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It’s 2020 and a working mother still needs an online petition addressing the PM to ask Indian men to share the chores. There’s nothing frivolous about it!
‘We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters’ – Gloria Steinham
An online petition by a working mother, Subarna Ghosh has garnered over 70,000 signatures. This Change.org petition is simple and concise. Addressing the PM Narendra Modi, the petition seeks to tackle one of the pressing issues of Indian households – ask men to share the chores.
Before dismissing it as a frivolous complaint, it’s important to delve into the superficial layers of modern Indian households. Most homes are fitted with technological marvels to help with chores. However, they often exist as reminders of the sophistication with which the women can cook, clean, and wash.
‘Work remains work and a device or not isn’t going to change that!’ any woman would tell you this, that is if any male cared to ask. But in the proud patriarchal traditions of Indian households, the simple retort is ‘It’s not the man’s job.’
There are clear cut gender norms in every house. And these are usually always mainstreamed with proverbial sayings like, ‘If a man does the jhaadu-pocha (cleaning) goddess Lakshmi, will leave the house as a man’s hand is for earning money.”
Additionally, shaming the women for improper upkeep of the house is a tried and tested practice to reinforce stereotypes. Women, who suffer much of this, are also, often, a part of this problem and the ones who dare to sway from the rest get rebuked.
The Indian male, simply by ‘going out to earn for the household’ gets away from contributing towards the chores in the house. With changing times and working women, the household chores were balanced by employing a help who usually is a woman. The “help” who qualifies as a working woman still remains the worker in her own house and this cycle of patriarchy remains unquestioned at every level.
With the lock-down and the increasing need to be woke, many men did take up cleaning the house, and washing the dishes. Their enthusiasm has, however, been short-lived, especially when they realised that the cycle of work never ends in the house. And neither is the work rewarded with any economic value.
This realisation could have gone the other way, and men could have started to empathise with ‘what it means to be a woman. However, the maa ka laadla’s, as usual, take the route of playful nonchalance.
Asking the PM to intervene isn’t going to be a real solution. No high-profile politicians, celebrities have shared how they toiled the full day working from home or working for the home, during the lockdown.
Yes, there have been photo-ops. But to clarify with an example, soaking the rice/dal, cleaning, grinding, cleaning the grinder, letting the batter ferment are all part of making a dosa. Simply scooping a ladle of batter onto the tawa, does not qualify as sharing the workload.
Cooking, serving, cleaning are all considered hallmarks of a good homemaker. The image of the homemaker needs to be more gender inclusive. Feminism is about making a more equitable society, and change begins with the efforts at home.
As a society, we still use the logic that better soap, or detergent reduces the washing time (the woman’s workload) And instead of sharing the workload as a solution, glossy ads only reinforce patriarchal stereotypes.
Ads to products to people all fall into the trap that somehow, it’s emasculating for a man to clean, and wash. In the current situation, this is worrisome as the chores within the household have risen two-fold following the lock-down.
If it’s so hard for a man to just share the housework, usually represented by women, we are in deep trouble considering the other challenges of oppressive patriarchy.
It is 2020 and we have searing issues like workplace misogyny, political representation for women, domestic violence, and gender violence. Amidst issues like these, sharing the house-work should be the least effort a man can take to show support for ‘equality.’ Looking after kids, online-classes, cooking, washing, is overwhelming enough and in case of working mothers the stress just amplifies.
It’s a problematic situation when men still remain mere spectators to women’s workload, without considering their long-term, physical and mental well-being.
Subarna Ghosh’s petition draws attention to this internalised patriarchal culture that relegates ‘housework is not real work. However, housework is simply a justification for the existence of ‘the other sex’ (women)
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Chef
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