‘Housewives’ Shouldn’t Expect Payment For ‘Labour Of Love’ – Really?

Kangana Ranaut yet again puts her foot in her mouth by taking on those she calls 'housewives', dictating that they do all unpaid labour just for 'love'.

Kangana Ranaut yet again puts her foot in her mouth by taking on those she calls ‘housewives’, dictating that they do all unpaid labour just for ‘love’.

Kangana Ranaut, who had become a favourites of feminists when she called out nepotism in Bollywood a few years ago, has in the past couple of years taken to speaking on issues not related to her, debating controversial issues where she sides with the right wing, and putting her foot in her mouth as a result. This is what happened yesterday.

It all began with this harmless and sweetly utopian la la land tweet of Shashi Tharoor’s:

— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) January 5, 2021

To which the all-knowing-about-all-matters Ms.Kangana Ranaut retorted,

There’s a lot to unpack in this gibberish, which veers wildly from Right Wing propaganda to New Age woo woo. But basically Ranaut implies that the job profile of housewives includes ‘giving’ of sex, mothering of offspring from said sex, and queenship of and imaginary queendom of four walls and a roof and a lifetime of indentured labour.

You can almost imagine a lump in her throat and a pretty tear rolling down her alabaster skin as she imagines receiving yet another award for playing the imaginary role of a self-sacrificing imaginary wife and mother all while wearing the latest in homemaker couture by her favourite designer du jour.

A society based on women’s unpaid labour

Ranaut is a well-paid actor who clearly loves her craft. So if anything done with ‘love’, whatever that means, must not be monetised then I suggest she first return the purported 25cr she received for Jayalalithaa, the film.

This cruel romanticising of ‘selfless’ housewives is a clever ruse to benefit from the unpaid and unvalued labour of women Our entire country, nay, the world is built on the backs of women who were conditioned and trained from birth to serve till they died and then were replaced by the next in line. Ask a ‘housewife’, she’ll rather have the money than ‘all of you’.

Nivedita Menon in her ovaric book Seeing Like a Feminist says,

“The sex-based segregation of labour is the key to maintaining not only the family but also the economy, because the economy would collapse like a pack of cards if this unpaid domestic labour had to be paid for by somebody, either by the husband or the employer… If tomorrow every woman demanded to be paid for this work that she does, either the husband would have to pay her or the employer would have to pay the husband. The economy would fall apart. This entire system functions on the assumption that women do the housework for love.”

Gaslighting and brainwashing women into slavery

Historians claim airily that in the not so glorious past, marriage was essential because it brought women economic and physical security (from other men) and the groom, for merely showing up at the wedding acquired the woman’s reproductive abilities and a lifetime of servitude.

Unfortunately for these enslavers, with time, women grew wiser and decided to acquire their own economic independence. And so love entered the fray. So now marriage became the ultimate symbol of state and socially sanctified love. Throw in a red lehenga and green mehendi and an instragrammable honeymoon and you can bedazzle women briefly into forgetting the penitentiary of marriage that will follow the wedding.

How ‘equality’ in a marriage is a mirage

I was speaking to a young friend who is a couple of years into her marriage, “I must confess, Aunty,” she said, “Until I got married, I didn’t believe in feminism. I couldn’t understand what was left to fight for. I am a strong, opinionated woman, economically independent, I married a man for love, there was no objection to my marriage from either set of parents. We had a destination wedding, sangeet-mehendi-shaadi, the whole shebang. I didn’t change my name, we call each other partners and not husband and wife. It was all so chill.”

“And then the pandemic hit, my partner lost his job, we couldn’t afford our apartment and we had to move in with his parents. Almost immediately, I realised just how sucky marriage is for women,” she continued.

“The expectations of me are relentless, and they are constantly reinforced by the four pillars of patriarchy- religion, culture, tradition and misogyny. Despite currently being the only earning member in the family, I’m still expected to more than pull my weight in the housework. When the partner enters the kitchen, he’s there to generously ‘help out’ but if I am doing it, then it’s my divinely ordained job. The physical labour is just one part of it, the emotional labour of planning, sourcing, sensing the moods of the in-laws on top of my actual paid job meant that I did everything with resentment and none of it too well. One night when the partner snarled at me for refusing sex yet again, I told him that he had changed from being my partner to a traditional Pati Parmeshwar.”

Popular culture reinforces this ‘women who needs a man’ idea

Interestingly, it is implied time and again in religion and popular culture and by various wedding industry businesses that it is the woman who is desperate to marry and she must chase after the reluctant man.

In this song from the 1983 film Souten, the girlfriend sings to her boyfriend that her mother wants to meet him for tea to discuss their marriage (girlfriend’s and boyfriend’s, not the mother’s and boyfriend’s, although the latter might have been more age appropriate).

The boyfriend snaps that, because I’m a free bird, you wish to spread a net to trap me. This is really rich coming from the boyfriend who is played by the clearly-past-his-prime Rajesh Khanna sporting an unfortunate mullet and rather alarming tics indicative of underlying neurological issues and the girlfriend is the exquisite and too young Tina Munim. You want to scream at the screen, “Run, Tina, run. Run from the institutionalised inequality of marriage that will constantly penalise you for your gender!”

Kangana had better use her much showcased histrionics for something that translates to on-screen, and not tell ‘housewives’ what they must or must not expect, or dole out her cringeworthy opinions. We are not interested.

Image source: a still from the Hindi film Queen

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About the Author

Hema Gopinathan

Hema Gopinathan left a blight of a corporate career to homeschool her two children. A teacher trained in the Waldorf/ Rudolf Steiner pedagogy, a writer, an artist, a crocheter, Hema spends half her time in read more...

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