We live in exciting times, where feminist icons like the country’s first female rickshawala, Mosammat Jasmine or “crazy auntie” as she is more popularly known as, prove beyond doubt that women are just as much, if not more capable, of holding their own in a 'man's world'. But while men have too long been able to hold out on doing their fair share of work in the household even when women have taken on equal roles as breadwinners, these age old stereotypes are now being smashed by a new breed of modern men who aren't ashamed of rocking an apron and wielding the mop as their weapon of choice. This week, we talk to some of these recently married men and new dads to ask about their roles in their families.
“I have an issue with certain roles being defined as gender specific. Patriarchy makes us think in that manner. Men are chained by those notions just as much as women. The genesis of true partnership is respect for each other.”
-Bahzad, 32, lawyer
“What makes me most angry is the assumption that child care is largely the domain of women. Both parents are equally responsible. Yes, men cannot nurse a child when the child is still breastfeeding but the father should also wake up in the middle of the night and give the mother company. After a few months, divide the number of times the child needs feeding equally between the father and mother. In our society, we accept that fathers have a certain role (ie, earning) and child care largely involves inputs from the mother. When a woman gives birth the first time, notice how the nani or dadi comes to help. Rarely the nana or dada. Why? Because for generations, men were not made responsible for child care. They are incompetent because they are not used to it.”
-Zubair, 27, banker
“I absolutely hate the notion that when extended families sit down for a meal, men are served first. Why cannot everyone sit down together? It's ridiculous.”
-Mushfique, 29, engineer
“The ritual of getting married involves “meye dekha.” Absolutely horrendous! Being shown like cattle. Being herded around, mathay ghumta dao, chokh niche rakho, murrobbi ke salaam koro – what a ton of nonsense! One cannot truly comprehend how humiliating it is for a woman, especially when a proposal does not materialise.”
-Raihan, 31, entrepreneur
“During wedding ceremonies, you are likely to run into so called “aunties” and members of the extended family coming up to the bride and checking out her jewellery. “Eita ke diyechhe? Eita baper barir?” Forget about the invasion of privacy and encroachment into one’s personal space (especially when they start touching) - this is blatant disregard for human decency. Such prodding and probing also takes place – in meat markets when you buy your steaks or fish.”
-Hasib, 25, post-graduate
Singer, music producer, loving dad
What do you feel about traditional gender roles?
I think traditional gender roles are counterproductive, especially for modern, nuclear families. It's better for both men and women to be efficient at all duties instead of compartmentalising and separating tasks.
Your take on how to survive a marriage?
The key to "surviving" any marriage; modern or traditional is having the quality to be a good listener and truly believing that both partners in the marriage are equal entities.
Which gender roles annoy you the most?
I wouldn't say any traditional gender roles particularly annoy me. I think they have become a tradition because at some point in time, it served a functional purpose and was based on the dynamics of the culture and held some sort of value at the time. No single work is less than the other and actually for women who work full time and have to come home and take care of children, they end up working double shifts if you really think of it. Since my studio is set up at home and I work primarily from home, I am the person who does all the household chores while Maya goes to the office and also takes full responsibility of our one year old daughter. This is how the distribution of labour works in our household, despite the eyebrow raises it sometimes causes. I do my part everyday NOT because I am trying to stand up for equal rights but because it comes naturally and that IS how it should be in an egalitarian marriage at our time. (Not to mention, I find cleaning therapeutic too).