Completing household labour is the duty of every person residing within the household unless they're a man. This is a lesson I learned early on in my life as a woman with an older brother.
Excluding the time I hurled a knife at him, my brother and I have always had a great relationship. This quickly became a well-known fact for my family members and they often turn to me when they want to nudge my brother in a certain direction. However, as soon as I asked him to help me to do the dishes, they believed I was manipulating him out of malice. After all, shouldn't women just juggle domestic work along with their office work without complaints or help as it is their duty? Why would I ask my brother to help? It's not his job to keep the house he lives in neat and orderly.
Most people would be glad to see someone willing to lend a hand and do their share of the household labour, but when that person is a man it raises a few eyebrows.
It was a Saturday night, my family had finished eating dinner and the task of washing the dishes fell on my lap. Considering that I had already spent most of my day working while my brother had the day off, I decided to streamline the process and ask for his help.
My brother agreed and we set off to do the dishes, almost instantly my grandmother tried to take over for him and told him to do his work. It was a Saturday, he had no work. She then told me to not bother my brother with such questions next time and ask her, a 75-year-old woman for help instead.
My brother insisted multiple times that he did not mind before my grandmother accepted it and left the kitchen. As a 24-year-old who lived abroad for several years and looked after himself, my brother is more than capable of doing the dishes. The argument that women are better at household work did not apply either, as I can happily say that my perfectionist brother is better at washing the dishes than me. My brother isn't an incompetent person who would cause more harm than help when doing chores. Even though our dishwashing system works for us, the people who are actually washing the dishes, my family is uncomfortable with my brother doing work that is 'beneath him'.
So while my brother has only had to wash the dishes when I asked him to, I’ve been asked to do the dishes every single day.
I brought the issue up with my mother and aunt and they hesitantly agreed to ask my brother to do the dishes when he was free. To their credit, they did ask him once. If asking him means saying, “Looks like Ritika is expecting you to do the dishes”.
Even after my brother offered his help and explicitly stated that he was willing to do chores, the women in my family were hesitant to accept the help. They put the burden of asking for help on me. My grandmother would prefer if she did household labour rather than letting her adult grandson get his hands dirty.
Women in India are so concerned with catering to men’s every need that they would rather work alone than be judged for accepting help. Instead of letting two adults wash the dishes and divide the work, they would rather have me do all the work on my own since my time is clearly less valuable. It was okay if I did the chores on my own, but if my brother chipped in it was an issue.
For years I heard that my brother shouldn’t have to do the chores because he was busy with studying and his job. But when I was busy studying and working, it didn’t matter. Both my brother and I have a similar workload, so why is my family comfortable asking me for help but not my brother? I would love to say it wasn't our genders that affected who would be assigned work, but unfortunately, there is no other explanation.
It’s an unfortunate fact that we live in a world where society women are burdened to make sure men feel no inconvenience. Being sympathetic to the fact this is a product of years of conditioning does not make it an easier pill to swallow.
Views expressed by the author are their own.
Suggested Reading: Men Can Choose Which Household Chores They Want To Do, But Women Can't. Why?