She packs his tiffin, irons his clothes, polishes his boots, gives everything that he needs in his hands, and then cries when he leaves for work without saying goodbye. Slowly a note saying ‘Love You Dear’ slips in from under the main door, and we see a smiling husband exiting from the frame. This TikTok video has been driving feminists on social media mad for the misplaced notion of appreciation and the deep-seated patriarchal values that it romanticises.
Must we applaud a man-child who needs everything to be handed to him, for telling his wife that he loves her? Must we root for a couple where the burden of household chores seems to be falling on one person? Why do we see so many videos that peddle passive misogyny that infests Indian marriages and sell it to viewers as a progressive takes? Such videos are nowhere close to the happily ever after that they promise to be?
This isn’t the only video I have seen doing rounds on social media, that endorses the belief that saying 'I love you' or 'thank you' is the antidote to toxicity in a relationship. Your mom works tirelessly day and night to keep you happy and comfortable? Don’t help out with the dishes, don’t clean your closet, don’t put your dirty plate into the kitchen sink, just say I love you. Your wife does all the work at home and takes care of children on her own? No need to share the load, or to take some child care duties off her hands, just slip her a note or smile and hug her and say thank you.
Yes, a loved one who does anything to make your life easier needs to be thanked. Irrespective of the gender we must appreciate what people close to us, especially parents or partners, do for us. But on social media, the narrative is deeply gendered when it comes to stories of care and sacrifice, and therein lies the problem. It glorifies the patriarchal belief, one which many women themselves have internalised; that men ought to work and earn money and women ought to tend to the needs of their loved ones. And instead of aiming to bridge the gap that these stereotypes have created, it is completely acceptable to say thank you and be done with it.
- Is it enough to say 'love you' or 'thank you' to a homemaker who shoulders all the household work?
- It is 2020, why must we still applaud a husband who says 'love you dear' to a wife who polishes their shoes, or hands them their wallet, keys and laptop?
- Instead of applauding women, don't we need husbands to start helping out more with household chores?
- Such subtle pushing of patriarchal agenda is often sold to us as heartwarming, progressive or romantic. Why do we keep buying into such narratives?
Don’t women earn paychecks in many households? Don’t men help out with chores at home? And yet, why do so many videos on social media which peddle age-old stereotypical beliefs do so well? The thing is, that social media gives you what you want to watch. If the videos where grown-up men can be shown demanding that everything from tea to fresh underwear is handed to them, as long as they ‘appreciate’ it, then clearly we are still not on the right track.
And the blame doesn’t lie just with men or boys, or even young daughters, it lies on us as wives and moms, for not putting our foot down and demanding that used glasses and teacups be put into sink for washing, and not handed to moms and wives or sisters. That one member of the house can’t be picking up dirty socks from the floor for everyone.
I know many wonderful men who help out with household chores and don't need moms or wives to fuss over them all the time. Videos that project men as incapable to even fetch their mobile for themselves is a disservice to them too.
So the next time you are serenaded by such 'happy' tales that celebrate women homemakers, in this day and age, while a thank you is necessary, but is it enough?
The views expressed are the author's own.