We live in the 21st century. Every single thing in society has and is evolving, from technology to science to media. Yet, in South Asian societies, there are still major gender roles intact that are not changing.
While I have lived in North America and consider myself westernized, I still come from a family that is largely conservative and traditional. As a result of this, I find myself fuming sometimes when I hear the opinions my family has on certain aspects of how women should dress, talk, and act.
There’s one gender norm in particular that I keep hearing in Indian families: that women should be the ones to cook.
The belief behind this is that women are the ones in the family who have to cook and clean and ensure that there is food on the table for the husband and kids by a certain time.
In my family, one that is infinitely more liberal than most South Asian households, I have heard people say that women not only are supposed to cook, but that they should also want to — that they should have an innate desire to cook three meals a day to keep their spouse happy.
However, I do not agree with this.
This is not my way of saying that women should have no responsibilities whatsoever — that, in a family, they should just be allowed to get off scot-free when they don’t help out. Rather, I am saying that, rather than stick with this sexist idea that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, that she should need to cook and clean, people need to realize that there is a more modern way of running a family.
In the 21st century, where we are still struggling to achieve gender equality, more families need to start reiterating the fact that, even in families, responsibilities should be equal between both partners.
It is extremely frustrating when all your other achievements are ignored, when your intelligence and personality are not considered as important, if you do not know how to cook. It is infuriating when your value is determined by whether or not you are able to cook three meals a day with four different food items each time. However, on top of this, it also further heightens the inherent sexism that is already found in South Asia.
There are still too many men in these countries who feel that they do not need to learn to do household chores because it is up to their wives to take care of it all; they believe that, as a male, they have the right to be ignorant.
It is important for a person to know how to cook and look after themselves. Those are life skills that are necessary for each person regardless of gender.
So, no, the kitchen is not just for women.
The title of being a “wife” should not mean that woman is forced to do all the housework and that the husband is entitled to sitting around and not doing anything. This sort of mindset needs to change, and it is up to South Asian families to realize that living in the stone-age, in the sort of society that is still patriarchal, is extremely detrimental and helps no one.
Future generations should be taught that, in a marriage or in any sort of relationship, everything should be equal, including responsibility. Whether it’s cleaning the house, raising a newborn, or making dinner, none of that should fall on one person. It should be shared between the two people.
I’m all for culture, but there comes a point where some traditions, such as the gender norms that currently exist in South Asian society, are nothing but detrimental and need to be abolished.