Shooting down stereotypes

We are living in confusing times. Stereotypes are  being shot; roles are being turned on their heads; role models are becoming nonexistent; hierarchies are disappearing at least on paper and the generation gap is seemingly disappearing.

Take for instance the workplace. My boss asks me to call him by his first name and ‘We are all friends here!’ I am thrilled to be able to call the big guy by his name and talk to him as if he were my pal. But when assessment time comes, he doesn’t remember his own words and forgets the meaning of friendship. After all, friends are meant to stand in for each other, right? Had I called him Mr.Saluja and addressed him as ‘Sir’, I wouldn’t have taken his ‘friendship’ for granted and got  a bad assessment report, would I? Bah!

Can one blame Seema, who entered her marital home with trepidations but was instantly put at ease by a friendly mother-in-law, who told her to treat it like her own home. So happy was she that she slept in late and came for her cuppa in the morning to find a scowling ma-in-law who plonked her tea in front of her and walked out. The poor girl had no clue what the matter was! She was behaving exactly as she would have done in her own home, wasn’t she? And her mother never scowled at her early in the morning like this! Shouldn’t the old lady have specified that by her ‘own home’ she had meant that the latter should begin doing the housework? Bah!

Ajay’s case is slightly different. He gets up early and makes tea and gets things ready in the kitchen before Geeta wakes up and finishes the cooking while he wakes his three-year-old son and gets him ready for his pre-school and day care. The couple leaves home together, dropping off the kid at the day care, where the school  bus picks him up later. Of late there has been a lot of tension between the couple since Geeta got a promotion and expects Ajay to do all the work in the morning while she catches a few more winks of sleep. ‘My pay packet is bigger and I have more responsibilities at work,’ she argues. Ajay is angry because his work is very demanding, he being in the finance department. ‘You act like a typical MCP,’ she flings at him at the slightest provocation. ‘Bah! Why reduce everything into a gender issue? After all, I am sharing in all the work equally,’ wonders Ajay.

Seriously, this whole thing of changing roles is spooking people out.

Two generations ago, things were cut and dried: Father went to work and brought in the pay cheque and mother looked after the house and children, cooked and cleaned or supervised those who did the work, depending upon the financial circumstances of the said family. Organisations had a strict hierarchy and the senior was ‘Sir’ and deferred to, even if reluctantly. Women had not begun going to work and so the gender issues and their attendant double standards had not cropped up. Daughters-in-law were expected to blend into their married homes and conform to the customs of the family and they mostly did, readily or otherwise.

Changes began slowly. Girls began dreaming of becoming teachers or professors or an ICS officer. Most of them didn’t succeed to get their way but a few managed to and went on to pursue their vocations. As the pioneers, they had to set their own agenda and did not get any help from their families in looking after the home front in addition to their work. But so happy they were to be doing something of worth that they gladly took on the double burden.

Even a generation ago (this was the Gen X — mine) things were not too different and the same trend continued, of women bearing the dual burden, even as more work avenues were opening up for them.   But the increasing number of women in the workforce was not getting them any concession either at work or at home. They were pulling the weight of two people and more, especially since nuclear families were becoming the norm and the pressures of modern living  made life more complicated.  Because the change in their roles was unilateral, with the menfolk continuing to be the de facto heads, the lot of the women was very hard for this ‘sandwich generation’.

The males of the species were thrown into turmoil. They found their bases being eroded by women, but they couldn’t sneeze at the money that came in. So they behaved in a vexed manner. While some continued being overbearing and authoritarian, others tried being more accommodating and helpful, taking some chores upon themselves to ease the burden on their womenfolk, as the L&M did. So, children grew up seeing their fathers doing housework – washing, cleaning and even cooking and treated it as natural. Often though men tried to do things surreptitiously to avoid being jeered at for being hen-pecked.

When Gen X women had kids, they made sure that  the basics of equality were drilled into the heads of their children, mostly the boys —  thus moving them a step towards equality. And when they became the mothers-in-law, they tried to be more liberal towards their daughters-in-law. But there are many like Seema’s MIL who are only able to mouth the words of welcome and not act them because they have not changed their thinking — only conforming to the ‘new’ model superficially. But I would say that even that is a step forward. Also, it is a fact that today, there are at least as many if not more young and old women who appreciate their in-laws as there are those who flay them. The sandwich generation has come good after all!

