How to beat the cultural definition of gender-based roles?

Article by: Athira Premarajan, Research and Content Development Associate

Janaki waited anxiously to hear about her culinary expertise at her new home. She was so proud of herself applying all that her mother had taught her since the day she stopped going to school as she was told it was time for her to learn domestic chores. Leaving her colourful textbooks behind, which mostly had untouched leaves of Ruskin Bond and R K Narayan, she happily obeyed her mom’s advice. Within a year’s span, Janaki saw herself in the new red saree draped beautifully around her – leaving her home – being welcomed to her new family.

“Janaki,” whispered her mother-in-law, “I am glad you got it right. He always likes his Rotis soft and fluffy”. Unexplored still stayed in the dusty corners of her open wardrobe, Bond and Narayan.

Disclaimer: It isn’t a tale. Also, not a real story. But it is an inspired piece from thousands of lives who are still alive today. There are two aspects we can infer from this: The hefty burden of familial duties a woman is bound to carry and lack of knowledge of education. We sure aren’t in Utopia or the Barbarian era. However, some of the ideologies we keep quite are Utopian or Barbarian. It is really not necessary to state the obvious but, time and again we have been failed by traditions and ideologies, which are outdated. Yes, gender discrimination is an earthed topic, still hot on the plate. However, the measures taken to curb it is always off the plate.

Before traversing globally, let’s take our nation’s state on the same. According to studies, Indian women spend an average of 300 more minutes than men doing household chores. Now, is it because men are not healthy enough or they have less than 24 hours as opposed to women? No. It is the centuries-old practices and lack of sensitization that holds responsibility for this data. Even in the families adopting the best of gender equality practices, chances are that certain unknown biases act up, in turn, making women responsible for house chores and caregiving.

Now, how can this be curbed? Is there a written set of rules and norms? No. Have they conducted studies on it? Yes. But here, especially during the time of the pandemic, we are putting out an easier set of activities that the men allies could adopt in creating a better home for your other half.

  • Fix your Ideologies:

The term hereditary, as a matter of fact, is a term that we own up to proudly – for the caste, race, region or any such category we belong to. These come with a couple of tagalongs – traditions, rituals, ideologies – which has been imprinted in you probably even before you turned four! Out of the several good aspects these tagalongs carry, you have been taught or per se experienced certain illogical set of norms meant to be done by a particular gender. A boy usually runs to the grocery store while the girl does the dishes. This stigma apparently has affected several other of our routines inflicting a sense of gender inequality. Fix it.

  • Sensitize your Peers, Correct your Elders:

You may belong to a set of prominent broad-minded thinking peers. However, when it comes to reality topics like washing one’s own clothes or dishes, these forward thinkers would still be at the mercy of their mother or wife. Or for instance, your mother asks to leave your plate on the table after dinner, offer to clean it by yourselves. In two words: Identify and Rectify.

  • Put that down, ‘he’ will lift it:

Well, we cannot alter the biological form we are born into. It is true that several jobs require people with good physical built and sometimes not. And there are certain roles that cannot be fulfilled by a substitute. However, judging a person’s strength based on gender is unacceptable.

Note: Saleswomen and women working in the service industry also feeds their family.

  • Remove the Social Stigma:

Women, often a victim of this, is usually stamped with duties pertaining to house chores. Surprisingly enough, accrediting to the ascribed talents and acquired knowledge, women themselves find it odd when men help them in the kitchen cooking or doing dishes. Nor will they find it easy to involve in financial decisions. The need of the hour here is a ‘Reset Button’. Do you have it ready?

  • If it is Boy, Engineer, If it is a Girl, Doctor:

Bet you remember this dialogue from the famous movie ‘3 Idiots’. Well, it would be boring to iterate it in any other format. This and several other scenes in this comedy epic captures a load of gender disparity issues. Watch it once and think about it. And, prevent it from happening with you.

Good luck and be the driver of change!