A few days back, after the twins were done with dinner, me, the MIL and BIL sat down for ours. As we were eating and chatting, I noticed that the twins had strewn their stuff around the drawing room. I called out to Lui who pretended not to hear me and carried on with her drawing. I called Shobby and he immediately came to attention. I told him to pick up the stuff and he dutifully obeyed.
The MIL got a little riled when she saw this. “Hey”, she said,”This is not fair. You hardly make Lui do anything whereas you always make Shobby run around”.
“Its not so”, I denied.
“It is”, she said, turning towards the BIL,”sometimes I feel , her hatred for men shows in the way she treats Shobby”.
All this was said in jest and good humour.
But it got me thinking.
Was I really a man-hater?
Kind of surprising for her to think so isn’t it, considering I ended up marrying her son 😀 .
But jokes apart, I took a long time that night thinking of why she came to the conclusion which she did. With a whole lot of introspection, I realized that I did make Shobby run around a lot more than I did Lui. But, so does the BF. Does it then mean that he is a man-hater too?
Of course not!
His reason is that Lui will one day get married and leave him and he wants to treat his little girl like a princess till then.
(The man hasn’t used these words exactly, but I can make out by the way he fulfills her every wish and command 🙄 )
My only reason for making Shobby run errands is that I don’t want to bring him up believing he has special privileges in life just because he is a boy. Many households still consider making boys do house-work as taboo. I encourage my son in whatever he likes to do and also involve him in stuff he doesn’t like doing (nothing to complain here as he actually LOVES housework).
I have no qualms about my son’s interest in cooking and Lui’s complete lack of the same. One day, when I told Shobby that will make a good chef if he practices well, the MIL got annoyed and said that Shobby will not cook when he grows up. It wasn’t what she said that surprised me. It was the sheer vehemence with which she said it that shocked me. Almost as if it was a fate worse than death if her darling grandchild served his wife breakfast in bed 😀 😛
Can’t blame her though. Its the social conditioning of ages, of being married into a household where catering to men’s needs was the sole purpose of a woman. Even the FIL confesses that when he was a child, he was strictly forbidden from entering the kitchen or even making his own bed. It was how things were done in those days. To some extent, the BF and the BIL too shared a similar thought process, that there were demarcated things that a woman should do and other things that a man should do. The MIL, even though a full-time teacher, slogged terribly at home. She woke up earlier than everyone else, did the dishes, washed clothes, swept and mopped up the house, cooked food, packed the lunch boxes and then went to her school. After coming back home, she would have to first enter the kitchen and cook dinner for the whole family before even thinking of putting her feet up and resting with a cup of tea.
She did all that she did because she was conditioned into believing that her job was secondary to her primary reason of existence, to serve and look after a household.
After I got married, the BF realized how terribly careless he had been towards his working mother, not realizing the amount of effort she had to put in. It is not something he is proud of, but he is willing to accept that he was wrong in expecting royal treatment as his due. That he could shun housework because he was a male. Today, he does everything to help out at home, be it me or his mother for he realizes that we work just as hard as men and in fact, even more.
Better than late than never, isn’t it?!
I want Shobby to involve himself with household chores just as he would with chores outside the house. It would be the same for Lui too, only difference being that with her, people have already started outlining what she should be doing. When guests come and we ask Lui to serve anything or just pass the dishes, people comment on how it is a good thing that she is learning “her duties” early. Ticks me off each time someone says that in front of Lui! I don’t want my daughter growing up believing that she has to do housework as is the wont of her lot (girls). In fact, I think I don’t make Lui run errands because of this same reason!
Truly speaking, I don’t think my actions or ideas are feminist per se. They are reasonable and logical on humanitarian grounds. Shobby and Lui are two sides of the same coin for me. There is no way I can treat one any different from the other. I believe in equality and I will treat my children just the way me and my brother-sisters were brought up – as equals. There is no house-hold chore that my brother isn’t adept at. Heck, he even knows how to embroider, because along with us, mom made him also stitch table-cloths 🙂 . Dad taught us to swim and to play badminton just the way he taught Bro. Except for him getting a separate room and us sisters having to share ours (so unfair!), there wasn’t anything we could complain against the way our parents treated us all.
When I express such sentiments at home or even at work, I’m dubbed a feminist, a member (and sometimes leader) of the “Mahila Mukti Morcha” ! I don’t mind the titles as much as I mind the belief that I am going against a norm or fighting for a lost cause. I don’t laugh when a male colleague makes fun of the work his wife does/doesn’t do. I don’t find it funny when they crack jokes on women’s intellect. I don’t approve of beauty pageants, for women married or otherwise and I’m dead against pageants for children ! (I can never understand how a woman’s practiced pirouette in high heels and a bikini will help the world become a better place). Call me a grumpy old hag if you may, but by demanding a right to being treated as an equal, I’m just making an attempt to make tomorrow better for my daughter. For all our daughters.
Isn’t that a cause worth championing? And wouldn’t it be great if we teach the men of tomorrow to treat women the same way they would expect to be treated?
If this classifies me as a feminist, so be it. I’m proud to be called as one 🙂