Check out the ultimate guide to 16 return-to-work programs in India for women
With women and housework perpetually linked together, is it really surprising that women's careers often take a backseat to their husbands’?
Women and housework
With women and housework perpetually linked together, is it really surprising that women’s careers often take a backseat to their husbands’?
By Unmana Datta
Michelle Obama gave a much-lauded speech at the Democratic National Convention early this month. She used a variation of the old feminist slogan, “the personal is political”, while referring to Barack Obama. This is remarkable because both feminism and femininity are often derided in popular culture, and Obama drew a line from her husband to both.
But the other thing that struck me about her speech was this line: “My most important title is still ‘mom-in-chief’.”
By all accounts, Michelle Obama was a brilliant lawyer. She was Barack’s boss when they met. And not only did she support her husband’s career over her own, but, “Obama presented herself precisely as she needed to in order to be digested by the American people: as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother.”
Barack Obama himself wrote: “No matter how liberated I liked to see myself as — no matter how much I told myself that Michelle and I were equal partners, and that her dreams and ambitions were as important as my own — the fact was that when children showed up, it was Michelle and not I who was expected to make the necessary adjustments.”
…the fact was that when children showed up, it was Michelle and not I who was expected to make the necessary adjustments.
And don’t we see that dynamic in India often enough – that women, even women with careers or businesses – are expected to support their husband’s careers to the detriment of their own?
Two years ago, I refused to follow my husband when he accepted a job in another city. I had just started a new job which seemed really promising. I encouraged him to take the job and each of us tried to be supportive of the other without giving up on our ambitions. But a friend challenged my decision and derided me for being too “extreme” (for being invested in my own job!)
Recently, the minister for Women and Child Development, Krishna Tirath, suggested that husbands provide housewives with a share of their income. While this isn’t a new debate, and there are arguments (some of them reasonable) against quantifying the care women put into their households and families, the objective behind it is laudable: ensure that “women’s work” is valued and that women who work within the home are not totally dependent on their husbands and in-laws.
In the U.S., the majority of women are now primary earners in their households. This is due partly to the financial crisis, with women assuming the role as a result of their partners losing their jobs. And of course, plenty of women are single and financially independent.
On an average day, 19 percent of men did housework – such as cleaning or doing laundry – compared with 48 percent of women.
But does that mean husbands (or live-in male partners) are taking on the supporting role? Not enough. The fact remains that the majority of the housework is still handled by women. As this report from the Bureau of Labour Statistics states, “On an average day, 19 percent of men did housework – such as cleaning or doing laundry – compared with 48 percent of women.”
I believe the change will come, that men in general will be as supportive of their wives’ work (within or outside the home) as women have been of their husbands’.
When the friend I talk of above moved to a different city for his career, his wife moved with him. But not much later, when he found himself dissatisfied and wanted to move back, his wife was reluctant; she had found a new job of her own. He made his peace with it, becoming a supporting partner in practice when he hadn’t been one in theory.
And that brings us back full circle to “the personal is political.” Way too often, the overlapping of the personal and political has meant that the woman has held back and made compromises, reluctant to upset domestic life. But often these days, I see men stepping up to be good parents, to support their wives in their careers and inside the home. Where abstract notions of equality might not work, personal circumstances often will – whether it’s the harsh financial realities brought on by an economic crisis or a man’s love for his partner, or maybe even, being forced to compensate his wife for her often-invisible contribution to the household.
*Photo credit: mahat64 (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
Unmana is interested in gender, literature and relationships, and writes about everything she's interested in. She lives in, and loves, Bombay. read more...
Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!
I huffed, puffed and panted up the hill, taking many rest breaks along the way. My calf muscles pained, my heart protested, and my breathing became heavy at one stage.
“Let’s turn back,” my husband remarked. We stood at the foot of Shravanbelagola – one of the most revered Jain pilgrimage centres. “We will not climb the hill,” he continued.
My husband and I were vacationing in Karnataka. It was the month of May, and even at the early hour of 8 am in the morning, the sun scorched our backs. After visiting Bangalore and Mysore, we had made a planned stop at this holy site in the Southern part of the state en route to Hosur. Even while planning our vacation, my husband was very excited at the prospect of visiting this place and the 18 m high statue of Lord Gometeshwara, considered one of the world’s tallest free-standing monolithic statues.
What we hadn’t bargained for was there would be 1001 granite steps that needed to be climbed to have a close-up view of this colossal magic three thousand feet above sea level on a hilltop. It would be an understatement to term it as an arduous climb.
She was sure she was dying of cancer the first time her periods came. Why did her mother not explain anything? Why did no one say anything?
Sneha still remembers the time when she had her first period.
She was returning home from school in a cycle-rickshaw in which four girls used to commute to school. When she found something sticky on the place where she was sitting, she wanted to hide it, but she would be the first girl to get down and others were bound to notice it. She was a nervous wreck.
As expected, everyone had a hearty laugh seeing her condition. She wondered what the rickshaw-wallah thought of her. Running towards her home, she told her mother about it. And then, she saw. There was blood all over. Was she suffering from some sickness? Cancer? Her maternal uncle had died of blood cancer!
Please enter your email address