It’s time we stopped putting boys in the big room on the ground floor
You’ll be answering the door to everyone
For the last two years of my degree I have, like the majority of students, shared a house with friends. Twice I have had to enact the painstaking routine of finding a house that is anywhere near liveable. Going to meet the over-enthusiastic estate agent with his soup stained tie, only to be shown around several damp, uninsulated victorian houses. What’s that? Just ignore the condensation on the walls? We’ll be getting professional cleaners in before you move, honest.
But of course, the most stressful, friendship testing moment of moving in to any student house is deciding who gets what room. It will be a tense moment for all involved as you sit together, pretending that the rooms you pull out of the hat will dictate what room you end up living in.
Of course they will tell you that you’ve got a say – they might even pretend that you’re all going to pick rooms randomly out of a hat. But everyone already knows how it’s going down. You have all known which rooms you’re going to be in since you were still looking around the kitchen. And yes, if you’re a boy it’s the downstairs one, you know, the one that used to be a dining room, with bay windows that keep as much heat in as a piece of tissue paper.
This is not Ok.
In 2016, when gender issues and equality between men and women is becoming more important than ever, the seemingly trivial expectation that a boy must have the downstairs room when sharing a house merely reinforces these gender divides. On the surface it may appear to be an unimportant point – who cares what room boys and girls go in? It’s probably just a coincidence anyway right? But it’s not, and everyday conditions are just as important as the big problems.
There are real life consequences that emerge from boys being on the bottom floor. For one, whoever is on the ground floor is more likely to be robbed if your house is burgled. They’ll also be the first ones that will have to answer the door. This might seem pedantic, but when you’re having to sign for your housemate’s fifth ASOS package in a week you’ll be wanting to burn that cashmere jumper they just got delivered. Do you like sleep deprivation and having to listen to cars and loud drunk people stroll past your window when you’re trying to get your beauty sleep? Well, you better get used to it if you’re in the downstairs room. You could say, well, boys don’t care about that sort of stuff, but why should they be expected to put up with the inconvenience of having a ground floor room? Or at the very least, everyone should be equally at risk of getting the dreaded downstairs room.
It’s on a level with thinking men should pay the bill in a restaurant. It’s enforcing a stereotype that carries expectation and breeds an unfair division. It’s time we stopped forcing boys in to that big room on the ground floor.