Why would anyone want to do the dishes? Or clean the kitchen counters with soap till they shine, or soak just-bought vegetables in warm water to remove traces of pesticide, or wipe the fridge shelves, or make lists every day so that salt, masala, sugar, dal, rice, flour, fresh produce, tea and coffee stocks never diminish?
Why would anyone want to dust the shelves every day though they’re dusty again the next? Or sweep the floors, or wipe the windows and tabletops?
Why would anyone want the onerous task of laundry, which goes on mind-numbingly for eternity? Or clean a kid’s potty, or a sick person’s puke, or make the beds in the morning and unmake them at night, or draw the curtains open in the morning and closed at night, or arrange and rearrange the dining table at every meal, or fill and refill soap dispensers, or put all the garbage from all the bins together and then go outside and leave it all for the garbage man every morning?
If given the choice, who would opt for these actions versus, say, watching a web series, surfing comedy shows, dancing, chatting with friends, writing a book, praying, eating or sleeping?
No one would opt for these unless it was for their own personal upkeep. The only reason one would choose to do these life-maintenance tasks for others was if it was a job that came with payment or perks.
That’s why it’s a travesty of justice when tasks that no one would opt for are thrust on one section of the population who are gaslighted into believing it is their ‘duty’. In the above cases, these duties are left to the woman of the house. If a man does any of them, he is hailed as a noble soul, a selfless bodhisattva. As if he has never had any need for laundered clothes, cooked meals, a clean home, and the kids aren’t his.
No matter what a woman’s choice, inclination, ability, education, employment, or financial or social status, tending to the home and family almost always falls in her kitty. Privileged women hire other women to assist them, though they continue to be responsible for the net result. The not-so-privileged do it themselves, and their lot is the worst. No one in the world ever wants to exchange places with an underprivileged Indian wife.
Hours every day go into these maintenance tasks, tasks without which a household cannot function. Yet, there is very little by way of reward. There is definitely no money in it, unless one counts the extra hours the man of the house gets to ‘unwind’ in front of the TV and hence put in more effort at his workplace and perhaps earn more money, but few look at it that way.
There is also very little personal incentive to do so, though the candidates are brainwashed to believe that by virtue of being biologically equipped to give birth, women are untiring and self-sacrificing by nature and so unpaid care work is their calling and dharma, though there is no scientific basis to link the two phenomena.
Let’s get this straight. Housework is not a woman’s job. It’s not her choice, her calling or her dharma. She did not opt for it. She was not born to do it. She does not want to spend decades of her life doing it. It’s not her burden or her cross to bear.
It’s everyone’s work. Do your share.
Women @ Home:
- Women in India spend up to 297 minutes per day on domestic work, compared with 31 minutes for men.
- The value of women’s unpaid care work has been estimated to be 3.1% of India’s GDP.
- India and Madagascar are the only two countries where urban women spend more time on unpaid care work than rural women.
Lead image: Chezbeate / Pixabay. First published in eShe’s June 2020 issue