Of Homely Girls & Other Home Science Stereotypes

Posted: March 21, 2014

I just saw the movie, Queen. The protagonist is shown to be a Home Science Student! It is too cliched to show that she is the one who knows nothing about reality. Here, I am breaking your stereotypes on what a Home Science Student/Professional can look like. But before I start, here are a few situations you need to go through before you get in depth with the daily-drama a Home Science student faces.

Beware, as some of the stereotypes could be ones that even you indulge in, due to sheer lack of information. 

Situation 1: Your (over) friendly relative

“So, beta, what are you studying?”

“ Uncle, am doing graduation in Home Science”

Arey, arey, achi bahu banegi (you would be a good daughter-in-law)”

———-

Situation 2: Your old school teacher

“ Home Science??? Well, because everyone can’t be an engineer and doctor right??”

“Yes, everyone doesn’t want to be too”

“Didn’t get admission into Botany Hons or BSc General?”

———-

Situation 3: At the University admin section

Arey, madam, you are from the Home Science department right?”

“Yes, I am”

“ Still, so obese? We thought home science girls know about food well”

———-

Situation 4: On a Matrimonial ad

“Wanted! Homely girl, beautiful and convent educated. Home Science Preferred”

“Dammit!” 

————————

Now that I have established a few situations that I have been a victim of, here I come down to describe how a career in Home Science has been one which I am so proud of. This is me right now: I can’t always cook the tastiest meals, but I do always know what is nutritious and what should not be eaten. I can’t stitch the finest clothes but I do always know a great deal about fabrics, cuts, fashion and designing. I have little clue about managing home finance but I do have a lot of knowledge about investing my money in bonds and banks.

I am a little too immature to have a baby right now, but I can manage 25 of them in a class, giving them the best for their cognitive growth. Last but most importantly, I am not as much a social person as I am a social worker. My favorite topics of discussion are politics, literature, media, policy, grassroots development, gender issues, technology and yes, advocacy of almost anything and everything that is required to run a nation!

I know how to make a documentary film from content to camera, how to design a political campaign, how environment issues need to be sorted logically and how doing a PhD in Community Radio is very different from being a Radio Jockey!

This is me! The ME that I owe my Home Science background to. When I joined a Bachelors  degree programme in Home Science at Delhi University, I was prepared for an up-hill task for not just becoming who I am, but also breaking a few glasses, shattering a few stereotypes.

Looking back at the time many years ago when I started my first year at the college, I realize how little things have been a reason for shaping me overall today. Those ‘Human Development & Childhood Studies’ lectures in first year where we discussed the effect of Partition on adults and analyzed the movie Pinjar for gender effects shaped the critical thinker in me. Those ‘Fabric design’ classes where I was wondering why I would need to know about the basics of stitching and my teacher had told me, “Its not that you would do it, but when you make people do it for you, you would know if its right or wrong” made the aspirations in me rise.

Those sessions with the slum women teaching them on adult education and the importance of learning for girls, made the girl in me transform into a woman, breaking the cocoon and flying like a butterfly. This has been the journey for not just me, but many others like me, specializing in Home Science, taking a field from the many options and making a career either in a United Nations office or as an entrepreneur, either in a food products company or a corporate CSR office, either in an NGO office working on Human Rights or in a village far off doing an action project on transforming the Millennium Development Goals into reality on ground. This is us, the Home Scientists!

Over the years I have seen my friends, acquaintances, people I have randomly met and even professionals giving me the weird, aghast look when they hear that home science is not just cooking or stitching but global perspectives and behavior change. It has not been an easy journey. Even educated and aware people sitting in big international offices seem aloof to the idea of Home Science being so vast, wide and global yet local.

As a home scientist, I am equipped to talk not just at the village level but function in an international office dealing with those village level issues because I am aware of the grassroots reality. I vividly remember those days I questioned why the course which teaches me such amazing realities and equips me to be a multi-tasker yet a specialist has been called Home Science.

Today, I know that when a Home Scientist talks about Home, she feels the world is her home. When she talks about Science, she knows her arts and science linkages pretty well. She is out there for create that change, first in her own self before she goes to change the world.

And as I say this, I am not out there claiming that Home Science is the greatest profession of all. I am here, simply writing this down to make people realize that don’t judge the book by its cover and the course by its name. A little in-depth information can change the way we look at many things. As a woman, who has over the years taken a journey to reality, I feel that a Home Science background has made me more grounded, more closer to realities, more creative, more free yet focused and more challenged, than I could have been in any other course that I would have opted for had I fallen in the Name Trap Game of this society.

Shut off what the schools taught on Home Science years and years ago. The world is changing; the education and life skills training courses are evolving faster than humans themselves are and so, before you go out there stamping a person on their head based on the field they come from or college they went to, dig deeper and understand. We are three sisters, all with backgrounds in Home Science but having very different careers from each other. We as women know how to balance the home within the four walls and the home that is a limitless extension of our dreams and aspirations as human beings, as women.

I have a thousand stories to tell, those heard and those unheard, those spoken and those not… but more on that later! This was just a peep into what a profession in Home Science can include. The limitless scope that it offers is hard to explain in one write up! But I would just end with a line that a professor had told me at a conference where we were discussing Global Media Content and Journalism: “You are one of the most proud Home Scientists I have ever met!”

Indeed I am. Because, I don’t want to fall in trap of the name, I want to shout out loud and create that ripple for a bigger, broader, wider, change to happen!

Our journey after all as women doesn’t start or end with a degree or two. It is a process, a step-by-step process of developing from a girl to a woman to a human. My current situation is this:

Situation 5: At a family function

Beta, so what are you studying right now?”

” Traveling to villages and cities in US, Nepal, Sri Lanka & India for data collection of grassroots media looking at the policy, gender, impact on development indicators, global comparison.”

