#FeministMondays | Default Skills And Characteristics

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Every time my husband and I visit a certain household, he is asked how his work is going on and if it is getting hectic for him. I am asked what I cooked for breakfast/lunch/dinner. If this is not unfair, then what is? I work the exact same hours as my husband in an equally demanding job and contribute equally to the household, yet, why am I only expected to focus on domesticity? Why is a woman expected to be born with a certain set of skills and characteristics? She needs to know to cook well, to clean well, to take care of the house, to satiate her husband, to have an inbuilt motherly instinct, continue to look after the house even with a kid seated on her hip, and not complain. Who defined this? Why aren't women expected to have ambitions, rise up the ladder, be financially independent and excel at their work? It doesn't mean that these women will not take care of a house, they might even do that. Still, why isn't what they want from their life ever considered? Apart from my friends, I am yet to come across a woman who will ask me about my work and not about the meals I cook.

How many of us women have been asked if we know how to cook while we were going to get married? Will anyone ask us about our position at work? No. All that matters to others is that a woman should know how to cook, clean, produce and take care of babies. Nothing else is important apart from this. Apparently, most of the best chefs in the world are men. Well, what does one have to say about that? There are so many women out there who do not enjoy cooking, it is totally a personal choice. Nowhere has it been stated that a woman should be the only one who should cook and she should know to cook at any cost. Else, her mother has not taught her well. A kitchen is not a woman's department alone. It is a joint department for the man and the woman. Whoever enjoys cooking should cook, whoever enjoys cleaning should clean. Else, both should take turns to do it. As simple as it is. Personally, I love cooking and I enjoy it. I don't cook three fresh meals at home everyday because I am a woman. I do it because I love doing it. If I'm busy with work or ill, my husband cooks. It is not even a point of discussion for us.

One of the words that I hate the most in the English language is "Compromise". If I had a penny for every time a woman has asked me to compromise as men are not the ones to do it, I'd be a millionaire by now. Looks like compromise is solely a female trait and it is up to the men to get away with whatever they do. A woman is expected to multitask they say, it comes to her by default they say. What if she doesn't want to multitask? What if she is someone who believes in doing one thing after the other as well as she can and not all of it together? While the maximum multitasking a man is expected to do is to watch TV and drink tea/beer/coffee, a woman is expected to juggle her office work as well as the household chores and excel at everything. Well, she is born with an invisible wand after all.

The saddest part is that it more often than not is always a woman who expects another woman to conform to these ridiculous norms. If a woman comes home late after work to a husband awaiting dinner, the woman is to blame as she got late. Not the man who probably has spent a couple of odd hours in front of the TV and not bothered to prepare a meal for himself and his wife who he knows by now is clearly late. Poor guy, they'll say.

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A maternal instinct is something every woman is expected to have too, by default. When I met the mother of a friend who had just give birth, she asked me when am I planning to have a child. I just responded saying that I do not want to have one. She almost pounced on me saying how can I not want to have one. Every woman should want to have a child she said. If that's the case, shouldn't men too? Why aren't they asked such questions? The problem with our society is that we do not have our basics right. Equality is too far-fetched because of this.

A woman is not expected to have ambitions, a woman is not expected to wear modern clothes or leave her hair open, a woman is not expected to laugh out loud, a woman is not expected to argue with a man or anyone else for that matter, a woman is not expected to hire a cook or order food from outside, a woman is not expected to have a life of her own. A woman is expected to be more creative, a woman is expected to be more nurturing, a woman is expected to have Nigella-isque cooking skills, a woman is expected to be ninja of vacuuming, a woman is expected to pop-up babies like it is her sole agenda and she is expected to do all of this at the same time and excel at it all. And what about the man? Well, he is expected to be the bread winner and nothing else.

The problem is that you cannot even argue with such narrow minded people. As much as I would love to correct these people and stress upon the topic of equality, I know that it is a waste of time and speech. Many women are more than happy to conform to these expectations and crib about being born a woman. For me, I only do what I want and when I want. As much as my home is important to me, so is my work and I try my best to not let either of it suffer. The passions I have, be it cooking, writing, stitching or reading, is all acquired. I wasn't born with any of it. It takes time, it takes patience, it takes oodles of hard work to pursue something and be successful at it. It clearly is a matter of choice. Some people are good at one thing and the others are good at some thing else. Just let them be. No woman should have to deal with the burden of expectations about what she is expected to know by default.

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This post is a part of the powerful series #FeministMondays on Naba's blog and you can be a part of it too. On the second Monday of every month, write an impactful post with the hashtag #FeministMondays and link it back to Naba's blog.

18 comments:

  1. I can relate to so many points here. I have always hated cooking. Infact I still do not like entering the kitchen. My husband can cook a decent meal but it used to get a little difficult for him on those days when he had energency night duties or 24hrs duty (he's a doctor). So we agreed on hiring a cook. The first time that we had few people visiting from his side (not fil and mil-there are nice), I was bombarded with sarcastic comments about not being domestic enough. After a couple of times, we gave them a piece of our mind and that stopped. But this is always a continuous struggle for a woman.

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    1. It is so sad, isn't it that a woman's worth is still based on if she can cook or not? I'm so proud of you for giving these morons a piece of your mind. People seriously need to learn to mind their own business.

