Speaking at an election rally in Madhubani, Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar addressed the women voters and said, “If men of the house vote as per your choice, give them food and feed them with love. And if they fail to vote according to you, make them fast for the whole day,” reports Zee News. Kumar’s statement yet again reduces empowerment to the very arena we have tried to bring it out of – the kitchen. No matter where we go, no matter what we do, our power till resides somewhere between the kitchen stove and chawal ka dabba, or so leaders like Kumar think. Even if we want to “control” our husbands, the only way to do it is through our kitchens.
- Kumar’s statement yet again reduces empowerment to the very arena we have tried to bring it out of – the kitchen.
- Even if we want to “control” our husbands, the only way to do it is through our kitchens.
- Kitchen duties aren’t empowering, they are a responsibility for most women, in which they do not get to have any say.
When women do not even get to have a say in this matter, can we still see it as our seat of power in our homes?
It is laughable that Kumar thinks Indian women hold the power to make their husbands fast for a day, if they do not vote according to our choices. The kind gents will avoid a lot of health problems if they let us have any say in what they eat and how much. But alas, in households where women are indeed responsible solely for feeding everyone, the duty falls on them more as a burden than a power. There are mouths to be fed, thus you cook. You hardly get to take a break, let alone put the man of the house on a fast. No one asks you whether you want to cook or not. When women do not even get to have a say in this matter, why must it be seen as our seat of power in homes?
However, after ages of being bound to kitchen duties, a lot of women and girls are finally breaking free from it. The focus is gradually shifting to education and employment opportunities for girls. Kumar himself has been a vocal advocate of woman empowerment, having implemented schemes such as bicycles for the girl students, Kanya Vikas Yojna etc. And yet he went on to remind women voters that despite all talks of empowering them, he still believed that the only way they can have a say in front of their husbands is via kitchen politics.
The statement is also unfair to men, because it projects them as being dependent on their wives for something as basic as food.
The statement is also unfair to men, because it projects them as being dependent on their wives for something as basic as food. Many men would rather cook their own meals than fast as per their wife’s whims. Also, for a long time, family male heads have had a say in who gets their clans’ vote in many houses across countries. Wives often vote for leaders or parties which their husbands ask them to. It is very unfair to them, and likewise, it is unfair to male voters if they must decide whom they want to vote for based on threats or consequences. Liberation of women can’t come by giving the same treatment to men that we do not want for ourselves.
Even among couples it is possible for each spouse to hold onto his or her personal political beliefs. This is a marriage, not a coalition government, where one leader must entertain whims of another, to keep the government afloat. Marriage never means dissolution of individuality and independent beliefs and thoughts. Then why should it mean like-minded voting patterns?
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.