Going to “the manly place to be”

To get ready for Galleon Trade: Ship Launch, I went shopping for Kleen Sweep, a moss-like powder that’s great for trapping harmful dusts on the ground. It’s really useful after sanding gallery walls. So I headed to the hardware store nicknamed “the manly place to be” in an old rock ditty.

In the past, I’ve heard arguments that men should have “man spaces.” I believe that men and women would greatly benefit if men had reflective, discursive spaces to consider manhood and the role of men in struggles for equality. Unfortunately, most contemporary male-centric spaces–in my experience, fight- and motor-sports arenas–function as spaces for exhibiting the stereotypical male qualities that A.O. Scott brilliantly contextualized within a culture of consumption and sexual entitlement.

Usually, I’m pretty fond of hardware stores—bigger quantities, competitive prices, more open-ended materials. They’re like interesting cousins from out of town to the sibling art stores, whose idiosyncracies are too familiar to excuse.

But sometimes I’ll be reminded of hardware stores’ gendered context. (There’s no better place to witness the different treatment you get in a skirt instead of jeans than my neighborhood Ace.)

My Kleen Sweep quest wasn’t going well, so I asked a gentlemanly sales associate for assistance. Perfectly politely, he pointed me towards the broom aisle. I scanned the products — no Kleen Sweep. I went back for more help, and the guy ‘fessed up: he knew what Kleen Sweep was, he just assumed I meant Swiffers…. As in the TV ad with a housewife cleaning and rocking out to the debased Devo tune, “Swiff it up.”

Interestingly, more female employees and a housewares section does not correlate to a more female-friendly experience. My new favorite hardware store, a builder’s supplier where the parking lot is filled with pick-up trucks, has the best service and products (like Kleen Sweep) in stock.


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