Changing Mindsets, Sharing Responsibilities – #Pledgeforparity

Feb 02, 2016

A right hitherto reserved for the eldest male member

In a significant decision, a top court in India’s capital city New Delhi ruled that women are eligible to become the legal head of a family, a position hitherto reserved only for the eldest male.

The Delhi High Court verdict said there is “no restriction” on a woman becoming a family’s karta — a role demarcated by ancient Hindu customs and scripture that defines the manager of a joint family, the Times of India reported.

Read the full news article here

This piece of news is very important because it is a significant step forward in creating parity in gender roles.

We all must be familiar with the Population Census survey, having answered the questionnaire ourselves or, being women, having witnessed someone else from the family answering on our behalf. I am sure the second part of the preceding sentence sounds absurd, right? But this is the truth for majority of the women living in the joint family system, including me. Frankly speaking this never disturbed me. I have been fine with the elders of the house taking the lead, for their age and wisdom.

However, there was something else which disturbs me, the mindsets. Let me share an incidence which happened to one of the woman I am related to-

Q : Who is the head of the family?

FIL’s A : I am the head of the family. My name is NNS.

Q (to MIL) : Your name?

MIL’s A : VV.

Q (to the woman I know) : Your name?

Woman (I know) : AM.

The MIL jumps in to defend the folly by making the correction to record her DIL’s name as AS, S being their family name.

The surveyors looked towards AM for an answer. She told them her name in all official records including Passport, Pan Card, Income Tax returns was AM and she thought they should go with it.

This might just look like any other day in a joint family set-up but, if you choose to, you might just see the differences in the last names of all the 3 members interviewed, even the MIL’s but there arises the question of accepting the DIL’s using her maiden name. Isn’t it disparity, caused by a woman upon another woman?

There are households like ours where the rule is – the cooking must be done entirely by the women of the house, disregard of the fact whether they stay at home or work outside, doesn’t matter in case of the working women if they come back at 6 or 8 in the evening while the men can chill before the TV after coming back from work. The women have to wake up early in the morning to do the housework while the men can remain sleeping until afternoon if it is an off day from work. The reason these men will give when asked to wake up early would be that they do not know what to do in the house if they wake up in the mornings. Their reason holds true since they were never involved to work around the house.

When a woman becomes pregnant, the common blessing she is showered upon with is – ‘It will be a boy.’ If the first born child is a girl, the acceptability comes with a statement ‘these days boys and girls are all equal.’ This statement irks because if the people believed in this they should not have been saying it. And if the second born child is also a girl then it is a shame. The second time, the same people forget their rhetoric of boys and girls being equal. Even today in well to do families, the couples are pressurized by the elders to go for the third child in the hope of a male child when the first 2 are girls. No, they do not flinch at getting the sex of fetus determined and getting it aborted because they find themselves incapable of bearing the expenses associated with another girl. Who are the people wronged here – the mother, the unborn child and the 2 girls too.

I stay at home meaning the onus of household chores and child care responsibility fall upon me, not primarily but wholly.

I often think how can we work upon changing the mindsets which hampers the parity between the status of a man and a woman in our daily lives and I realize there is hardly anything I can do to change the mindset of my generation or the previous one, given the patriarchal backgrounds with strict compartmentalized roles they come from. But what I can do is to work with the next generation, my son, and setting him free from the gender stereotypes to be able to create parity in gender roles in my own small way. There are a couple of things I have already been doing with him –

 Pledge-unconsciousbias

  • Reading. I actively look for storylines where there is a father bending the rules by cooking and taking care of the child with either the mother being completely absent or makes special appearance in a page or two. The intention is to familiarize him with such family set-ups which, though, is not visible to him in his immediate surroundings but they do exist in other parts of this world and these are not alien concepts.
  • Chores. I let him follow me with the disinfectant cleaner in his hand and spraying it around while I clean and wipe off the dust. He tidies up his toys on his own,helps me with the laundry by getting me the bag of dirty clothes and separating the whites from non-whites.
  • Baking. While I add all the ingredients required to make a cake in a bowl, he mixes them well. And I let him take the credit for being an expert at making cakes. We make crappy cakes but that is another matter.
  • Cheering for him. When he turns up with a cup of pretend tea or the cheeky Bournvita tea, I make it a point to cheer aloud for him to encourage him so that he is able to prepare a real cup of tea or the entire meal later on in life without any inhibition.
  • Kindness and compassion. I consider kindness and compassion to be the most important attributes because they allow one to see the hardship of others and appreciate the work they are doing. Every child has these qualities and the need is to recognize their such acts, applaud, encourage and nurture them.

InternationalWomensDay-portrait

Yesterday was International Women’s day and this year the focus is on gender parity and to pledge for parity (click the link to pledge). We can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly, whether it is financially supporting the education of girls, helping to make a group of women ready to be employable, employing women, helping women and girls achieve their ambitions, calling for gender-balanced leadership, respecting and valuing difference, developing more inclusive and flexible cultures to root out workplace bias.

I have pledged for parity, will you too?

Let us make parity a reality and do our bit about it which goes beyond just talking about it.

Until this year, Women’s day never made sense to me because I felt dedicating and celebrating just one day to the causes and role of women in our lives can do no good in the greater sense. However, this time, my fellow bloggers at Write Tribe decided to blog about this year’s theme of International Women’s Day, Pledge for Parity throughout the entire Women’s Day week and I wholeheartedly joined in with them.

Corinne Rodrigues of Everyday Gyaan tagged me yesterday to blog about my take on Pledge to Parity and today, I pass on the honours to Esha Mookerjee Dutta who blogs at Soul Talk.

