My Instagram feed is overflowing with videos of men and young boys cooking and cleaning home, thanks to the lockdown. This can be viewed as a welcome change. It is often women and girls in a household that bear the burden of chores such as cooking. But with men and boys sharing the load of kitchen duties, does it mean that we have finally broken the stigma around cooking? Does it mean that we have finally accepted that who does what around the household shouldn’t be decided by their gender? Or is it that we have found a way to weave even this household duty into the stereotypical narrative of our society?
Will they continue to help out with kitchen duties even after the lockdown is over? Are they only doing it now because it is being sold to them with a “real man” tag?
A lot of such videos that I have seen have a caption attached to them which says that this is what a “real man” does. A real man will always share the chores of his wife. Infact, in some videos, men are tagging each other to encourage them, or to take it as a social media challenge. This seriously does make me question the intent of those who are putting up such videos. Will they continue to help out with household duties even after the lockdown is over? Are they only doing it now because it is being sold to them with a “real man” tag?
Is Household work only women’s responsibility?
The idea of household work being divided among men and women on the basis of gender peddles the patriarchal norms which expect each one of us to lead our lives a certain way, and not how we want to. While men must be the breadwinners, women must manage the household. But such norms are unfair to both men and women. Women who step out to earn are still expected to come back home and finish their household duties. On the other hand, men and boys who do take an interest in chores such as cooking are often shamed. A lot of men simply do not cook because they were brought up thinking that it is “feminine” chore.
But if women can earn money for their family, why cannot men help out with household chores? Infact if women are freed from even half the burden of household chores, wouldn’t they be able to focus on work and contribute to the family income? But are we even ready to let women do that?
Men sharing household work
The initiative that has been taken by men to utilize this time to learn how to do daily chores and subsequently helping the women of the house is worth appreciation. It is a successful baby step towards the fight against gender inequality. But at the same time, it’s glorification is also not justified. Haven’t women spent lives doing the same chores, without much glory? And while we should appreciate any work that any person gets done around the house, isn’t it misplaced to do it not because that is the right thing to do, but because it projects a certain image of you?
Will men work even post lockdown?
This brings me to the question that will these contributions and sharing of tasks continue post lockdown? I doubt that! Simply because people will be back in the same routine they had before lockdown. And that routine might lead to a clear demarcation of tasks again. Once cooking stops to be seen as cool, or what a gentle man would do “to help” out the women, it will perhaps lose its appeal. This tells us that it will take more than a lockdown to normalise the equal distribution of household duties.
The other way round
But I do hope, that I am proven wrong. This period is called that of ‘The Great Realization’ where humans are introspecting over everything from their behaviour towards how they treat nature and other people around them. Perhaps this lockdown can also make us question the gender dynamics that were put into place by patriarchy. As our lifestyle changes, shouldn’t our thought process too?
Saumya Tiwari is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.