” What? But I thought you did something in Home Science…did you change your field?”

“No Uncle, I am a proud Home Scientist, specializing in Development Communication & Social Work.”

Pic credit: Dog from space (Used under a CC license)

A Development Communication & Social Work professional working in the field of gender, health and technology

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Comments

18 Comments


  1. Did you have male classmates in your degree in college?

    • No, I didn’t! And I don’t think that should be a reason for judging the homely angle.

    • I’m a Home Scientist!!! N I’m proud to be a Home Scientist!!!! I’m currently specializing in MSc Food Nutrition and Dietetics…. N yes I did have Male classmates at My degree college….

    • Thank you Prioshka! I am always happy meeting proud Home Science graduates/professionals! Its such a shame that ppl relate to being in a girls college or having a home science degree as a homely or lets say derogatory thing! I am glad u have male classmates which just proves that even men are interested in the course, breaking stereotypes!

    • Neither did I have a male classmate but in a batch prior to me there was a male student and he was majoring in Clothing and Textile from MS University.

  2. I love the word ‘Home Scientist’!! I have not seen ‘Queen’ but I have heard not very complementary comments about ‘Home Science’ as a study option. That was the case even in the early 80s when I completed school. Obviously times have not changed. Its really really sad. Grooms and their mothers want an ‘engineer’ as a daughter in law but will never consider a proposal from non-engineers. Why? From Suchi’s work and achievements is amply clear that ‘other’ educational courses offer huge scope to contribute at a larger level and earn. Wonder when this will all change? Will it ever?

    • Thank you Archana for that mention! I just think its imp 2 not judge a course by its name and doing good has nothing to do with a name a degree has.

  3. I really loved the article.. I still remember when I took admission in BHSc ( Bachelor’s in Home Science) everybody in my home was questioning my dad that she’s from Science ( physics, Chemistry, Maths) why you are denoting her.. and all. But my dad replied I know what my daughter can do best.. and today I’m a successful dietitian…did MHSc in food science & nutrition.

  4. ankita tripathi -

    Want to do work for our society nd our nation like you but still stucked in other problems. Can you help me in this regard? Also want to join you.

  5. I think its a very well written article and I applaud your effort to break down stereotypes. However I do feel that most of them while not completely true are at least grounded in some easily obseevable realities. Sometimes people who chose to do home science are indeed looking for a way to sail through college and an easy degree. Maybe it is a misguided notion and the degree isn’t truly a cakewalk but that does not change the fact that initial motivation was not a true intrest in the subject matter. And there are a lot of girls who want the degree because it is on the checklist of desirable bride qualities. This is just like how many boys in the country blindly want to be engineers or doctors or MBAs because there is a belief ( however misguided) that it will lead to a secure stable future. Having said all that , I do completely agree with you that it’s unfair to judge a book by its cover. We need to stop putting labels on people . Walking around with a mental checklist and breaking down people into just ticks and crosses on an invisible piece of paper is dehumanising that person . This whole attitude of engineer = nerdy and home science = homely needs to stop. Its just as wrong to assume that a person doing an mba at iim is stuck in a name game trap as it is to assume that someone doing home science is homely. People are more than a sum of their actions. They have dreams , aspirations and intrests which we can not know unless we make the effort to get to know them. I firmly believe that it is the individual not the education that determines your life. If you are passionate about equality or climate or development you will end up working in that field regardless of whether you did home science or economics. This isn’t a criticism of your article. I’m just trying to say that its not the fault of the content of the degree as much as it is the skewed motivation of the people who choose to pursue it that leads to these unwarranted stereotypes. And your article today made me really glad to see the other side of the spectrum with speaking up , the ones who are truly only concerned with the content of their education and not just the shiny packaging it comes in.

    • believe me getting a degree in home science is not a cake walk.Actualy this starts in school where students who get the lowest marks are asked to take up arts.Subjects like music and drawing are considered easy whereas it is not so.Children grow up with these notions and carry them throughout their life.

  6. Home Science redefined. Long over due. I have shared this on Facebook too.

  7. I am a HOME SCIENTIST….. and i am PROUD to be a HOME SCIENTIST… SUCHI ma’am i have a great respect for you…. each word written by you in this article is true, in real sense you gave the right definition and explanation of home science….
    i ll try my best to break stereotypical beliefs about home science in the minds of people around us..

  8. Suchi, I am proud of you for writing this article!!! Jahapanah tussi great ho!! tohffa kabul karo!!! 🙂

  9. each word written by you in this article is true, in real sense you gave the right definition and explanation of home science…. and i am PROUD to be a HOME SCIENTIST……..

  10. NILESH SHETH -

    Very nice article. Let me tell you my story…I got my daughter’s admission in BHSc after SSC. She is happy, enjoying & is proud to be called Home Scientist. Being a student of so-called HOME SCIENCE, she is being groomed to be a very good human, though an activist for her own thoughts but advocate for all of us at home. Her approach to life has been a lot different now. The way she handles all situations, her friends, acquaintances, all of us in family, especially parents is amazing & she ‘s being a great teacher to her bro. A Great Critic & grown up to be the Finest female on the Globe after my Mom & my Wife….I want her to live the life at her terms & conditions…..She’s my Pride…..KNOW that she will break all stereotypes……… Because…SHE IS DIFFERENT.

    • Thank you Nilesh! That means a lot to me and I can totally see the way you are accepting and appreciating your daughter for her individuality. So happy for her to have parents who appreciate what she does. Being different after all is important to create the change, much needed! Thank you for that comment!

  11. Dese are true situation a home scientist can face…ppl really need to change der attitude n thinking about who a home scientist is..n u explained it so beautifully.

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