When it comes to household chores, women are expected to shoulder the burden alone, as if they had a certificate of excellence in the field. Yet when men are in the mood to help, they have the privilege of choice. For reasons never mentioned by the society’s rulebook; women are expected to perform all the tasks that men find “futile” or “unnecessary”. Even when doing unpaid work, men have a choice and women don’t.
Women in Indian households are often treated like machines that never stop or wear out due to the workload. In fact, we don’t even recognize their “unpaid work”. A mom always remembers fixing the broken button on your shirt cuff. That single button may have saved you the trouble of looking for a different shirt to wear or fixing it yourself, but is she even thanked or appreciated for it? The answer is no. Because drudgery is presented as trivial. Anyone could do that. It’s true, but then why is it always a woman who does it?
Many men take pride in the fact that they help with household chores, thereby taking some of the burden off their wives’ shoulders. But while we collectively praise the men for doing the groundwork, we also need to take a hard look at who is doing the byproduct work. Sure, you made lunch today, but what about the mess you made in the kitchen? Who’s gonna clean this up? Okay, you mopped the floor, but did you dry the mop later or just soak it in dirty water? How nice of you to wash the clothes, but who will fold the pile of clean, dry clothes and put them away in the closet? Women are not automatic cache cleaners, who will pick up after their family members.
Is it possible that men only perform tasks that have more visual impact and project them as supportive partners?
Unwanted household chores: let’s look at their anatomy
Our society puts women on a pedestal first, just to push them into a quagmire of guilt and stereotypes, which traps women in doing unpaid work all their lives. It’s as Evan Esar says: “Domestic work is what a woman does and no one notices unless she hasn’t done it. Women are the ultimate resort for the chores no one wants to do, that’s how low they are in the hierarchy.
Suggested reading: Why can’t girls have privacy in Indian homes?
The right way to approach household chores is to circulate each duty among household members. This way, no one will feel trapped in a usually despised chore. Moreover, such circulation will also encourage family members to appreciate the efforts made to keep their household running behind the scenes. Everyone knows that utensils need to be washed every day or food needs to be cooked. But drying the mop after mopping the floor, taking out the smelly trash cans, or unclogging the bathroom drain—these tasks may seem like a trivial task, but some have to do them. That someone shouldn’t always be a woman. No one should be able to offload these unwanted tasks to another member of the household, simply because of their gender.
The opinions expressed are those of the author.