February 13, 2019
A Marie Kondo-wannabe says not to threaten men with your book collection, ladies
by Stephanie DeLuca
It’s almost Valentine’s Day, a day to give your loved ones an extra kiss and eat some chocolate. But it’s also an excuse to reinforce outdated stereotypes and publish articles offering advice to women on how to “get a man”—like this one, from Liz Hoggard at the Daily Mail, literally titled “How to Avoid Turning Your Home into a Manrepeller.”
Hoggard writes a first-person account of her interaction with “interior therapist” Suzanne Roynon, a knock-off version of Marie Kondo, whose intention in helping Hoggard declutter her apartment was to make it more palatable for men. Roynon is quoted in the article saying: “When I’ve finished fine-tuning things, there will be room for a man to be here with you.”
And while there is no shortage of questionable advice from Roynon in this essay—the decorative imagery of strong women gives off the vibe that you’re (gasp) comfortable being single; the spikes of a cactus are unwelcoming—we’re going to focus on Roynon’s advice about books for a minute.
There was quite the uproar over what was thought to be Kondo’s attitude towards books, but Konda only wants you to get rid of the ones that don’t spark joy for yourself. Roynon wants you to get rid of the ones that don’t spark joy for the men who happen to be invited into your apartment. She suggests Hoggard dispose of books that have “depressing titles,” citing Little Deaths or The Suspects. Marie Le Conte writes in a rebuttal published in the Guardian:
This presumably means that sad or brutal novels with deceptively cheerful titles are AOK. Jonathan Littell’s Holocaust fiction bestseller might have a scene where a soldier bashes the head of a newborn child against a kitchen counter, but it is called The Kindly Ones so on the happy shelf it goes.
And if a man happens to be invited into your bedroom? Hoggard wants you to have removed all evidence that you even read at all. “The bedroom isn’t a good place for books. Bedrooms should be about sleep and love … We need to make this room a boudoir to welcome a man into. A space where he feels comfortable and confident. And not squashed out by anything else.” Hear that, ladies? Don’t let him know you can read or write, lest he feels threatened by your brain. Instead, put his needs before yours and make sure that your personal space is designed to best please him.
This is the type of toxic advice designed to perpetuate the idea that we women need to change ourselves to attract men, and that attracting men is the ultimate goal of life. Hoggard even admits: “The funny thing is I was actually feeling quite proud of my flat.” This isn’t just a room of your own, Hoggard, it’s an entire apartment of your own; make it appeal to you.
Stephanie DeLuca is the director of publicity at Melville House.