Women’s Day Reading, for men and women: On helping around at home

An excerpt from ‘My Subconsciously Feminist Father’ by Yashika Singla

GN Bureau | March 8, 2023


#feminism   #gender   #women   #Society   #rights  
`The Milkmaid` (detail) by Johannes Vermeer (Image courtesy: Google Arts and Culture)
`The Milkmaid` (detail) by Johannes Vermeer (Image courtesy: Google Arts and Culture)

My Subconsciously Feminist Father
By Yashika Singla
Aleph Book Company, 176 pages, Rs 499
 
My Subconsciously Feminist Father imagines a world where parents, especially fathers, yearn for and attempt to raise feminist sons. Yashika Singla (who is an architect, urban designer, serial entrepreneur, and an activist for social change and sustainability) writes about how she and her two siblings (a sister and brother) were accidentally raised as feminists by her very ignorant-in-the-matter father, simply because he believed in the concept of fairness and, together with her mother, made an honest attempt to raise their three children equally.

Recounting examples from her childhood and young adulthood, Yashika shows how even the smallest actions undertaken by parents can impact the world they create for their children. She discusses how the feminist ideals she unthinkingly absorbed as a child ultimately came to the fore in her adult relationships and gave her the confidence to stay true to herself. Part memoir and part manifesto, the book is peppered with ‘unsolicited suggestions’ that remind fathers (and mothers) that they can build a better society by inculcating the right values in their children. My Subconsciously Feminist Father’s message is simple: let’s all raise feminist families.

Here is an excerpt from this book, on the occasion of International Women’s Day:

Unsolicited Suggestion #9

I recently read somewhere on a social media platform that a person’s greatest contribution to the world may not be something they do but who they raise, and that is exactly why whatever you do today is going to shape the society you create by raising children. It is known that children learn from their parents’ actions more than their words. My dear men, show your sons that you value their mother’s time as much as you value your own. Show your children you value her efforts and understand that, inevitably, she has to do more than you will ever need to. I don’t mean to sound like a charlatan claiming to be an expert in human behaviour or psychology, but I do know these small practices can make an enormous difference to the cause of equality.

Do not help your wives in the kitchen or with other housework and expect rewards for taking thirty minutes off her weekly unpaid job at home. If you do not thank her eight times for every time she manages in your absence, do not expect words of appreciation from her after cooking a Sunday lunch while she took her much deserved break. Ask yourself, at that time, that if there was a penny for every minute you got to spend on yourself because your wife at home was managing the fort, how many rooms full of pennies would that be? Reward motivates everyone, for sure, so she needs appreciation and reward as much as you do. Reward your wife daily for all the work she does on your behalf or just do the work yourself because it is also *your* work to do.

If she forgets to do something because she got busy elsewhere or because she was out taking a break, don’t guilt trip her. That is emotional abuse. Do that work yourself. Show your children that whatever a mom can do, a dad can do as well. Do not bring up that you ‘had to do it the other day, too’ every time you have to fill in for your wife. Do not tell your wife you sacrificed your evening for her work, that you could have spent that time at the gym instead. Everything at home that you consider to be your wife’s work is your work too, so just find more time for her the same way that you find more time for yourself, repeatedly, without failing.

Moreover, childcare is not only a woman’s job. bell hooks again very rightly pointed out how even the most equalist couples become unequal after childbirth because it is presumably only the mother’s job to take care of and raise children. Couples need to work hard to maintain equity in this sphere as much as in any other, and most men choose to not work hard towards it because they think they are already working hard enough at their paid jobs. Men, don’t just spend quality time with your children (when it suits your schedule) because you love them. Take charge of them, equally, because they are your children, too.

Dear men, do not generalize and make comments like ‘women always complain’, ‘women gossip too much’, or ‘women are supposed to do this’, especially when you are a parent. First, women complain because of all the extra work, extra stress, extra health issues, and lack of team spirit, or even compassion, that they have to deal with. I cannot stress this point enough. Second, men gossip equally if not more than women; although, it’s no myth that men are worse than women at keeping secrets. Men spend more time gossiping at work than women do. Men also spend more time outside the house in gossip enabling recreation and leisure indulgence. They talk on the phone for longer than women have the time for, either at home or at work. A man might call it a work call or an important discussion, but we all know it’s mostly gossip. Men waste more time gossiping than the time women only wish they had for gossiping. Women might not complain as much if they could participate in all such recreational activities, too.

Kate Manne makes this fascinating observation:

Women may not be simply human beings but positioned as human givers when it comes to the dominant men who look to them for various kinds of moral support, admiration, attention, and so on. She is not allowed to be in the same ways as he is. She will tend to be in trouble when she does not give enough, or to the right people, in the right way, or in the right spirit. And, if she errs on this score, or asks for something of the same support or attention on her own behalf, there is a risk of misogynist resentment, punishment, and indignation.

So a woman’s recognized humanity may leave much to be desired by way of moral freedom. And her sense of obligation is then likely to be excessive, on the one hand, and lacking, in many others.

Men, don’t fret, fuss, or ignore women when they fall sick too often, instead, understand that their needs are different and more complex and to top it, they get no time to rest and recharge without constant guilt trips. The least you can do is to not dismiss or mock women’s complaints. Set better examples, especially if you are raising other human beings who are definitely observing you.

I wish for women, too, to not accept such imbalance and understand how it is negatively affecting society at large. Do not accept unequal relief from duties and call it adjustment. Do not say ‘I chose this to maintain peace in my marriage,’ or ‘I chose it. Period.’ When you choose inequality, you feed inequality to future generations. Make a decision to choose self respect and self worth over a social display of false contentment in honour of herd mentality.

[The excerpt reproduced with the permission of the publishers.]

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