A recent advertisement by a leading dairy products brand in India is being trolled for endorsing the stereotyping that mothers express their love through cooking. Food cooked by a mom. What kind of emotions does it evoke in a person? Love, nostalgia, an intense longing to sneak back into one’s childhood, even if for a brief time, so that one could be pampered by Ma? Millions of mothers sweat it out in the kitchen every day to fill the bellies and hearts of their children, and this is taken to be proof of their unconditional love. But what if your ma doesn’t like to cook? Does anyone ask women in our households whether they cook out of compulsion or otherwise? Do they do it as a gendered obligation, or because they have been conditioned to think that this is one of the most profound ways a mother can express her love to her children, even if she hates it? Does a mother who detests cooking and has enough agency to not put herself through the ordeal love her kids any less?
For a brand that gave us the spunky polka dotted Amul Girl, this stereotypical mommy will cook ad is a bloody disappointment. https://t.co/6ZVSYZDlnr
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) December 13, 2019
- A leading dairy brand is being criticised for its stereotypical ad that bounds mothers’ love to their cooking.
- It is almost a norm in most Indian households for mothers to cook, that too lovingly for their children.
- Are mums ever asked whether they like to cook or not? Is it possible that they do it purely out of obligation?
- If a mom doesn’t cook for her kids, does it mean that she loves them any less?
Millions of mothers sweat it out in the kitchen everyday to fill the bellies of their children with food, that is also taken to be a proof of their unconditional love. But what if your ma doesn’t like to cook?
I am one of those women who genuinely love to cook. So it gives me immense pleasure if my child asks for a special something in her Sunday meal. Whipping up a dish she likes is my way of indulging her every now and then. But then there are days when I simply do not have the inclination to cook at all, either because I am too tired, or simply because I don’t want to. Does that mean that I love my daughter less on those days? Also, if I stop cooking in future due to any reason, should it be a reason for my child to hold a grudge against me? Should she feel unloved and uncared for?
Alas, not all Indian women have the leeway of having a say in this matter. Kitchen duties are an inseparable part of their identity. As women of the house they must cook three meals a day to feed their family, no matter if they like it or not. Many girls are conditioned since childhood to love cooking, just as boys are conditioned to steer away from it. What’s more, they must embrace cooking as a way to express their love to their clan. Internalisation of this stigma guilt trips many women into cooking for their family, even if they don’t like it. And our pop culture and advertisements play a big role in spreading this norm, to cash in on it.
Children must know that their mom’s love isn’t bound to her culinary legacy. Besides there are many dads who do the same for their kids, and their efforts shouldn’t be sidelined just because they can’t beat what “mom’s cooking”.
The above-mentioned ad is just one of many that try to manipulate consumers into buying their products out of sentiments. Ads for cooking oil, utensils and even food delivery apps play on the theme of mothers expressing their love for their children via cooking. How can we change this? For starters, let us stop shaming a mom, in fact any woman, who says that she doesn’t like to cook. Stop criticising a woman who employs a cook because she doesn’t want to do it herself. No person should have to like or do a chore simply on the basis of their gender. Second, generate conversation on a mother’s love, outside of what she puts on the dinner plate.
Tell your children you love them, but you do not like to cook, be it everyday or seldom. Children must know that their mom’s love isn’t bound to her culinary legacy. Besides there are many dads who do the same for their kids, and their efforts shouldn’t be side-lined just because they can’t beat “mom’s cooking.”
While food is an integral part of our being, there is a lot more to a mother-child relationship that what’s for dinner.
Image Credit: Seema Sethi/ Planet Kitchen
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.