In Focus 15th December, 2017

An Open Letter To Men: It’s Time For You To Step Up.

Yesterday, I accompanied my sister to the beauty parlour, since she wanted to get some hair treatment done. The owner, Gauri, is a lady I know since I was in the seventh standard; my mom enjoys a very close friendship with her.

Gauri is a housewife and a beauty salon owner. Since I first moved to this neighbourhood in 2011, I have seen her many times, rushing out of the house at 10 AM after completing all the tasks she needs to.

This is a classic example of what we call living a double life. Unfortunately, it has always been considered that women are the ones responsible for doing the housework (alone) and this belief has rarely been questioned, nor a realistic explanation ever been put forward. Studies show that even when women hold jobs outside the house, they continue to do the bulk of work at home.

Today, more people have a practical approach towards life and believe that women should not bear the brunt of housework alone. Rather, men too should take on their fair share of activities such as grocery shopping or cooking. At my home, my dad cuts the vegetables while my mother is preparing for dinner. Men can do other daily chores too such as picking the kids up or dropping them to school and helping them with their homework or studies.

However, attention also needs to be brought to another unspoken aspect of this issue – which not many people care about. Accompanying the physical burden is the emotional burden that is placed upon the women of the household. A simple example of this emotional burden would be the fact women are expected to remember where everything is placed in the house. Because if a man forgets it, then it’s expected, but let a woman forget where something is… and witness the chaos and nightmarish situation that happen! It’s all her fault! (sarcasm alert!)

Moreover, adjusting your emotions and feelings towards other people is something that is expected of a woman. If a man does the same thing, he will be called caring and conscious, but with women, it’s considered natural and even necessary. It’s high time that people stop expecting women to be emotional sponges for everyone else while making exceptions for men when both have pretty busy lives. It is unfair and mentally taxing on women and reminds them constantly of the expectations that are placed on women by husbands, other men in the family, male employers or just society in general.

Women alone cannot solve this problem. We need men to get involved, to care about the conditions and atmosphere women live in. There are many simple and practical ways in which men can participate.

If something in the house needs to be replaced or repaired, instead of waiting for the women to come up and inform him, it is better that the man himself checks the house once a week and sees if something is up for repairing or replacement. People of all genders need to learn to cook. Men should be alongside women in the kitchen regularly, for preparing any meal, or for simple tasks such as washing utensils or cleaning the kitchen.

To continue, men as parents too can make a difference by modelling such behaviour and playing their part in eliminating gender stereotypes. After all, boys learn from observing the men in their lives, so it is actions that talk, not words!

And trust me, whatever task you step up on, it will be worth it just seeing the look of relief on the faces of the women you love!

When women work outside the home, their work inside doesn’t magically go away! Women continue to bear the ‘double burden’ of two jobs – resulting in immense stress as well as lost opportunities. Join Women’s Web & Breakthrough India in our special #Streelink series this month, as women share their stories on the double burden. You can learn more here and share your story. 

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