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It's strange that men depend on women for basic survival skills like cooking, but are called heads of family, while women are the dependants?
It’s strange that men depend on women for basic survival skills like cooking, but are called heads of family, while women are the dependants?
Ironic, isn’t it? Most men don’t know life’s most basic survival skills and are dependent like little kids to be taken care of by women are deemed to have great decision-making skills and aptitude in every arena within the home. Hence, they are called the heads of family.
It is only in the world of patriarchy (the senseless maze) that the one who takes care is called the dependant. An illusion where a lack of competence is mistaken to be a strength. It is extremely sad that, for ages, women are expected to care for everyone, and yet treated as dependants or infantilised, when required. This really makes you wonder–who is the real dependant?
Men take pride in the fact that they cannot cook or joke around saying they would make a mess if they enter the kitchen. They consider it their right to be served. Their ineptitude is considered hilarious and sometimes “cute”. But it is still not perceived as infantile enough or something that makes them incapable of caring for themselves or dependant on a woman for subsistence.
Often, I witness women cooking, cleaning, serving food, doing dishes and laundry for their husbands (yes, grown-up men!). This isn’t surprising — this is common and is unfortunately considered normal.
What is surprising, however, is the fact that we still often hear women taking permission from their husbands for even the most trivial matters while the opposite doesn’t happen.
An elderly lady of my granny’s age once remarked in frustration, — “In childhood it was the father I listened to and in adulthood, it is the husband I am always expected to obey. When am I going to have a say in my lifetime?”
She was equal (if not more) a contributor to her family’s subsistence and well-being. Even then, she felt as if she had no say or enough power in matters concerning her, finances, and/or her family. Isn’t this a human rights issue too?
So what is infantilization? “Infantilization was a means of controlling women and perpetuating the myth that without men (a father figure), they were incapable of caring for themselves or exercising autonomy.”
Why is the husband, almost always considered the head of the family despite the incompetence and lack of some of the basic skills without which any other skill becomes inconsequential? The categorisation or phrase “men and children” seems more apt. After all, both children and most men need to be fed, served, and taken care of for even the most elementary things.
Yet, he is the one at a higher pedestal and she is the one who is supposedly the lesser one in a partnership. Society clubs the women with kids as the dependant ones. It is the husband (or father) who makes the bigger decisions; it is his name or surname alone which is usually carved in the nameplates outside homes. This is irrespective of whether the couple is dual-earning or single earning.
While home labour is the foundation of the economy, it is not given its due. People are dependent on it for their life but are unable to see it as valuable enough. Also, since it is orchestrated to typically fall under a woman’s purview — the skill, time, and effort behind it are conveniently ignored and taken for granted.
Women have no such inherent capability that makes them more suitable for cooking or nurturing jobs than men. Given equal opportunities and conditioning and with the right mindset, both men and women are equally capable of it.
Yet, people (incl. women themselves) believe that men cannot work in the kitchen or take care of household chores. It is backed by the centuries’ thick patriarchal conditioning and hangover. This makes it both the cause and the effect of this conundrum.
Women become capable of these tasks because they are constantly expected to learn these home management skills. They make a conscious effort towards acquiring these skills and hence end up getting adept at performing them.
Another way to look at this is that, because, women have been performing these tasks, it is deliberately not given the kind of value it deserves and because such tasks are perceived to be of less/no economic value or less attractive, it befalls the women, more often.
Why a man who doesn’t know cooking considered so normal? What stops men to excel at home or care-work? Why are we in such awe of the (few) men who happen to know cooking and are capable of taking care of themselves as adults? And if this is normal; why, then, the same awe or gratitude not bestowed upon women who perform the care-work for themselves and even go beyond self and extend to others?
Why is cooking, cleaning, nurturing a gender role or considered as a gender-specific competence? Why isn’t it considered, as it actually is- a human role?
Irrespective of whether a woman earns or not— she is expected to be the one in the kitchen and looking after the home, men, and kids. Why has society been so hard on women and so lenient with men? How is such discrimination acceptable? Despite, having all the potential and skills women often don’t call the shots or have a say in key decision making.
“When all work — paid and unpaid — is accounted for, women work longer hours than men. This is according to the UN’s The World’s Women 2015 report, which found women spend an average of 30 minutes a day longer than men on paid and unpaid work in developed countries and 50 minutes longer in developing countries”.
The pandemic has made women’s long hours quite visible for those who wish to see it.
Men depend on women to bring them food, wash their clothes, fold their clothes, and literally spoon-feed them. Sometimes, even thinking and remembering key dates and to-do lists is done by women. A woman is expected to have skills to be a personal secretary, a cook, a cleaner, a wonderful nurturer, a teacher for kids…and more while “men can just be men”. And yet women are called dependants?
While the lack of essential survival skills is perceived as normal or even macho on men; they are seen as sheer incompetence, abnormal, or a failure on women.
But this needs to change. Our mindsets need a detox. We must acknowledge that women are independent and more than capable of being in charge of their own lives. They do not need a man to depend upon. Society must STOP the infantilization of women.
We must acknowledge the inter-dependencies amongst us. Respect should be mutual and not be tilted based on some gender stereotypes.
Image source: Still from Heaven On Earth
(A version of this post was published on Medium)
I love to observe and pen down my learnings in the form of poetry and prose. A thinker who upholds the spirit of equalism. read more...
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