24 thoughts on “Changing Mindsets, Sharing Responsibilities – #Pledgeforparity

  1. Lindsay says:

    This is such an important topic, thank you for writing about it and sharing your experiences. I recently saw a commercial that came from India:

    It made tears well up in my eyes. My father died when I was 6, but my mom remarried a couple years later. My stepdad has always, always done the cooking, cleaning, etc…More traditional “female” roles. So I grew up expecting other men were/would be like that, too. Not true! I have many female friends who do all of the domestic chores except for yard work, and it makes me sick, the disparity in responsibility of the home & of the children.

    I’ve clicked over to make my pledge for parity now!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. nabanita says:

    Thanks for writing about it..you talk about something that really needs to be incorporated..it is like starting from home, within ourselves and so much more important to what we teach the next generation..if we can do it correctly, imagine the change…loved this, absolutely resonated with the society we live in..

    Liked by 1 person

    • the bespectacled mother says:

      Thank you Nabanita. There is a lots to be done in terms of bringing parity in genders and the work has to begin at the grassroot level. A man who can appreciate and share responsibilities at home is surely going to be one who creates fair work ethics and atmosphere for women at work.

      Like

  3. Vasantha Vivek says:

    Rightly pointed out, Anamika. A very daring post. It brought back the paining moments of me with just born boy, family and my job responsibilities, looking after two sick aged persons, doing part time ME, ME course in charge at work, hubby leaving home at 6.30 am and back home by 9.30 pm, taking leaves for family functions and other works, depending on maids, comparison with the other SAH DILs, tolerating all rubbish talks about my job and my illness, regular health check ups of myself, ill treatment for my mother, my sister and brother treated as taken for granted ……. All stopped now after a very tough struggle …… The mindset has to change more still ….. But hope it would for sure ….

    Like

  4. Sunita Saldhana says:

    It is so true. We talk about parity but what do we do about it? Small things like teaching our sons that it is perfectly okay to clean the house and cook do go a long way to dispelling stereotypes and as you rightly say we can at least change the mindset of the next generation.

    Like

  5. vishalbheeroo says:

    A detailed post on gender bias, patriarchal mindset and attitudes. It will take us a long way but we can be the change. The court judgement gives hope on pitching for equality and a woman can competently handle the house.

    Like

  6. Corinne Rodrigues says:

    Your post is so powerful, Anamika, because you have dared to question a lot of things that many women in India take so much for granted, simply because ‘that’s the way it has always been’. What angers me is that it is strangely passed on from woman to woman – with mothers and mothers-in-law laying guilt trips on their daughters/daughters-in-law.
    Many generations will bless you for breaking this cycle by teaching your son that it doesn’t have to be the way it has always been. More power to you and other women like you.

    Like

  7. ajaybpai says:

    Hello, the brilliant statement in the entire post is, you providing the solution. Working with the next gen kids eg. Son. Very valid. This has to b inculcated into the kids right from a naive age. When mom, does it, it is icing on cake.

    Like

  8. Parul Thakur says:

    Brilliant post and I loved how you narrated a personal story and cited examples.
    I once went to a temple here in Bangalore and VT and I got a quick pooja done. We are asked our names – we gave. First names so no issues. Then VT was asked his gotra and then the question came to me. I uttered my gotra and I was told – you are married so his gotra is your gotra.
    Now imagine – from the little I know, gotra are some planetary names or something which is dependent on birth and not on marriage. But expectations of the world!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Obsessivemom says:

    Ugh I wrote this biiig comment and it disappeared. I hate it when that happens. Anyway your post is too close to my heart to let it go.. so here goes once again – I have a boy and a girl and have tried to help both of them look beyond stereotypes. It worked pretty well when they were younger but now as they turn almost 10 things are changing. One there’s immense peer pressure to think/act a certain way and two the fact that they pick up things from observation. So if they do not have proper male role models no matter what you tell them they pick up what they see. If they do not see their father helping out they won’t do it either. Oh they might do it for you as their mom but not for their wives. – That’s just something I wondered about. I’ve seen so many men who can cook, pretty well too, but won’t lift a finger to help their wives.

    Like

    • the bespectacled mother says:

      I retrieved back your biiiig comment from the deep spam pit 🙂 What you have shared does not paint a pretty picture of all the efforts moms like us are making. I can see myself agreeing with you on the peer pressure part, the environment as well as the part about not witnessing their fathers sharing the responsibilities. And I think the only thing that will keep me (and others) going, in this scenario, will be the belief in my vision. Let us hope and believe in the best.

      Like

  10. Esha Mookerjee-Dutta says:

    Anamika, a very powerful post that resonated with me and my views as I have observed around me! The treatment meted out to women is deeply rooted in our culture and tradition, which is why people love to perpetuate such outdated traditions all in the name of preserving the family name. We are not encouraged to question the status quo at any point in time and whoever does it has to face stiff opposition from every corner! It is wonderful to see that you felt the need to stop this vicious cycle and take a proactive step in the right direction with your son. I can so well relate to that as I too teach my son how to share in the regular day-to-day responsibilities, like helping to lay the table or clearing it, tidying up his room, making the bed, wiping crockery dry after they are washed, putting clothes out to dry. I keep instilling in him the fact that all this is part of our collective responsibility at home and he now knows that not only does his bit but also takes pride in his role in the running of the household! Mothers have a very important role here and I think we are already doing it in our own small ways with the next gen! Loved your post, so much that I could go on and on about more things like these…! 🙂

    Like

  11. richa singh (@richa_singh) says:

    I could be that woman 🙂 I have had my MIL jump in often and say why singh, why not agarwal. Of course except for ignoring I have somehow never done more 🙂

    Anamika I am so happy to see the way you are incorporating different values into your child’s growing up years. Reading, parity. These examples will come handy for those of us who really need a way out of these things in future 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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