The coronavirus lockdown has really bolstered social media's glorification of men who contribute to household chores. Sorry, who are "contributing" to household chores during the lockdown. Highly privileged men holding a broomstick in one hand and adjusting the camera with the other to perfectly capture self "doing" the chores isn't really a major source of help. I saw this trend started by Kabir Singh director Sandeep Reddy Vanga called #BeTheREALMAN (The stress on 'real man' is apparent to the level of cringe, to be honest).
In the tweet comprising of a timelapse showing him doing household work, he writes, "Man can be a great domestic worker and a real man will never let his woman work all by herself especially during this No maid times & Quarantine. Please help in domestic work". After he tagged prominent Telugu film director SS Rajamouli in the trend, the latter followed suit thoughtlessly.
Some men (read most) who go out to work early morning and return only at night treat their homes as guest houses where they come to have dinner and retire for the night. They don't care if the taps need plumbing, the walls need painting or the kitchen's pantry is filled until the woman of the house raises an alarm.
But under the lockdown, it is as if the man of the house has finally been domesticated. The same men who would never even bother to know how to cook, or think twice before dropping their dirty socks near the laundry bucket are posting pictures of themselves sweeping floor, doing the dishes, all the while stroking that social distancing beard of theirs. Suddenly men have woken up to the effort, energy and time that is spent on doing household chores now that they are doing it too. When women bore the burden of these unpaid jobs, no one really bothered. But let me say this, not all men are living alone. Not all men living with women who cook and do household chores regularly are contributing to housework even during the lockdown.
Some men (read most) who go out to work early morning and return only at night treat their homes as guest houses where they come to have dinner and retire for the night. They don't care if the taps need plumbing, the walls need painting or the kitchen's pantry needs to be replenished until it is pointed out to them. As long as the food is served on the table, they genuinely don't seem to bother.
Men are conditioned to think that they will marry a woman who will take care of their house. Now with women becoming more and more career-oriented, things have changed, you say? Well, not really because now most women get up early, finish morning chores, pack everyone's dabbas, get to work, come back home and again get back to the remaining chores.
Somehow, women's jobs are still not considered "important" because they aren't the primary bread-winner of the family. Just yesterday, I was watching a YouTube video of a fairly progressive couple in which the man casually said that he would be weirded out if his wife was bringing in more money than him. Rules of South-Asian society, broadly speaking, are simple - men bring in the money and women do a household chore. If a man even as much as washes a spoon by himself, he is a liberal, forward-thinking angel and if a woman starts to work, she can still not neglect her duties towards the household.
Also read: Unpaid Housework: Should You Defend It?
It just doesn't occur to him to do anything to help my mother. Which, as this is panning out, is really frustrating for my mother as well as now that she is old, she expects him to help but has too much of an ego to ask for help from him.
Personally, in my North-Indian home, I have witnessed my mother teaching us girls since childhood to do household work but when it came to my brother, he still gets his meals laid out in front of him which he can just eat and leave the dirty utensils on the table for my mother to pick them up later.
The same is the case with my father who now stays at home watching the news on TV all day and wants all his meals perfectly laid out on the table when it is time for him to eat. He follows a time table for all his meals despite having next to nothing to do all day. It just doesn't occur to him to help my mother. Which, as this is panning out, is really frustrating for my mother as well, as now that she is old, she expects him to help but has too much of an ego to ask for it. This is the conditioning women grow up with, I realize that homemakers feel defeated if they have to ask for help from their male partners. This is the dual impact, patriarchy feeds on.
I know that social media is a place meant primarily for privileged folks, for them to show off their newly-acquired culinary or cleaning skills but are we thinking of the women whose work has increased 10 times because now men in their families are staying home and require to follow a routine that they can't support themselves? Lastly, are these men posting videos and photos of them cooking, chopping and mopping going to continue with their contribution once the lockdown is over? I wonder.
Picture credit-Telegraph UK
The views expressed are the author's own.