Old stereotypes as far as men are concerned still exist to a large extent and have not completely given way to the new, caring men. Social conditioning is so ingrained in the male and so we still have the aggressive males browbeating a meek partner. But they know in their hearts that the change in the society is irreversible and the more gracefully they accept it, and the sooner they accept it, the better it would be for both sexes.

But one worrisome thing is that the pendulum is seemingly swinging dangerously to the other extreme today, with young men being pushed to the corner, much as the woman had been earlier. By doing this, women are only becoming men with all the latters’ weaknesses. This is not then about equality but one-upmanship (should I say one-upwomanship?) and control. If the relationship had been unequal then, it is still unequal today, with the roles of aggressor and victims just getting interchanged.

Unfortunately a lot of women feel that they would be betraying their sex by acknowledging that the men are indeed changing — albeit not fast enough or in large enough numbers to make an overall impact. I want to ask these women: why not take things at face value or a problem of relationships instead of reducing everything to a question of gender equality — as the bewildered Ajay is asking?

I personally have great admiration for the young men of today, who have assumed roles inside the home including child-rearing with seemingly effortless ease. I wrote this post knowing fully well that it might be seen as a biased one. But when even the devil gets his due, why not this new breed of men? Bereft of any role models, fighting centuries of social conditioning and stereotypes, standing up to their parents (especially their mothers) they change diapers, feed the baby and even don the apron without batting an eyelid. So what if they are not perfect at it? I feel that they are the true foils of the dynamic women of today. We should encourage them so that enough number of them join this breed to make a difference to the society.

It would take at least another generation or even two for things to move a little closer towards true equality of the sexes and when marriages would be seen as the coming together of two individuals who are equal in all respects.  Till then let us enjoy the changing roles  of the sexes and applaud each other’s efforts and achievements, shall we?

Homepage image courtesy: quotesgram.com

79 comments

  1. Applaud!
    True that men today are gracefully accepting this change. I appreciate mine for that at least when he is at home over weekends. 🙂

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    1. Welcome here, Upasna! I am glad you liked the post. And even gladder that you appreciate your husband’s efforts at changing 🙂

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  2. stereotypes – a necessary evil 🙂

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    1. Why necessary? I thought it would be ‘unavoidable’ maybe?

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  3. Its easy playing the stereotypical role – the expectations are clear. I often tend to NOT understand when it comes to expecting me play a more active role in household. Sometimes an unannounced attempt to cook a breakfast gets beaten by ” Why the hell did you need to do all this – look you messed up everything” to ” When will you ever help me in house as well”
    I have to be honest, when I come back from work only to hear how hard it was for the better half managing the flurry of activity at home, the kids, the maids, the vendors blah blah. * I wasnt really, having a social party at office*. All in the name of men needing to play more involved role in running of home.
    Now that my rant is over, let me end by saying I am glad I am not in Ajays shoes 🙂

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    1. The idea is to validate each other’s role if clearly demarcated as in your case, or if blurred as when both are working as in Ajay’s case. So while you sympathise with your wife for taking all the crap of the day, she can be more understanding of your work tensions. And it won’t hurt you if you offered to stay up some nights with the baby or helped with other simple things like putting the clothes for wash or some such thing, which will relieve her of some of the headaches. Believe me, staying home full time managing the house and blah blah can be mind-numbing too. And by doing things that don’t involve making messes as in cooking 😀 , you can be more helpful. Try some of the things I have listed. Psst., I ask the L&M to do things that won’t make me clean after him :)) Your son will grow up more balanced if he sees you pulling your weight inside the home and that is a big incentive, isn’t it?

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  4. I guess, things start to go amiss when there is lack of appreciation in a relationship. When you dont appreciate and laud the sincere efforts and concern of the other and as you say, enjoy each others successes, all kinds of problems arise and things start to go awry. This then results in stereotypes and other limiting factors being shot.

    When Gen X women had kids, they imparted the values of equality, the problem that I understand here is that they focussed more on the boys, probably this was based on their own experiences and a bit on the then existing stereotypes also. Thus, while the boys took a few steps backward in the positive direction, the girls leaped frog giving rise to an imbalanced social equation. This inequality finds its roots in the values we (children- both sexes) have been passed on by the previous gen-mothers to us, I think.

    There is no denying that the pendulum is indeed swinging towards the other extreme today and it is a confusing times we live in.. All we can do is act in the right manner so as to stabilise it and bring it to an equilibrium in the future.