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  2. I agree with many points you have made here. When people ask if I know to cook and why I am not multi-tasking, I feel like asking them to shut up and mind their own business. With a child in hand, people only expect me to double up and get things done, but do not see the point to help. To those who decide to be child-free(correctly said), I appreciate their decision. It takes time to decide something as important as this one. I don't see a point in birthing a child and blaming them all the time for their inability to run their lives properly.

    I know of people who think and act like women are born only to cook and pop out children. They do not let women join in basic conversations too. I feel such men are sick and must get a life. I pity them for their inability to accept a woman's growth and their insecure feeling. As I read your post, I felt how boiled up you would have been. I feel the same seeing those imbeciles. The thing is, there is no point in explaining to them. That's the worst thing. We can spare sometime to let them know what we think, but they hardly listen. Such people are not worth sharing our words with. I also wonder what only to do with such idiots then.

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    1. You said it, Jay! We are very far away from equality because of the mentality of many others. Why expect a woman to have default skills? Do we expect something from men the same way?

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  3. I completely agree with you. Like you I enjoy cooking but my husband likes cooking too. He cooks pretty often which is nice. Luckily my in-laws encourage that men should be cooking. He is better at cleaning and organizing than me. I've never cherished a dusting cloth and I try to pass on that core to anyone who is willing. I have initiated my sons into cooking and cleaning because they are not gender-specific tasks. And seriously I love to discuss career, politics, sports. Some women are so boring. All they talk about is husband, kids and in-laws. There is so much more to being a woman than being domestic.

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    1. Oh yes, Rachna. You are blessed in the in-law department then. Back at our place a woman's place is expected to be the kitchen and the man is mocked if he even prepares a meal. Kudos for bringing up your boys the right way!

      I love talking about everything under the sun. Hell with the others, let us meet soon and celebrate :)

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  4. I have gone through majority of the experiences you have enumerated in the post and it saddens me to revisit the memory lane. Gradually with time, I began to equate all the biased questions as bullying and decided I am not going to have any more of it. Yes, I cook (and do a lot more) though I don't like to (atleast not doing it 3 times a day 7 times a week) because my husband wasn't taught to or groomed to or prepared to take charge even if the woman in his life gets sick. It is disturbing but this is my set-up which I can do nothing about. The thing I can do is to encourage and teach my son every aspect of managing the house on his own with time.

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    1. My heart goes out to you Anamika, but I'm glad that you have made your peace with it. It is good that you are teaching your son this as he grows up. It is of utmost importance.

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  5. The mindset is changing albeit slowly. Thanks to education, economic independence and exposure to the world outside home and increased awareness, the old attitudes and ideas are yielding place to equality and parity in all aspects atleast in urban areas.Sometimes women themselves are willing accomplices to the subservient roles!

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    1. Not fast enough, KP Sir. I hope the dynamics change at a steady pace soon. It is hard to get it out of the minds of some women that they are born to serve. Almost impossible in some cases.

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  6. Rules rules and more rules is what we women come across on all times. I am those who hate cooking.. .yes.. I just dont enjoy it and it is the most mundane task as per me. So well I dont take interest in baking, nor in searching up new recipes. MEntioing this to a friend, who shot back saying,"How will you run your family? What do the kids eat?"... My husband is never asked if he likes cooking.. It gets on to my nerves.. But well, people do talk and ask questions. Just take it from one ear and leave it from the other. Life your life the way you deem best!

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    1. What nonsense! Why do women take it upon themselves to be so domestic? Once this mentality leaves women, then it probably will leave men as well.

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  7. You know, Soumya, I have so much to say on this topic. But you probably know where I stand. One example of this expectation is how a colleague has been made to believe that she needs to give birth to a child to fulfill her purpose of being a woman or being married. When we suggest that she can always adopt a child if she wants one so much and she is not being able to naturally she goes into the tangent of what the society will say. In fact, she had even made herself believe that it is her shortcoming that she is not being able to conceive naturally. That's why she is putting herself through so many treatments and stretching her self financially , stressing herself out. If only she could look outside of the society's expectations her life would have been so much easier. Sigh!

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    1. I hear you, Naba. My SIL is going through the same thing now. It is such a stress for the woman. The injections and medications ruin the body in so many other ways. Women need to understand that procreation is not the only thing they are born for.

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  8. I see why I don't have many friends 😅 the one time someone asked me to have a baby instead of traveling, I never called them back.
    Thankfully, I don't have to deal with all this BS here. But I know that my parents have to listen to a lot of stereotypical comments from relatives about me being childfree now. They don't tell me about it, but I come to know about it anyway and it makes very sad.
    You be the awesome Leo you are. Breaking stereotypes and changing thoughts .

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    1. Ditto with me! People find it difficult to connect with my thoughts because I apparently am "different".

      Childbirth and household chores is a choice. Not a compulsion.

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  9. You touched a raw nerve with this one. It just gets infinitely worse if you decide to give up full time work and career. It is assumed that you'll be good at cooking and will enjoy cleaning and that your home will be spic and span at all times. That I simply might not enjoy housework is beyond everyone's comprehension. Mercifully I have friends and family who enjoy books and conversations and value the work that I do or else I'd probably have died from annoyance.

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    1. That's so sad na? Thank God for people who give us an escape from the burden of these expectations.

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