Cooking and domestic chores are “basic skills” not only the “Women’s job”

Zinat Hasiba Swarna(Translated by Sadia Rahman):

My writings are usually focused on the little changes or revolutions that occur in us; women. Society has groomed us in a way that we spend all our energy in the conflict between men and women’s contribution, personality, and skills.

This is the reason I always avoid blaming (though it is hard) each other. Again there is a feeling of the absence of peace and restlessness in blaming which is embarrassing for me. But while writing this article I faced immense disgust towards men inside me. The reason is man’s shameless hypocritical and defensive stand against cooking and other domestic works. So keeping my embarrassment aside, I would like to dedicate this writing to men (and obviously to those women who are working in a manner to carry this stereotyping ahead). If you think this is offensive then let it be. If you want to make something new then you have to break the old ones and for breaking old ones, the offense is a must.

Anyway, before expressing my rage, let me tell you two recent stories.

Number one: I went to the southern part of the country and visited the villages for one of my projects. We were talking about household works in a meeting. One of us said, “Now men and women are equal and men now help in work a lot”. I was curious and asked for examples.  They answered, “Now they drink water by themselves, do not call us for water.” I just digested that and asked for more examples.  The answer was “they fetch vegetables and water during cooking.” Others protested, “Do you think everyone is like your husband? Who else is here like this?” I did not give up yet and was looking for more changes. What I got was, formerly they used to order for food now they say, “Let’s have food.” This is the portrayal of people who live in a better position (That is when they say their husband being ‘helpful’ they mean doing their own part of work and have respect for the partners)

The second story: A workshop was arranged to discuss and find way-outs to address difficult realities and complexities while working at urban slums. Some of the colleagues were talking there. One of them who regularly goes there for a survey revealed when they go to slums, they get the men in the home. They stay at home, play cards, take drugs, or work as part-time rickshaw pullers. They don’t perform the household works, Women are not at home because they work full time in garments or as maids and earn for home and do all the household works. They do not have the leisure for talking.

To sum up; wherever you look, you see the household chores are for women. They do it on their own or appoint another woman for that. Either do it or get it done. This happens even when she is the main earning member at home. To be more precise, it doesn’t matter if she lives in a city or village, she is working or she is a housewife, baby or adult, “lower class” “middle class” or “upper class”, lefty feminist or patriarchal, humanist or Hindu or Muslim or Indigenous, artist or scholar, labor or businessman or admin cadre, police or student or maid household is an obligation to her. She has no class distribution when it comes to this obligation. They are bound to the other members especially to the men, This obligation may not have any class but answering this obligation has its class. Such as in villager or in slums if a girl speaks up she is beaten immediately by the man. If they are of “educated” or “progressive” society then she is just held by a cold look or verbal insult or blackmailing (I cannot assure you about the physical abuse here too).

Cooking and cleaning your house and utensils are basic skills and every living person needs to learn that. When will people get that? To make a house homely, every member has responsibility, when will people understand that? They sealed work labeling them as “Women’s chores” that resulted in women and maid issue that is totally on women’s. How it feels like men have no existence in this place!

In recent times I saw luxuries of many guys in their comments on this issue. I observed limitations in their concept of class discrimination. In their every word it reflects that they have taken it for granted that household works are only for women. It was like men do not belong to the household. They talk about being inside that frame. They attack women easily over issues like not being able to manage the household, acing maids help, considering daycares.

I just watched and thought that how many of them cook or cut vegetables. How many of them wash their own clothes or fold their clothes or wash dishes. How many think about cleaning or wiping rooms and bathrooms even know about cleaning trash boxes. How many of them clean the fridge or clean the corners of the house or wipe the dust from furniture or takes responsibility for children’s works or maintains what to cook for dinner.  How many of them know what things house has gone short or keeps list what is not in the list (from the beginning of history men used to shop foods cause there is raiding of money and a place of socializing. In cities, even this work has now given to women’s shoulders or them taking it for the availability of super shops.)

How many of these brothers deal with maids. Do they know that is no less than maintaining your office staff? (Considering time, strategy, stress, relation-building)  How much generous they are while giving a salary to maids? How many of them negotiate with maids on that matter?

How many are there who do not complain about dirty places  or keeping the house unorganized, delay in cooking or why the dishwasher/oil finishes so quickly, or why there is hair on the toilet? Is there anyone who does not bind a woman member of the home in this? How did you consider yourself invisible in this then?

A believer of left parties without hesitation tells the woman, “Why don’t you give your child to daycare? It’s the end of all problems.” That person cannot imagine that person in care to has her own child who has to take care of home and children at the same. Why they cannot think that a worker too in her position is fighting to maintain all works alone. This class-conscious person should have thought about this “lower class” fighting girl when mentioning daycare first. Why does the person keep forgetting the “lower class” woman while blaming the “middle class” woman?

Why they do not think of suggesting the male person help the woman before suggesting to go for daycare? The solution may come from that as well, isn’t it? Have you inquired about how many daycares exist in this city before mentioning that? I see my friend helplessly looking for a good daycare. She found one but she has to give 15000 Taka per month for the care but they won’t take the responsibility of child bath. This is a tension every working mother is carrying with her job. What about that maid? No need to talk about that because maybe her children don’t need any protection.

Now men are taking part in households, this is not false. They started doing so.  But they don’t think of it as responsibility yet, just as a help. They do it only for her/to share work/for love/to share her pain. This is tiring but still positive.  This creates another burden in the partner’s mind, “he is doing my work”. One thing conscious men should know now. When they are working in the home, washing dishes, cooking, sharing works, taking care of children, they are not doing their partner’s work. His earnings go for household, wife’s earnings go for children, and in the same manner, household works are for both of them, and for other members. No work is for only women.

To empower yourself, you need to understand that. You need foods to survive, foods should be cooked. This is for your sake and it is up to distribution how much anyone will contribute.  Learning to cook is not a big deal that you have to depend on a woman for that.  Cleaning is important for your own hygiene. If you live a hygiene life you have to take part in cleaning dirt. IT is not at all “girly” or insulting.

Try to get the political condition. Women are taking part in the outer world taking a share of earnings. When they are being economically dependent their dependency on men is decreasing. It will take time but everyone knows the tale of the rabbit and tortoise.  If you do not change your stand future will be the exact opposite of patriarchal, not based on feminist theories. SO just wake up for your own sake not out of sympathy to women. Just accept your position to have the courage to change. Get skilled in household works and teach your children the same. BE empowered and less dependent on women. You don’t need to take the burden of women just take responsibility for your own.

Zinat Hasiba Swarna is from Bangladesh working in the development sector since 2009. She studied Economics at the University of Dhaka. Human rights, especially women’s rights, is the area of interest. Writes for bringing little changes in behavior and beliefs of women and men to change the patriarch social structure.

To read the original article in Bengali, Click Here

Sadia Rahman is a final year student of English literature, Rajshahi University. Other than writing, her passions include writing, debating, and anchoring. 



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