“A superstore can be a terrifying place,” says an Australian news reporter. Which is why the Swedish superstore IKEA has created a calming respite for the more easily frightened sex: Månland, a grown-up male’s playground inspired by Småland, IKEA’s popular kiddie drop-off haven. In Månland, virus-encrusted plastic balls are replaced by big screen TVs showing sporting events, and bossy, young female employees are replaced by subservient, young female employees delivering snacks. There are also video games for those who need to get out a little physical energy between lolls on the couch.
The concept is special for Father’s Day (Australian), and seems to be meant as sort of a joke. But as Irin Carmon points out at Jezebel, there are a few issues with this kind of humor.
“The problem with the men-as-children meme is that it’s self-fulfilling, particularly in conjunction with the idea that men are no good at household tasks and only women can do stuff like laundry. Some men may prefer playing video games to buying a couch or cleaning the kitchen, but women probably would rather do a lot of other things too.”
I’ll say. Why should women be expected to actually enjoy the five-hour marathon of physical labor, emotional drain, and promise-dashed-upon-the-rocks that is IKEA shopping?
Because we live in a world of gender stereotypes, in which women are thought to gain pleasure from acquisition and decoration, while men are thought to gain pleasure from…sitting on their asses and being fed snacks by women they’re not married to. Oh, and lest you think this might be actually empowering to women, assuming they have the financial and physical wherewithal to buy the family furnishings, the Australian news reassures wives that their husbands “will be returned in time to pay and push the trolley.”
Though I do tend to be the person who gets us out the door to IKEA, I’m also the one who’s most wrecked by the experience. I can’t remember a time I went there without feeling like I needed to follow up the visit with a stiff drink, a bubble bath, a good cry, or all three at once. Which is why I prefer a different solution to the toll a trip to IKEA can take on a relationship. My Swedish friend told me that back at home, IKEA provides free marriage counseling to customers.
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