My Husband And I Tried To Break A Gender Stereotype By Cooking Together In A TV Show

Posted: February 19, 2019

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As an organic farmer, I was called to participate in a cookery show on Zee5, along with my husband. I hope we broke some gender stereotypes by cooking together.

It’s not every day that you get a call from a reputed TV channel to participate in a cooking show hosted by them. Well, this was all the doing of a dear friend who thought I should be on this program, and recommended me.

She sent a message suggesting I participate in this popular cooking show which showcased organic farmers and their farm journey. As she knew about my organic farm and my homesteading journey, she wished that our farm to table lifestyle should feature on the television show.

And that’s how it all started

The call though, was for a regular cooking show and they told me that their farm segment will be up for shoot sometime later. As usual, the apprehensive me in all nervousness told them I wasn’t sure about this, and had to think about it and get back. I was mentally prepared to forego this opportunity, when my friend and later my son, prodded and nudged me to take it up.

So, as the day of the shoot drew closer, I got another call from the channel enquiring if my husband would join me for the show as it was their “couples segment” that week. Now, this instantly put me at ease as my husband and I almost always cook together. As I thought about it and spoke to my husband later that day, I told him that this would be a perfect platform to put across a message on gender equality very subtly. And he agreed that it was indeed a good idea. Though a cooking show, this program had a great potential to be more than just a mere exchange of a recipe.

Setting an example for gender equality

There were two things I was hoping I could convey through this program showing our own example;

One, of course, was that growing your own vegetables organically is very much a feasible option even in an urban scenario.

And the second was to portray the importance of involvement of men in the cooking space. I could definitely see this as a great platform to send out a message on gender based stereotyping that is still rampant in our society, even in the educated sectors.

My husband and I cook most of the meals together and it’s more out of joy than anything else. It’s also out of respect for the spouse and the onus of a shared responsibility of running a household. Additionally, it’s a nice feeling to have someone to talk, discuss and laugh with while cooking rather than it being a lonely activity. It’s a great stress buster and gives you the much needed couple-time in the midst of a busy week and helps you stay connected emotionally. Somehow because of this, most of our dinners turn out to be a family affair involving both my son and daughter. Because they see us both in the kitchen cooking and seemingly having fun, they automatically migrate to the kitchen themselves and we end up spending a good amount of time there discussing some mundane, some funny and some serious thought-provoking topics.

If the message on gender equality at home trickles across the screen even to a very small extent, the purpose would be met.

A necessary shift in mindsets

Well, you see, we are the lucky (well, that’s what we thought initially) generation of women brought up with the notion that girls must be educated as well as boys, and girls must be able to stand on our own two feet independently. I know it’s not true for all, but growing up, that’s the feeling I got at least from my generation of middle class families to some extent. (We were the privileged lot perhaps.) Parents wanted girls to be educated enough to be financially secure, probably due to the fear of an unknown future after marriage, for safety and security, or whatever the reasons were that were the driving force behind it.

It was an encouraging change and a collective shift in the mind-set of people. So, we were encouraged to study well and secure a good job. And we did. We worked outside home, earned a handsome monthly income.

The so called financial security was achieved.

The so called empowerment of women happened.

The so called equal opportunities for boys and girls (though at a superficial level) seemed to be  achieved.

Or so we thought.

But then what?

What happens to a girl’s dreams after marriage?

Then this happens. Girl is married off into a well-to-do family and all is great until the daughter who was used to coming home from work to a hot meal kept ready for her, has to come home after a long day at work and start preparing that meal for the whole family.

And then serve it;

And then clean up the kitchen;

And then prep up things for next day’s meal;

And probably catch up with her work for a bit.

Throw in kids after a few years, and then there’s their homework, school project, exam prep and everything else falls on her side of the plate.

What about the man?

Now let’s see, what’s changed for the man here; well, nothing much. First it was the mother who took care of everything for him and now he has a wife to do it.  Both have demanding jobs and both earn more or less the same amount of money but the man’s share of work stops when he enters the house but it’s not so for the women.

As if this mind-set isn’t enough to wreak havoc, there’s another kind of shaming that makes sure this patriarchal mind-set continues with full effect. Any man seen to help around the house is termed “Joru-ka-gulam” (loosely translated as wife’s slave) or shunned to be doing unmanly things. It’s a shame that this attitude is propagated not just by men but women folk with equal or more vigour.

And then there are those remarks of “how lucky the woman is whose husband shares the load”. Oh it’s not a happy remark but a sarcastic taunt aimed at pricking the conscience of the lady ever so gently as if she has some unfair advantage over others.

Trying to do my bit by cooking publicly with my husband

Well, we need to raise above all this pettiness to truly achieve gender equality in the true sense. With changing times, things are definitely starting to look up now, at least to some extent but there are still stereotypes and stigmas galore to be broken.

And participating in a cooking show with my husband was one way I chose to break a stereotype; well, maybe not break but let’s say make a small teeny-tiny dent. We all have to constantly and continuously keep making dents from where ever we are and whatever we do. I realised, this is the only way we can collectively make a bigger impact. Slowly, paint a new and improved image of what’s normal. Make a better ‘normal’ than the one that exists now. Being a role-model at home, is surely the way forward to bring about the new normal at least for our next generation.

Believe me, I was very apprehensive on how the show would turn out to be as we were neither aware of the format of the show nor we had any experience in participating in a TV show before. But the people on the sets were very helpful and made us feel at home with their easy banter. The show went on very well and I was very happy that unlike most other times, when I would refuse to explore unchartered waters, this time, I took the plunge to explore something new, something I had never done before and did not let my nervousness hold me back.

I learned something new that day; that every opportunity that comes your way, comes for a reason. It can teach you new ways to connect, new ways to express your thoughts and has the ability to transform the way you perceive things to be.

Here’s the link for the cooking show episode that we featured in. This link is for the complete 1 hr episode. You could skip to the time at 13:30 minutesto start viewing the part where my husband and I feature. Our episode ends at 26 minutes.

A version of this was first published on the author’s Facebook page.

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A mother of two amazing kids and a teacher by profession, I have varied interests.

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