Why is it okay for a man to do household chores in India, but not in Pakistan?

Our ads are hell bent on reinforcing gender roles in a society where women are seen as a weaker and more oppressed sex

Mushal Zaman February 23, 2016
There’s all this hype about gender stereotypes. Men feel they’re being blamed unfairly and women feel they’re being wronged. And in this entire hullabaloo, we have feminist movements, academics and celebrities pushing for equality of the sexes.

The word equality carries a lot of weight and varies from person to person. For some it may mean breaking the glass ceiling while for others it could be men sharing chores at home.

A heart moving advertisement, from across the border, manages to make viewers question these particular stereotypes. Sometimes advertisements can be a bit exaggerated, but this particular ad strikes a nerve. Why? Because it focuses on aspects which reflect reality.

It revolves around a working woman returning home from work. She’s seen multitasking between replying to her work emails, neatening the living room, setting the table, serving tea to her husband and putting the clothes in the laundry. Meanwhile her father silently observes each movement of hers and marvels at all that she is doing.

And it’s then he realises how he feels ashamed about the fact he and the daughter’s husband are just sitting there and expecting her to do these chores, just because that’s what’s expected of her. He apologises to her on behalf of most men, an apology which may not even be justified by many because that’s how society and culture moulds males and females.

It would be unfair to say that all men just sit back and watch their mothers, wives or daughters work. I have seen my father help my mother out with household chores on many occasions. This in no way made me lose respect for him; rather it made me feel proud my father managed to overlook silly stereotypes. As a child, my father and mother used to sit and play with my Barbie’s along with me. I think that’s something all parents should do in order to break down rigid stereotypes which usually develop in childhood.

Unfortunately, some may feel the aforementioned points emasculate men or portray them as sissies.

Photo: Screenshot

Photo: Screenshot

Photo: Screenshot

So if we had to analyse these comments, you’d come up with the following points.

1. Men are only meant to do outdoor chores.

2. If men help out at home, family values are lost.

3. Men performing household chores is a mockery.

These comments are alarming to say the least.

Moreover, the word chore is abused. Chores can be called responsibilities as well, and last I checked everyone has responsibilities, regardless of their sex. Can we not make it a sin for men to share women’s responsibilities and vice versa?

Luckily, stereotypes and mind-sets have nothing to do with nature, they are socially constructed, a focal point which India has picked on.

There’s a rising trend across the border; a trend which is beginning a movement in diminishing stereotypes. On the other hand, Pakistan seems to be stuck in a rut when it comes to creativity and thinking outside-the-box, with the exception of a couple of ads.

Somehow our ads are hell bent on reinforcing gender roles in a society where women are seen as the weaker and more oppressed sex. Women are seen as teaching their daughters how to cook from a young age and the entire family celebrates when she makes her first round roti, some are portrayed as annoying wives asking their husband what they should wear and some are seen as petrified daughters-in-law attempting to make kheer for her in laws.

It’s not wrong if women want to do the above, it’s great if they want to do it out of choice or love. But to just focus on one particular sex doing these things is an issue. It’s the 21st century, these archaic barriers and rigidity in gender roles really need to be thrown into the dustbin of history.
Mushal Zaman The author is a sub-editor at Tribune. She tweets as @MushalZ90 (https://twitter.com/MushalZ90)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.