• Tuesday, Mar 28, 2023
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Men need to do their share around the house

  • Published at 06:02 pm May 11th, 2019
Chores dust pan
Gender equality starts at home BIGSTOCK

It shows equality, respect, and love

As children, we learned about all the different basic family structures at school. There are many types of families -- nuclear, joint, extended, even polygamous.

In Bangladesh society, the most visible change in family structure has been the rise of the nuclear family, and the emergence of the “micro family.” 

I will use the term “micro family” to refer to families with spouses only; where a child has not yet arrived.

Whether it’s because your job takes you away from your hometown, or because it takes forever to commute from your parents’/in-laws’ home to your office, or because you just enjoy the privacy of being simply with your spouse after a day of hard work, micro families are on the rise not only in Dhaka but throughout Bangladesh. 

With this rise, there are some classic side effects that just don’t seem to go away -- the social backlash of being an ungrateful son, or villainous daughter-in-law.

Landlords will demand your marriage certificate as proof that you are of “good moral character.” Well, we youngsters are more or less accustomed to it.

What we are still not accustomed to, and what the society still does not forgive, is when women ask for men to share the housework load. Once people learn that a wife expects her husband to do dishes, or sweep the floor, or God forbid, do his own laundry, all hell breaks loose.

Even in 2019, when we take pride in women empowerment in Bangladesh, boast of the greatest amount of gender equality in all of South Asia, domestic burden-sharing is still a taboo. 

Housework is definitely annoying. There are many who think a clean house is a sign of a wasted life.

But it cannot be denied that housework is an indispensable part of life.

Unless you are very rich, you cannot afford to have a vacuum cleaner, a washing machine, a dishwasher, or an automatic ironing machine all in the flat. 

Then there are those couples who don’t like the idea of a live-in domestic worker. So, these couples decide catering to their own needs is the best policy. 

But the problem is, men, get defensive about it. Men are ready to accept working wives, concede to wives travelling for work, but not sharing housework. 

Men have the right to decide what they want to do and what not to. They are definitely doing much more than their dads used to do back in their days.

Hell, many mothers-in-law shed a tear when they learn their son-in-law cooks or does dishes. 

I am sorry to disappoint, but this is no favour.Research shows, in the UK, women do 60% housework whereas, in the US, it is 65%. 

Women are told that divorce rates are rising because they don’t know how to sacrifice and compromise, that housework is no ego issue, that there is nothing to win here.

People say: “You have destroyed enough of our deshi culture by leaving parents behind, don’t curse the next generation by making them see their father doing the dishes.” 

These arguments are still weapons used against women.

Men need not balance things by cleaning his plate while his wife cleans hers.

I don’t understand how dumping all the housework on a woman protects a family. Both a working woman and a home-maker are victims here. “She is the boss of the house because she decides the domestic affairs” -- this is hidden misogyny we fail to see. 

The man working outside controls cash. The woman inside controls the kitchen and bedroom. But all of it needs money, which comes from the man.

So, the man controls the economy and denies responsibility in the house. He thinks it is justified when he is angry with this wife when she hasn’t properly cleaned up the house. “It’s her only damn job!” 

This is the slippery slope of domestic abuse.

No more. 

If men want to live in a home rather than a pigsty, they need to own it up.

Men: You are not subservient to your wife if you sweep, and she is not your house-keeper who will do all your dirty laundry.

A strong generation will not come only from posh schools, but from homes that practice true equality, respect, and love. 

Arpeeta Shams Mizan is a Socio-Legal Analyst. She teaches at the University of Dhaka and is responsible for the Bangladesh Country Office of iProbono (UK).

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