“Dhanya, come and help me fold the clothes.”
“Ugh – nope, I have important work to do.” *pretends to read something on a phone or iPad*
“It’s high time you moved from the sofa and started helping around the house a bit. Damn lazy you have become. I don’t know what you will do at your in-laws’ place. Mind you, they are not going to be lenient as me.”
A similar mantra reverberates in nearly every Indian household, when it comes to a girl child. The moment I retort, I am generally met with “You and your male chauvinism. Nothing is going to work. Fighting is not going to help you anywhere. I don’t know how she is going to run a household. Poor chap, this girl will make him do all work.”
There begins the diatribe which commences at the slightest provocation, culminating in a not-to-be-resolved clash – between the vulture-like ladies of the house and the neighborhood and the rebellious girls who are generally viewed as appalling creatures of the society who will defame the family name one day with their outrageous actions.
I am not one of those who believes that women need to be worshipped as goddesses and be given every other right in the world. Neither do I share posts which exemplify the ‘hidden sacrifices’ behind the making of a strong woman. I don’t think that the roles should be reversed, either.
This society does have a flawed perception about feminists. In all probability, there are some who have extremist views – and it is precisely because of them that such fallacies arise.
Feminism, in my opinion, is just about equal rights. I want to talk about simple day-to-day things which are more relatable, to which not much importance is given. Endless rants possibly reverberate through the minds of nearly all modern girls. Yet, it doesn’t seem that the situation has significantly improved.
I do question traditions, and I openly show my disdain for conventions which seem to respect men more. But I do not advocate female supremacy. That’s even worse. The populace of a community should not have an invisible barrier between genders all the time. Rather, they should work together to evolve into a progressive society which nurtures equality and growth.
According to me (and I think most people will concur), feminism is about not delegating any tasks to a woman. It’s not that we do not want to do these tasks – it’s just that we would like to do them in our way, and not be coerced into doing them.
For instance, we do not say that we won’t cook. Instead, we ask you not to judge us or pity the ‘poor guy’ who has to survive on junk food. That ‘poor guy’ can chip in too, after all. We do not want to be labelled as lazy and irresponsible if we are not handy at household chores. We can learn. More importantly, we do not want to hear the notion that the guy needn’t learn household chores as it is ‘not his duty’, and thereby let him hit the couch while we slave about. This is something that is annoying for most of us women.
My friend once teased me about the lack of my cooking skills, saying that my future husband would suffer because of this. When I asked him why I should learn cooking, he told me that only a woman has the capability to run a family and hold all the threads intact. Well, this flatters you, right? But no, it’s just sugar-coated male chauvinistic bullshit. Why can’t a man take care of his family? Again, I am not saying women should stay off the arena, but a man can equally help a woman nurture the delicate fabric of their family.
Cooking and doing household chores, in my opinion, are basic survival skills which every human being needs to know. Delegating them solely to women is not fair, and is preposterous, to say the least. If a woman can do them, so can a man. After all, women can run multi-million dollar companies as well.
Feminism is not about expecting the woman to ‘lord over’ – it is about not expecting us to be servile. I still come across instances where a wife is expected to drop everything and run, when her husband calls her for something as trivial as a glass of water or passing the mobile phone which may be lying a few metres away. But, when a wife asks for so much as a glass of water from a man, tongues cluck in disapproval.
Feminism is about having equal freedom at home. No different rules for girls and boys. I agree that the world is not safe for a girl. But, why is it so in the first place? Not many boys step out of their houses with their parents worrying for their safety. We also want this freedom. We do not want to be taught to be cautious and live risk-free lives all the time. We want boys to learn about knowing their boundaries and respecting womanhood as a part of being a good human being.
We do not want tags to be piled up on us, right from the day we are born. “We are born to serve the family.” – most boys never have to hear such an instruction. Instead, they are often shown that they need women to take care of them, and that they need to protect them by cocooning them inside a nest.
Feminism is about having equal rights on the career front. We often express our willingness to quit our jobs if the situation demands – but this should not be taken for granted. More importantly, we do not want you to think that we will disrespect men if we happen to earn more than them.
Things are changing, no doubt. But there are still millions whose dreams are shattered because of such antiquated attitudes. A girl may be able to land her dream job and reach the zeniths of her career. There are also many families which are proud of their daughters-in-law.
However, somewhere or the other, people do feel threatened unwittingly, and then try their best to curb that independence. Many people admire independent women – but once they have to live with them, insecurities come to the fore in the ugliest ways possible. And it’s often a given that a woman still has to perform her household duties even if she is running a company.
The days of yore had a clear division of roles – the woman at home and the man at work. It was almost the very purpose of her existence – to serve the man who very kindly put a roof over her head. I am bemused by the rationale behind such an arrangement.
A girl was told not to work for herself, so that she could work at home to make the man comfortable. This, in turn, would enable him to act as the ‘head’ of the house, which chiefly entailed making decisions and providing for the family. The girl often had to accommodate his eccentricities, simply because he was the money-maker in the family, and therefore, deserved respect.
Ironically, people rarely saw the gaping hole in this logic – the fact the men were the ones who stopped their wives from working. Women too seemed to accept their roles with a great zeal, which was seemingly and frequently stereotyped in the form of confrontations between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-laws.
These days, however, things have changed and women are proving themselves to be extremely capable in many (if not all) fields. These arguments are debated fiercely all over the world – but seemingly, to no avail.
If a girl rebels, she is often frowned upon and branded as some sort of arrogant, dominant freak. Feminism is all about trying to disabuse such ridiculous suppositions. It is about clearly stating the fact that we do not want to be treated any differently just because we are women. We want to function as a unit, supporting and complementing each other, thereby making our world (families, and ultimately, society) a better place to live in.
A version of this post was first published on the author’s blog.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.