Why should boys have all the fun? Will the ‘real men’ tag over sharing household chores, continue post lockdown?
With the lockdown restrictions in place, many people continue to ‘work from home’, unemployed or furloughed during this everlasting lockdown, there is one profession that cannot compromise on its duties, even in the middle of a pandemic—that is of a homemaker. In most scenarios, the idea of a homemaker is often typically subjected to household chores that are carried out by a woman. Children are at home and they only add to the long list of daily chores for the parents. Teaching and playing with them, alongside cooking, cleaning, managing the list of essentials at home, are some major tasks now finding equal space in the diaries of a husband and wife, leading the new post-coronavirus hit lifestyle.
While it is true that more men have actively started taking up roles in the house, especially during the lockdown, a lot more needs to be done to break the patriarchal stigma attached to household chores. A recent 2020 study, conducted on 7,000 women by Today, found that on an average, women rated their stress levels as high as 8.5 out of 10, of which, 46 percent of them said their husbands, more than their children, are to be blamed for this. A different survey, however, found that of 1,500 fathers, many feel they are helping around and contributing more to raising kids, and not getting enough credit for it.
Many of us would have had a good laugh while watching such typical ‘husband and wife’ humorous videos going viral across social media, on how they are finding it challenging to spend time together at home during lockdown. Although, if one pays attention to its underlying depth, it pretty much sums up the society’s image of a homemaker. With Covid-19 crisis, leading to major dimensional shifts in various norms of work and life, the pandemic has also changed perceptions towards household chores that were earlier defined as a ‘woman’s territory.” The bigger question here arises– whether these switching of roles or dividing household responsibilities will continue on a long term or soon be forgotten once the pre-lockdown routine is back on track?
Well this is not the first time that a pandemic has led to world change. In the past, World War II was one such major event that changed gender norms. It was with the entrance of United States into the war, when men had to drop whatever they were doing and became up-foot soldiers and many married women, a large chunk of the non-working population, had to take up men’s jobs in factories to cover up for labour shortage and contribute their share to the war effort.
While this shift in the breadwinning role has been seen historically, change in traditional roles continues to be seen in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The irony here being, does it take a pandemic for a society to realise over shrugging off gender stereotypes?
It was on March 24, when lockdown first came to effect in India. Later that month, social media saw a viral video of a Punjab cop catching eyes for many right reasons. The video saw a cop holding a loudspeaker and requesting women to put men who are finding it difficult to deal with ‘boredom at home’, to be put to household chores during lockdown. In the video, he was seen saying that women must put them to work and get their homes cleaned, make them wash the clothes, and added, “Ghar di safai hoegi, coronavirus di safai hoegi, naley inna di v safai hoegi.”
He further said that “They’ll also learn to cook in these 21-days so women don’t have to worry about who’ll cook food for the family in their absence. So if they don’t want to rest at home in the next three weeks, then let them work at home.”
Talking about viral trends during the lockdown phase, there was also a good amount of hullabaloo with several actors and actresses seen sharing interesting videos of themselves cleaning the house, cooking, washing and doing other household chores, on their social media accounts. Shahid Kapoor replying, ‘Mera department bartan ka hai. Tumhara?’ to a fan on a ‘Ask Me’ session on his Twitter, to Katrina Kaif sharing her video of sweeping the floor, household chores during lockdown almost got an ‘OMG’ factor attached to it. While on one hand it does symbolize the due dignity that homemakers deserve, on the other hand, the glorification of carrying out daily chores cannot be justified.
Talk about the frontline warriors battling out Covid-19 crisis across the world, but what about our very warriors at home battling out gender norms everyday? One could blame the societal norms, or rather societal ‘malfunctions’, social conditioning and upbringing, that has conveniently managed to sideline this ‘365 days a year’ full-time job of a homemaker and synonymously tagged it along to a woman. These norms to a great extent have been unfair to both men and women. While working women are still expected to multitask to attend their household duties once back from a long day at work, men who might be genuinely interested in chores like cooking, in many instances shy away from doing so, only because they would be judged for performing a ‘feminine’ task.
While it’s worth appreciating the efforts taken by men in switching roles, one could hope that the idea of ‘let me help you out’ should continue to persist even without a mere ‘cool’ quotient attached to it in the social world paradigm. For a pandemic to shift gender roles once and for all, might seem a dream too far but with lifestyle patterns changing and the ‘new norms’ ready to be embraced in the post-lockdown era, a tweak in the thought process of the society, should not cause major harm to nobody.