It's a well-known trope in many a sitcom that "crazy" suburban wives have to drag their poor, worn-out husbands along to go shopping with them. Which is why these Chinese "man pods" at shopping malls shouldn't be so unexpected. But they are totally weird, and in so many ways, kind of sexist.
The pods were launched at the Global Harbor Mall in Shanghai earlier this summer. So far, over 1,000 men have used them, according to creators Ruwo Smart Technology. Romper's request for comment from the mall was not immediately returned.
The pods are enclosed spaces with reclining chairs and a huge screen for men to play video games while their female partners shop. "I think this idea is pretty good because nowadays many boys like me are not willing to go shopping with their girlfriends," Yao Lei, a 26-year old man in one of the pods told The New York Times.
According to one of the pod operators, Zhao Wei, they're totally necessary. He said:
We found in most malls men and women go shopping together but men cannot accept spending a long time shopping. Sometimes they'll even start having arguments. So we think in this situation, we can have a product that gives a man something to do and the girls can go shopping at ease.
And that's where things get a little weird.
If everyone's enjoying them, there's really no harm to the pods. But it's a little insulting to men, isn't it? The pods are pretty sexist in that they enforce the idea that women bossily drag their husbands out with them to shamelessly waste money in a mall on material goods.
Sure, there are so many sitcom plots have been centered around that very idea, but it's not funny. It puts men and women into two boxes, when in real life, there are tons of men who like to shop and buy things. And women who would love to recline and pay video games for a few hours.
The pods are targeted at men, though the shopping mall says that anyone is allowed to use them. But are men really so immature and silly that they can't tell their wives they'd rather not go shopping? Or that they need to be literally separated from their partners and society, and put into bubbles to play video games like a toddler?
They seem to like it, though many men have complained about the lack of air conditioning in the pods. According to The Telegraph, men think it's solving all of their problems. One man said, "Sometimes when my girlfriend is shopping I play on my mobile phone, but now the mall has a machine, I can let my girlfriend feel at ease shopping."
Women feel the same way, like they don't have to feel guilty for yet another thing in their relationship. Though some did worry that they would then be stuck waiting for their partners to finish a game after they were done (which is a totally legitimate concern).
If it means that everyone's happy on a day out at the mall, so be it. But hopefully men (and people in general) will learn to be less afraid to speak up for themselves when their partners want to hit the department store.