Redefining gender roles
Updated: May 17, 2020
With the sudden outbreak of this global pandemic, living within the confinements of a house on a daily basis has become unbearable. No one asks a stay-at-home wife what her job is anymore. Today, more than ever, men realize how much is involved in being a homemaker. While the role of being a homemaker has always been attributed to women, this role has suddenly taken on more meaning during this time of immense jeopardy. This can be likened to the hierarchy that exists between a lion and a lioness, and the difference that exists in the expected responsibilities they shoulder.
In the current situation, the responsibilities of these ‘homemakers’ no longer belong to just one spouse but are required to be split between the two. The traditional gender roles of women doing the housework have suddenly put many men in the spotlight of whether or not they see their wives as equals.
Unfortunately, this global pandemic has also brought to light how difficult it can be when both spouses spend equal time at home. Earlier with men being the primary breadwinners and women taking on the role of the homemaker, there was a clear definition of roles. However, now that COVID-19 has created an impartial situation, men are at home as well, some out of work, with no excuse not to partake in housework or caregiving responsibilities. The fact that a situation like this has made us realize the gender roles we have assigned as a society shows that we have not progressed a lot over the past few decades. Society’s beliefs of gender roles have forever been the leverage that has held women back in the workforce, in politics, and myriads of other arenas. In the domestic field, men have been viewed as a mountain lion that secures the territory and their wives as lionesses, spending their time hunting and being the primary caregivers for their lion cubs.
COVID-19 has made it challenging to apportion housework equally between men and women. The social construct and stereotype of being feminine have been represented through the expectations of women within a house, that is, being the ‘caretaker.’ This sad truth shows us that, as a community, we are no farther along than we were in the 1960s. Why? Simply because of the extreme shock, we seem to be facing working men confined to their houses. ‘Masculinity’ has regrettably been associated with earning an income and going to work. Our views on women and working are no different than they were decades ago. Most children often find it challenging or unacceptable to imagine a stay-at-home father. With COVID-19 presenting an unprecedented situation, we are forced to consider and accept a reality that is beyond our wildest imaginations.
While one may initially assume that household chores are equally split between both spouses, that is not necessarily the case. When the responsibilities of a house are distributed amongst its members, most jobs that require extra physical labor than others will most likely be handed over to men. The role of being a caregiver has always been assigned to women assuming them to be the weaker and more fragile sex, and this pandemic shows how little society’s perception has genuinely changed. A perfect example of this is how, in several cultures, there still exists, even in this 21st century, a housework gender gap, where a majority of household responsibilities are still assigned to women.
The ideal situation for us to progress as a society would be for men and women to assume equal responsibility for different household tasks. This pandemic could be used as an opportunity to embolden gender equality and redefine it within a home.
One may further question whether or not men in households even participate in primarily female-dominated household activities because they want to, or simply because they have to. While according to the laws of nature, a lion is meant to hunt and guard its territory, can men defy societal constructs and become homemakers?
Author : Aishwarya Krishnan