LOCKDOWN: A LITTLE LEAD for The LADIES’ LOBBY?
By Khushi Koul
It takes two people to build a house, and it should take two people to nurture it into a home.
Housewives are the nucleus of the social fabric of the family. They hold onto the roots and keep the ties intact. The woman indulges in all activities under the sun that would ensure the flawless sustenance of a household. These range from emotional to physical toil: relieving the stress of the family members being the endurance bag, executing the daily chores, including child-rearing. Her caretaking services are not only unpaid and unaccounted for in the GDP because of the lack of tools for estimation, but also taken for granted. Her services are deemed as her sole responsibility by default. The make-up of the family with delegated roles, where men are considered as the breadwinners and women as homemakers, has been prevalent since time immemorial. Although there is some fluidity now, where females can take up jobs, have flourishing professional careers, and keep their purse strings strong, that comes with the responsibility of the house. Most women have to struggle daily, juggling between the two. The booklet of a suitable bride has bullets to be fulfilled, some of them being: identifying the difference between cardamom and cinnamon, preparing finger-licking curry bowls, washing the turmeric stains off the white-collar, and folding the washed linen crisply.
During this catastrophic, life-altering emergency that we’re facing today, all the plausible checkboxes of distress have been ticked off. Levels of stress are soaring high, as routine regimes are disrupted for men and women alike who are encapsulated between four bricked walls. But, only ladies are expected to comfort their husbands tirelessly, with altruism, because of the pervasive pay cuts and even lay-offs. In the absence of domestic help, the amount of household workload and professional obligations have both mushroomed. While everybody else has got some time out to rejuvenate themselves and learn new skills, is the lady of the house getting a break too? Can she take up the things chalked down on her “when I will be free” list too? The list is a mere crinkled paper lying in a drawer that she pulls out every day, but it somehow remains untouched, akin to rest of her wishes. The care economy, in general, is highly undervalued, and requires an urgent structural transformation in the light of COVID-19, as the care work which is not given its due has amplified.
This period might be a kickstart in shunning the fixed and rigid roles and creating a dais for acknowledging how much goes into certifying seamless functioning of one’s quarters. A man who has never touched the broom, washed the utensils, or does not even know where the spices are placed, is trying to succour his partner today. However, the lack of adeptness at housekeeping leads to a trivial contribution by the male counterparts, which hardly covers the ‘bare minimum’. So equal division of work and significant assistance is totally out of question. This happens because boys are not trained to carry out their daily errands. In this scenario, even petty efforts from them are considered as going out of the way and as acts of chivalry. These ‘courteous’ gestures will only turn into moral obligations, once we discard these strict gender-based roles, deeply entrenched stereotypes and archaic traditions.
Let us make sure that we impart uniform and unbiased values to both our sons and daughters so that they can paddle their own canoes. A few months cannot manifest a major change and create gender equality in its true essence; nevertheless, it has firmly been a positive fillip in the right direction. Erasing inequality and pre-defined gender roles is not something that can be achieved overnight, as these are deep-seated; however, a reflection on these fronts is indeed visible. Eventually, even a step closer to realising a level playing field is progress for the humankind.
Lastly, a quick question! Have you ever noticed the Scotch Brite logo? If not, look at it the next time you tear open the packaging. It has the face of a woman. What does it supposedly symbolise? Is it ‘her’ ‘duty’ to wash utensils? Nevertheless, the good part here is that the head of marketing acknowledged the startling observation, and promised to correct it according to the modern-day. This is just one example; there will be many when we look around closely. It is crystal clear that looking keenly and adapting to new trends, promoting an inclusive environment is the need of the hour.
The coming generations and ‘we’, need to ingrain one thing in our minds from now onwards:
“Household management is a life skill, not a wife skill!”