We could safely say that for a while now, society has challenged the traditional gender roles of the ‘Man’ venturing out of the house to earn the bread and better and the ‘Woman’ staying behind to cook, clean and look after the children. The extent, of course, varies and one would expect very different scenes in a thatched roof hut in a village in UP than in a swanky twentieth floor apartment at Cuffe Parade, but there is no doubt that the lines are blurring.
More and more women are pursuing ambitious careers. They are getting out of homes, getting themselves an education, getting jobs and matching steps with their male counterparts as they too get home the bread and butter. Well, more bread and better, but more is always good. And this is great, but there is something I think we must pause to think about. How many men do I see staying home, taking care of children or cooking daily meals?
Oh yes, that must sound like a preposterous question. Why would I ever expect that to happen? Rather, why should I expect something like that to happen?
I think we have two concerns to address. Firstly, the direction in which we are moving is a dangerous one. It leads to a future, where both husband and wife go out to work, the maid cleans the house, the cook prepares the dinner, and there is probably a hired help to teach the kid to cycle. This is a house, but not a home and would spells the end of ‘the family and home’ as we know it.
Secondly, in our bid to create equality we have developed a notion that certain tasks are inferior to others. Or, we could also say that the notion that certain tasks are inferior to others is what fuelled the need for a feminist movement in the first place, but what is certain is that we are giving out a message, that as a society, and I include both and men and women here, we seem to believe that the traditional male roles are better than the traditional female roles. If I were to ask the question – do you think the ‘male roles’ are more important than the ‘female roles’, the almost unanimous answer I’d expect to get is a very forceful ‘No’, but that is clearly not what we truly believe when the entire flux that is created due to this greater fluidity between gender roles is uni-directional. Women are vying for opportunities that were earlier restricted to men, but the reverse isn’t happening. Few men, if at all, would rue the fact that they can’t cook as well as the women around or wouldn’t know how to take care of their infant child.
I am not saying here, that men should stop working and stay home to take care of children, but we must recognise the fact that the roles men and women play may be different but are equally important, and we can’t do without either. True gender equality does not lie in women doing everything men can, it lies in men and women being respected equally for who they are.