The Breakthrough Voice 29th May, 2020

Are We Talking Enough About Gender Roles This Lockdown Or Otherwise?.

When you wake up each morning nowadays and see your father or brother or husband doing household chores, how do you feel? On a personal level, it is a normal phenomenon. But in the country that we belong to – is it a normal phenomenon here? For the majority of households? The answer is no. The larger population of the subcontinent of India has this notion that women are only fit for domestic work and that it is some duty she is born with.

Even though she goes to an office and works equally or even harder than the men in her family, she has to come back and make efforts to keep the house in one piece. Be it physically, like waking up first in the morning and packing lunch boxes for herself and the family or mentally, by providing emotional support at the correct time to different members of the family. This gives us the reason as to why there exists sheer exhaustion, both mentally and physically, among women.

You know, there is a huge need to address this pre-fixing of women’s status as the one who needs to take care of the household – it needs to stop. It speaks volumes about the stringent gender roles, the everlasting patriarchal system and the stereotypes that go on to exist defiantly – none of which we can deny. 

As we look at the conversation among women that exist today, that is in midst of a pandemic, in our household, it involves a lot about how one’s father or brother or husband has been ‘helping’ them so much. But, what needs correction is that the male family members aren’t ‘helping’ per se – they’re doing what they should have been doing anyway.  

There is a huge need to address this pre-fixing of women’s status as the one who needs to take care of the household.

Being the breadwinner for them is considered normal. These ascribed gender roles and stereotypes need to be abolished. Now, if we pay any kind of heed to the conversations that occur between the men today, be it in the family or outside, we see them vicariously talk about how the domestic work they do should be done on a payroll basis – because it’s difficulty level is utmost. How come the idea of sharing doesn’t make it to this conversation? 

Well, does something ring a bell here? Yes, the fact that it took a deadly virus and the world to come to a standstill for the men of our country to be doing household work (at least the ones who are ‘helping’) and to talk about the payment and dignity that should be accorded to the same. 

This world coming to a standstill knocked some sense into everyone’s head, not only men, with regards to this ‘duty’ demanded of women to carry out the domestic chores of the household. It also addressed the value of this work – be it payment or due respect and the need to share the workload equally by each member of the household. These norms about a woman’s duty should no longer exist.

The fact is that it took a deadly virus and the world to come to a standstill for the men to do household work.

Now, in this entire picture what turns out to be more toxic is that these forced ‘duties’ of the household which are carried out by women makes everyone assign them labels such as ‘superheroes’ or ‘supermoms’. When women defy these ‘duties’, they are automatically looked down upon. In other words, they become the villains to the previous ‘superhero’ trope – who should be cast aside. And why? Just because they didn’t submit to the patriarchy or its gender roles. 

Not to forget that this pedestal for women who do domestic work further conditions them and future generations to believe that women are supposed to stay home and maintain the household. What is scary about this entire picture presented is that this only applies to the middle-class women and dominant caste women with privileges. What about the domestic worker who comes to our house? Have we even sat down to think about the exhaustion and the dual compulsion that they have to face? Whilst facing the same stereotypes both at work and at home, they have to earn for their families as well. 

So, in this entire picture, a considerable amount of power dynamics that exist in Indian households needs to be addressed – where ‘breadwinning’ is considered to be the ‘tougher’ job – which is done by the man and hence he doesn’t need to participate in any domestic chores. Second, that domestic chores are ‘easy’ and as such, can be performed by women. You see, when we crib about all the time we have in the world and how there is absolutely nothing we can do, I think fixing the misogyny, smashing the patriarchy and gendered stereotypes is a lot of cardio in itself.

Also Read: We Call This A Lockdown? Women Have Been In Lockdown Since Forever

Featured image used for representative purpose only. Image source: ABC

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