Everywhere I’ve Seen That Men Eat Their Fill And It’s Just Leftovers For Women

How about overturning this routine? What happens if women eat first and walk away? What happens if a woman eats the best-looking roti and serves burnt roti to her husband?

Last year a Malayalam film The Great Indian Kitchen got much acclaim for its realistic portrayal of women through the theme of everyday life. Discrimination through food is nothing new in Indian families. It continues even in modern homes.

The men are served first. The women eat last. The best-looking chapati or dosa goes to the man of the house. Any burnt chapati or broken dosa is left for women. The boys get a preference for foods like milk or fruits. The girls are often considered lucky if something is left for them.

In houses that cook non-vegetarian food, this translates into the men getting the meatier piece. Women have to make do with gravy and fishtails. All this is practiced so normally and peacefully, that the discrimination is not even felt.

Even in nuclear families, it is the norm in most homes that women wait for men to have food. A man need not wait for his wife to eat. The man eats his fill and leaves without a thought for his wife.

During my childhood visits to my native place, I have seen this ritual of eating in batches. First the children, then men of the family then finally women. At that time I did not notice the disappearing vegetable chunks or eggs. Nobody mentioned it either.

The delicious dishes would often be over by the time the women arrived at the table. They would have to invent dishes with buttermilk as accompaniments.

What are we teaching our kids by this discrimination?

I wonder what women who face discrimination in their houses teach the new generation? All their education and careers never gave them the right to the best morsel. It was always the leftovers for the women. This practice continues till date. Of course, the men have no parenting responsibilities in this scenario.

My domestic help who earns more than her husband leaves home hungry so that her family can have the food. She makes do with whatever food she gets from the houses she works in. She is always working on an empty stomach while her husband and son eat fruits and eggs daily.

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My grouse is that this routine is never overturned. Women never eat first. How about overturning this routine? What happens if women eat first and walk away? What happens if a woman eats the best-looking roti and serves burnt roti to her husband? She would be probably accused of mistreatment.

If a girl comes to the table and serves herself first, then she will be termed selfish. But when practiced by men this becomes a tradition.

It is important to mention that in my father’s family all the women are educated and most pursue teaching careers. Yet they would happily do all this, putting men first – so it’s not the education or lack of it. The children grow up imbibing these values. Schools provide education and companies provide jobs. But no one tells a girl to demand her rightful morsel without waiting for the leftovers.

Image source: a still from short film Ghar ki Murgi

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