Is Home Economics only for women?

Fahmi Ela:

Fahmi Ela

Though we had co-education in our school till class five, from class six the girls were in the morning shift and the boys were on the day shift. After being promoted to class six, we were given a new subject-Home Economics. This was for girls and ‘Agriculture Management’ was for boys. There was scope to choose between the two but though a few girls liked Agriculture, I have never heard of a boy to take Home economics.

Because there is a mindset of us that ‘men=outside works, women=house-work’. We should come out of this mindset. If we even think of this revolution, the home still belongs to the women, even those who are in that revolution. In this case, are there any men who even once shouted that ‘no, the home is not only for women, the men also belong there?’

Cover of Home Economics Textbook for 8th Grade
Image Source: Pinterest

That the home belongs only to women; I think this idea initiated the idea to provide home economics for girls in high school. Just think about a boy wishing to take home economics as his subject, think how he would be treated! Most people won’t be able to accept it.

There are a lot of educated men who don’t accept that household works are not only for women. But the involvement in household works known as ‘female works’, for men, is considered hilarious, low, and shameful. For these men, women are the second gender and men are the first gender.

If the works tagged for the second gender are done by the first gender, it’s obviously shameful! Right? The men who help their women in household works are called home-sick, “mad for the wife” and many more tags are used to describe them. The reason behind this is the ‘men for the outside works and women for the households’ mentality. My partner had to listen to these things from his relatives too and I was said to be ‘bossing on my husband’. Because it is said that he wouldn’t do these if  I wouldn’t have dominated him! And these are only my works!

My question is, as the man and the woman both are working outside together then why do the household works come only to the women at the end of the day?

I started this discussion with the two really gender-biased subjects from high school. We are discriminated against by gender from the time of our birth but at the high school level, men and women are made completely separated. There it is made clear that even the women are studying all other subjects but she has another subject just because she is a woman and vice versa.

I don’t know if the developed countries of this world have this type of gender-biased education system. In this part of the world, home economics was introduced in higher education in 1961. The educational institution was named ‘Home Economics College’. It was only for women and still is. It was established with the help of the Ford Foundation and the Oklahoma State University of USA. In the year 1961 it started higher secondary and graduate level, then in 1963 it started post-graduate. Currently, there are 5 departments -food and nutrition, wealth management and entrepreneurship, child-rearing and social relations, art and creative education, garments, and knitting.

Recently, the ‘female students’ of the home economics college under Dhaka University demanded co-education, to admit male students. I used ‘female students’ because most of the people think that Home Economics College is only for women and only women should study here.

A lot of people criticized this movement. They even gave indecent hints.

Still, our educated people can’t accept the fact that our men also need to gain knowledge about home economics. They have seen from their childhood that their mother had done the household and their father used to work outside. And they have seen in the school that the girls have a subject named Home Economics and they had ‘Agriculture Management’.

In the underdeveloped, backward, feudal-capitalist, patriarchic social system, household works are considered to be done by women. As a result, the topics related to home economics are also considered for women. Besides that, as this patriarchic society doesn’t want to decide the wages of household works, so they think that the topics taught in home economics have less economic value. And so, these are for women.

I believe that topics like home, home management, food and nutrition-related knowledge, childbearing, textile, and clothing are as essential to men as to women. Along with that, I think that the gender discriminative subjects provided in high school should be revoked. In that case, there could be a new mandatory subject introduced which includes both the knowledge.

I completely agree with the point of the demand made by the students of Home Economics College. Because the topics taught here are kept attached only to women, that means, ‘you have stepped in the outer world, but you need to know this subject so that you can run the house more scientifically and the jobs related to home economics are only for you’. We must get out of the taboo that only women would study home economics. I hope the girls may get success in this movement.

Link to the original article in Bengali:

Fahmi Ela has completed MSS in Anthropology, Jahangirnagar University. Women empowerment is her only passion towards which she wishes to contribute through her writing. She is a regular writer of Women Chapter Bangla.
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