Mehnaaz Pervin Tuli
This long period of lockdown has created a lot of strain in people due to the uncertain atmosphere, fear of virus attack, anxiety over losing jobs, and the apprehension of being confined at home for an unknown period of time. Many people are striving to do productive things during this period to lift up their mood and to avoid watching disturbing news on the deaths and other consequences of the pandemic. The struggles and discomfort of every individual matters, and I have no intentions to look down upon that fact. But in this write-up, I will talk about those who are destined to suffer more in this period without any recognition from the family or elsewhere.
There are a lot of women in Bangladesh and other South-Asian countries who are dispirited after the realisation of a life bound to cooking, washing, mopping, feeding the child time and again or doing thousands of other thankless house tasks that can overflow the list.
Earlier, these same women used to perform the same tasks but not for a prolonged period of time, or maybe the demands were less back then. Now, things have become more difficult without any household help or cook to assist. The absurd logic of assigning almost all the housework to the women while men tend to escape from these on the ground of sheer unwillingness and laws of patriarchy, has always baffled me to the best.
In this quarantine, almost all the family members are staying at home, hence, there is an added pressure for cooking food and cleaning the house. While many people are talking about new and interesting ways of spending time at home over social media platforms, giving themselves credit for discovering new talents and passion within them, no one is bothered about the women constrained to deliver a significant amount of time to the blistering kitchen walls and standing by the stove counting fresh hot pakoras.
This is the month of Ramadan. The month symbolising generosity, charity, and empathy. In this holy month, the priority is said to be in spiritual reflection and doing extra good deeds. If we mix up Ramadan and lockdown, we find it necessary to spend joyful and quality time with other family members to revitalise each other from the caged situation. Does this angelic spirit go on with the torturous objective of letting the housewives, homemakers, and women-at-home spend hours and hours performing exhausting household chores alone?
This discussion will be a small effort to broaden up the hearts and senses of every man at home during this holy month of Ramadan. It would be wonderful if the male members at home try not to be hard-hearted, and extend efforts to help the mothers, sisters, wives, or even the maid, if necessary. Completing household chores including cleaning dishes, washing clothes, doing the beds, tidying up clothes and accessories fall under the category of basic life skills and needs. Each and every member living at home is accountable to accomplish these tasks or else this unwillingness proves someone as a weakling and insentient personality. The case can, of course, be different for the aged members of the family.
The people throughout the world are terribly marginalised by this invisible enemy that is taking a toll on our physical entity, mental state, relationships and economy. Homo sapiens of all age, gender, religion, and race are getting affected by this upside-down situation and are appalled by the mighty contagion. Let us not doubly-colonise the women with hulking pressures of completing every minute task at home, that also without the help of maids. For some women, this has become more calamitous than the virus invasion itself.
I tried talking to some women, especially mothers over social media platforms where I raised the issue of the pressure of completing household errands during lockdown. Almost ten people shared how they forgot to eat, sleep, relax under this endless pressure, and lamented the fact that all these efforts go invisible and effortless to the eyes of their husbands and in-laws. There were also women who are professionally engaged and have to work from home but the scenario is consistent for them as well. Many of these women identified the problem behind this as the absence of the maid or nanny, and took the fact of their husbands not helping them out as granted. The society or the other members in the in-laws family attribute the works to the wife or mother and the better-half(husband) gets a free pass from this responsibility.
These specially refined men are not supposed to have the skill of feeding their own child, change the nappies or wash their own dishes, or maybe, clean their own houses. Doesn’t this sound absolutely riotous and waggish?
These problems arise due to ingrained ideological propositions enfolded with ego and ascendancy. Optimistically though, there were a few women in that private group who seemed to be very satisfied and relaxed even in this period of lockdown and the reason identified is the assistance and appreciation of their better-half or the family. They even disclosed how they make time among these workloads and watch movies or read books after finishing up the daily barrages collectively. This sounds cheering enough and gives the meaning of true empathy.
According to a report by Rachana Awatrami, an Indian psychiatrist,
“Men and children who used to go out for work and school respectively, are at home most of the time and that has become demanding and exhausting for the female members. Women feel exhausted and stressed as the house is small and more people are at home for a longer period that creates lack of emotional space as well.”
In order to elucidate on the matter, I would further refer to Dr. Samir Parikh, Director of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, who says,
“Many women working in various companies, are dealing with difficult time to be working from home as well as doing household chores without much support from their partners. This has resulted from the absence of any self-corrective measures to correct gender responsibilities. On the other hand, the few who have been able to share the load of household chores, they have been able to maintain a cordial atmosphere in their daily lockdown period.”
To conclude with, I would urge the readers to ponder over what is said in this article, and extend their minimum support to the women in their households. In this festive month, let us together re-learn kindness and empathy.
Tuli likes to have small talks with people of various cultures, religions, and races. She can’t sit at home and would prefer living out of a suitcase at any time.