Why Do We Romanticise Men Performing Basic Domestic Chores?

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Men performing domestic chores is an expression of love. Women performing the same domestic chores is their essential duty. Why have we committed to these double standards when it comes to basic life skills like cooking or cleaning? It takes so little to be a man worthy of appreciation. Meanwhile, a woman, by virtue of her gender, is obliged to continue justifying her merit at every step.

In India, there are two ends to the range we can slot husbands contributing at home into. The first is the oppressed husband caricature that WhatsApp forwards continue to capitalise on without restraint. Rampant especially during the COVID-19 lockdowns, these jokes outline how difficult it is to be a man ‘trapped’ at home with the burden of domestic chores while their wives order them around. This burden could be nothing but literally just one task of dusting tables. And men say women overreact.

The second stereotype pertains to the ‘good husband syndrome’ that hails a man as the best one in the world for performing that same single task of dusting. What a helpful husband, people say. Or if it is an unmarried partner, the coveted tag of ‘husband material’ is tacked on to him.

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Women, working both indoors and outdoors, are carrying triple the load of domestic work compared to men. Where is the applause that they deserve? What better explains misogyny than men being celebrated for doing the bare minimum while women who have been unrelentingly doing way more across generations are conveniently marginalised?

The sexist domestic divide between genders stems from our social conventions that box women into stay-at-home roles, while men are given the independence to explore professional work away from the household – the homemaker and the breadwinner. And god forbid if these lines are toed in defiance of the status quo that serves patriarchy!

The first hurdle that women working outdoors have to cross is judgment from society that will admonish them for neglecting their grihasti. And even after they do manage to balance office and domestic work seamlessly, there is no acknowledgment for the effort.

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At the same time, we sing praises of men who make the odd show of romance in marriage or other relationships – by serving their partners breakfast in bed one day a year or by lending a hand in washing utensils on their day off. How is this fair?

Men performing domestic chores, the very bare minimum, are held up as nobility for “helping” their wives out. But isn’t taking care of the house their duty too?

By doing this, are we not implying that these actions are essentially atypical to men and that they are magnanimous or brave for indulging in them, if at all? Are these grounds for men to claim dominance in other matters related to finance, family, parenting and other key decisions? Can we take men down from the pedestals we have put them on?

If men doing household chores doesn’t emasculate them, then why must women taking an equal share of responsibility beyond domestic chores be taboo?

Views expressed are the author’s own.