities
indicates how men’s homemaking practices can simultaneously refashion dominant
discourses of home. On this foundation I critically reviewed literature on
masculinity and the home, exploring these interweaving concepts across three
interrelationships*hetero-masculine, bachelor and gay domesticities. I teased out
the complexity within these co-constituted interrelationships, and pointed to areas
of further work. In the process, this theoretically informed, critical review extends
our grasp of the spatiality of masculine identity work and augments insight into
diverse and fluid gendered and sexualised meanings of home. Future work may
benefit from Valentine’s (2007) discussion of intersectionality, which argues that
varying dimensions of multifaceted identities come to the fore in different spaces.
This approach demands paying heed to how all relationships between masculinity
and domesticity are inflected by fluid combinations of gender, sexuality, class,
ethnicity, parental status, etc., producing ever more subtle contours of domestic
masculinities and masculine domesticities.

Acknowledgements
Thanks are due to the referees and Lynda Johnston for positive, constructive
feedback.

Correspondence: Andrew Gorman-Murray, School of Earth and Environmental


Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia. E-mail:
andrewgm@uow.edu.au

NOTES
[1] The domestic and ‘semi-domestic’ locations of these programs vary*apartment,
house, garden, school dining rooms. The presentation of Jamie’s masculinity also differs
Masculinity and the Home 377

between these locations, further demonstrating the co-constitutive nature of masculi-


nity and domesticity.
[2] Further tensions arise with Jamie’s work/home balance: his long working hours are
stressed, with the implication that his wife performs most domestic labour.
[3] While homes can also be hetero-regulated, for many they remain vastly safer than
public spaces.

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