As we all are spending our time at home, mostly without any domestic staff, it is important to think about how much work which member of your family is doing to analyze the ideology of your family members. We can use this time of quarantine, to develop a more progressive mindset and to be more feminist in our houses and practice the art of sharing chores.
Does your mother still do the majority of the work like cooking and cleaning, or does your father lend a helping hand? Do the male members of your family do chores which are generally considered a ‘woman’s job’ in society – cooking, washing clothes, cleaning utensils, cleaning the house, decorating the house, or rearranging cupboards. Do women who also work from home, get the same level of support as male members in the family? How does the work which is assigned to the female child in the family differ from that of the male child?
Now since we are all at home, we can educate people in our families about the role of feminism and the need to share the work with women. A good start would be to have open discussions with families about domestic work and have conversations about sharing the load. We can also start by breaking the stigma which men have developed towards doing domestic work. Many men, especially in India, believe that doing domestic work is a sign of weakness, and is a woman’s job. They are not open-minded enough and feel the risk of being judged by other men if they contribute towards cooking or cleaning.
In my house, we have taken a conscious effort, and have created a weekly to-do list with tasks, and everyone in the household circles between all household tasks. This has been a real eye-opener for my father, who thought that managing the household was an “easy and effortless task”. He now respects the work which my mother does for the house more than ever. For my mother, quarantine has been a dream come true, as she sees everyone contributing to the work and learning new skills. These skills are very important to be independent. Luckily, I was raised in an environment where my parents did not differentiate between my brother and me, they always focused on skills necessary to make us more independent. However, I know many families where the male child does not know to cook at all. This can be a problem when the child goes to live alone to study or to further career prospects.
This quarantine season, as we all take the time to learn new skills, we need to break the barrier between what is considered to be a man’s job and a woman’s and grow greater equality. The shift starts with first changing our own mindsets and feeling comfortable with doing anything without boxing it or putting a label on it. We need to break stereotypes and open up these boxes without the fear of being judged. This quarantine has come as a boon in disguise, as we have our comfort spaces, to do some thinking and bring some change in our own thinking. We can also affect the thinking of our closest ones, our families, and take them a step closer to understanding feminism and its ideologies.
As we are all home, engaging in social media challenges, making dalgona coffee, or joining tik-tok, it is crucial to take up the real challenge – of learning, educating our family members, and making the world a better place just by bringing small changes in ourselves. Becoming a feminist starts at home. Very often, women who are assertive in the workspace, lack the same level of assertiveness at home. They develop a facade around their family to avoid conflict in family life.
However, it is important to let go of that facade, and to start developing assertiveness at home. It is important to teach feminism to men in our own houses, inculcate a feminist ideology in them and ensure that they empower us and support us too. It is equally important to teach feminism to women in our houses, and let them know that housework is not only their responsibility and that men need to split the work with them. Developing an open mind for both men and women is equally important.
I hope you take up this time in quarantine to teach your family to be a feminist.