With the advancement of culture and progress, civilizations came into existence typically characterized by social, political and economic growth accompanied by domestication of man and animal, specialization and division of labour, farming and expansion. Focusing on the phrase ‘division of labour’, which essentially means allocation of tasks to individuals based on their skills, knowledge and experience and thus we have farmer, weaver, tailor, builder and so on…
I reckon, the seeds of stereotyping jobs based on gender were sown then primarily due to biological and emotional traits that segregates the masculine and feminine genders. So men went outdoors to grow crops, build pyramids, made weapons essentially on the grounds of their superior physical strength while women stitched clothes, cooked food, took care of the household chores, brought up children and these tasks and tribulations were supposedly easier than the hard jobs on the fields and sites. And so this became a custom, pattern and second nature to the respective genders.
With revolutions happening across the globe in the early 18th century, rebellion and upheavals too took effect on the suppressed and discriminated women folk in terms of education, voting, holding political office and becoming active citizens and this led to the strong belief that women have strength of body, wisdom, mind and conduct. The shackles were gradually broken and women over decades fought gender discrimination and many broke the glass ceiling to become successful and worked shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. India too changed dramatically in the last couple of decades with gender equality occurring in every field of activity thereby becoming a very forward thinking state at least in the urban scenario. But on the home front, things remained static and stagnant with man and women doing the chores that have been assigned to them as a result of the laws of nature and due to division of work.
When we were young, I remember my mom directing me and my brother to make our beds, put the clothes in the laundry basket, do small household chores in the absence of the housemaid, get things from the shop like veggies and fruits which laid the foundation of #share the load…there was apportionment of work and fragmenting of the chores based on our ages and not on gender. The basic premise of stereotyping, such as “this is a man job or this is a woman job’, was stifled and smothered and each one of us was implanted with chipping in to do the tasks! These drills were ingrained in my DNA and as I assumed responsibilities of similar stature such as that of my mom, they were passed on with a flourish and the old order continued unabated.
Naturally, there were three helping hands to share the burden without any fuss, clear demarcation of duties and responsibilities made lives easier and less stressful. The folks became only too eager to partake in the mundane of home tasks, maybe to escape from their own humdrums and treadmills of academics and pedagogy!!!
The real equality, empowerment and enrichment of women materialize when there is recognition and realization of the work load and the ability to translate that sympathy into empathy and to action by donning the roles. This does not necessarily imply reversal of roles but partaking in the burden that brings joy and happiness in the family. I am extremely delighted to share the Yeomen service of Akshara foundation (readers may get to know more about them at http://www.aksharacentre.org/) that has changed the lives of women and girls and unequivocally fought for gender equality.
Join me in spreading the message to gen y about gender equality and the real enrichment of women.