By Samanvay Pandey
While the world today stands devastated by the catastrophic outbreak of COVID-19, with lives falling apart and survival becoming a costly affair, it is our very own family that is believed to be an ‘earthly paradise’ which soothes the agony of the disgruntled and inherently social human being.
With a sizeable population forced to stay indoors and outdoor interaction being limited, if not forbidden, it is the family, either of ‘origin’ or of ‘choice’, that serves as the safety valve for us.
The lockdown hasn’t been purely a family leisure time as some would hope it to be, for a lot many people, it has been a race against time for survival.
For the disadvantaged, home is not the same as it used to be and for the not so-disadvantaged, the home will never be the same as it used to be. Truth be told, the lockdown never affected men and women equally.
Males Actually Doing Housework?
In a social-media-frenzied society like ours, the lockdown initially was more about posting or boasting of working at home for the male counterparts.
Glittery social media updates amplifying their help of the female counterpart in household chores were seen as acts of benevolence on their part and cherished as a new beginning.
Even the women adored the newfound support. But this notion of equality at the doorstep was simply a false alarm.
As soon as people made peace with the fact that this lockdown was going to stay not for a few weeks but months at a stretch and they had to continue doing what they were doing, their anxiety and frustration turned upon the weaker member of the family.
This is clearly evident across the globe by the exponential increase in the registration of domestic violence cases, leaving aside the casual sexism and misogynist altercations that went unreported.
For a man-led family unperturbed by the question of survival, their anxiety was the result of the absence of domestic help and the dwindling work-life balance whereas for those whom the question was always there, their frustration with their life slithered onto their families.
In a male-dominated society like ours, a working female partner is squeezed to satiate her role as the caregiver.
Nevertheless, after a careful examination of the gendered realities, it becomes evident that despite its glaring exaggerations, the lockdown has indeed initiated a discussion on de-gendering the household.
Can The Lockdown Bring About Gender Equality?
Not exactly gender equality, but on a positive note, the lockdown has made the family structure more accustomed to the grim realities of their daily lives.
Family members have been gradually opening up to each other, and even though they are not ready to act, at least they have started listening.
The systemic devaluation of the household chores performed by women is witnessing caveats for the first time. In absence of any outer escape-house, men and women are stitching the centuries-old stereotypical dogmas and occupational segregation.
The most enduring change is the beginning of a dialogue on young men or boys knowing how to cook. The nation-wide lockdown froze the movement of people and this paralyzed the essential network of house-helps, hotels, and other eateries.
So they were left with no alternative but to cook for themselves and that too not just for a day or so but for months at a stretch. This enabled a positive overview of the ability to cook in connection with women and the necessity to know it.
In a country like India, with the median age being twenty-four years as per the 2011 census, such a development is very crucial for change of attitude and emancipation of the women.
Further, the work-from-home routine has highlighted the avenues and negated the objections to the regular participation of the women workforce.
We need to capitalize on the gains; this has to be the opening for challenging the inherently ‘sacrosanct’ family structure. In a global but truncated society, a de-gendered household might be the missing link in our not-so-complete social lives.
It is not by denial or defiance we can get rid of the deeper unease or discomfort in society, but it is by accepting the gap and then overcoming it. This marks a beautiful juncture, wherewith acceptance we can induce introspection for a balanced social structure.
Image Credits: Google Images
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