I posted a picture of my ’round’ roti on Twitter, on the first day of the lockdown – just because I was so happy for making roti for the first time in my life. Similarly, a lot of men posted pictures of themselves cooking, sweeping, mopping, cleaning, doing dishes, etc. It was such a heartening thing to see people doing all this. It was even better to witness the acceptance and celebration of men doing work that is conventionally considered as ‘feminine’ in our culture. It is the sign that men are perhaps finally ready to shed their toxic masculinity.
While I was happy and hopeful at the thought – suddenly a saddening feeling dawned on me. After hundreds of years of education, conditioning and multiple waves of feminism – it took a global pandemic for men to enter into that ‘forbidden space’ AKA the kitchen. The least that is demanded from women is applauded as the highest form of commitment from men.
So while images of men doing household chores elate me, the gap in the bar got me thinking. This article is the product of the tussle between my ideals and my reality, my vanity and my hypocrisy and to be frank – between my privileges and injustice. So let’s just delve a bit deeper into it and ask ourselves this very simple question – is this fair?
Yes, we are talking about equality here, but what kind of equality can we expect when women are considered unequal in every aspect? A girl’s life (except a few fortunate ones) starts with the denial of their family members and remains in that limbo till the end. Though as they grow up, life and particularly our society adds more miseries to their lives. Right from childhood, they are conditioned into thinking they are inferior. In fact, considering themselves inferior is applauded as a sign of a ‘decent’ girl.
It took a global pandemic for men to enter into that ‘forbidden space’ AKA the kitchen.
Those who reject this pressure and manage to keep their morale high and march further – still have to walk through the thorny bushes. Since childhood, their identity is attached to the ‘honour’ and social appearance of the family. It always amazes me that boys don’t have any such responsibilities. Their mistakes are just a learning experience, while a girl’s mistake might tarnish the ‘image’ of the whole family.
Times are changing and so is our society. The patriarchal structure is realigning, sometimes under pressure to survive and often to maintain that ‘balance of power’. More and more girls are joining schools, colleges and the workforce – hence pushing that glass ceiling. But the effort that is needed to reach there is tremendous.
But even after breaking multiple glass ceilings – the primary responsibility of a woman is still considered to be the home. Everything else has to be secondary. It takes immense effort to manage a house. It is a 24/7 job that requires complete devotion and still goes unrecognized. Forget the remuneration, even recognition is hard to get.
You must have seen people saying in an undertone or even openly – about their mother or wife – “Well, she doesn’t work. She is a housewife”. Could there be a more ridiculous statement? Well, all she has been doing is working 24/7 for 365 days. Isn’t this criminal negligence on our part as a society? That is why I say – every woman is a working woman. Just that a few of them are salaried ones.
But even after breaking multiple glass ceilings – the primary responsibility of a woman is still considered to be the home.
So this lockdown comes as a welcome shock for men and a reminder for them that it is their home too. Plus their responsibilities don’t end with providing salaries to household aids. There are millions of things that a woman does that remain invisible to all of us. This work is simply taken for granted on our part.
So, though this global pandemic and lockdown has constrained us within four walls, it has forced men to come out of their socially constructed ideas of masculinity and enter that so-called ‘forbidden space’. They are forced to confront the uncomfortable truths that they had been willingly ignoring so far.
Social media is acting as one of the mediums to bring about this change. Men posting pictures of doing various household work pressurises other men to do the same. So peer pressure is acting as a catalyst for this change – and this time it’s for the better. It has also removed the stigma attached to men helping in household work and has given a severe blow to toxic masculinity.
The question, however, remains – is it just a temporary thing? Will things again go back to ‘normal’ after the lockdown is over? Is it just limited to the middle class? Is it finally the breakthrough moment in gender dynamics or just wishful thinking? The questions and caveats remain, but one thing is certain that it is a significant shift. The journey of thousand miles starts with a single step and this is a huge step forward. Victor Hugo once said, “No force on earth can stop an idea whose time has come”. Maybe this is that particular idea whose time has finally come.
Featured image used for representative purpose only. Image source: The Indian Express