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    1. How rightly have you put it Arti. When Gen X mothers started preparing their kids for equality and a more just society, it was the girls who progressed by leaps and bounds and the boys did so reluctantly and much slower. So the inequality still exists in this generation but give it another one or a little more and then the gap will begin getting bridged. Till then continue behaving in a just manner, right?

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  5. Zephyr, I also feel housework would be greatly reduced if everybody learnt to perform their own chores – like making their own beds, leaving their dishes in the sink, ironing their own clothes, like siblings in many families do.
    The concept of the family member who is not earning or is earning less doing most of the work pushes everybody to want to earn. Instead, every family member should have time and opportunity to grow and learn and to do things they like to do, no matter how much they earn or don’t earn. So I would say, in Ajay and Suman’s case, how much each earns does not matter, both need time for relaxation and recreation, and also to grow in their respective careers, to the best of their individual abilities.

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    1. I definitely agree with indianhomemaker. When every member of a householder looks after him/herself in terms of keeping their own space tidy, sharing in the responsiblities, it goes a long way toward
      easing the burden of mom and dad. Even the little ones can learn early on that new toys don’t come out till the old ones are put away, etc. The problem sometimes comes, though, when parents become impatient and do it themselves because it is often quicker than teaching children how things should be done.

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      1. You have hit the nail on the head when you say that parents are impatient or short of time to make the effort of teaching their children to be responsible and help around the house. And unless children learn when they are young, they will never be able to become responsible later on. Unless of course, they are made to learn, which again is not always a smooth process. And as I replied to IHM, it is stuff of another post. Looking forward to having you here again on that one 🙂

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    2. I agree completely, IHM, and like Carmen says, even little children can be taught a lot of things. Here, it would be relevant to mention that things can’t be learnt by oneself when one is a child. They need to be taught. And thereby hangs another post. So I would like to reply this comment in that one. 🙂

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  6. Exploitation is not a gender and age related trait, women and men of all ages are capable of taking undue advantage if they can.
    I think it might also depend on how important the relationship is to those involved, and the one who is dependent is more likely to live with what they consider unjust.
    We are definitely moving towards a fairer society, hopefully, in coming times, more and more of us will feel empowered to deal with injustice in our day to day lives. And that empowerment will automatically create a less biased and more just society.

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    1. you are right about exploitation not being gender or age related, but it is a fact that traditionally women have been at the receiving end. That’s why I feel it is important that when they are in a relatively empowered position, they should use it positively instead of flogging a dead horse out of anger or in fear of it coming to life, thereby ruining any meaningful relationship. The funny thing is, it is not just the dependent one for whom it is important to be in a relationship, the bully needs someone to bully too! And yes, we will definitely have a fairer society sometime not too far into the future.

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  7. Bingo! Wonderful objective analysis!

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    1. Merci Monsieur!

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  8. I think I have been able to experience both opposite. When young and grandmom used to visit and expect me to do household chores and nothing of my bro i used to sit and argue with her about how biased that is and all that. But once she is not there I used to make him do equal number of tasks even if it was lousy. However after marriage surprisingly my husband though seemed to be orthodox was helpful in all areas. My MIL was surprised pleasantly to hear that as he never used to enter the kitchen but as she is one of the modern MIL has no problem and it was at her house that I have seen FIL and MIL in the kitchen or around the house working in tandem. Its such a welcome sight of camaraderie

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    1. Another of the gen X good MILs! There are many many of these around. So how come we don’t hear more of such ones, but only of the ones who are cruel or not understanding enough? The fact that she now accepts her son doing work around the house when she herself had not made him do it also shows how much she has changed willingly, doesn’t it? This is the change I am saying will come in a generation or two and for now, it is a time of flux.

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  9. I raised three sons to adulthood, pretty much on my own, without the support of the two fathers, either financially or in any other way. I am amazed, actually, at what fine young men they have turned out to be. I was very fortunate to have an excellent nursing position which provided a decent income and, though it involved a good deal of after hours call, my boys had a live in nanny and they didn’t really create many problems for me. They appreciated my having to be both mother and father and, partly because of that, I think they learned a great deal of respect for women. Only one ( the 27-year-old ) is married but they share household responsibilities without batting an eye, both are good cooks, and my son can leave the bathroom sparkling as well as his wife. My oldest, at 41 is still a bachelor but, as an Air Force reservist for nearly 20 years now, he irons better than I do ( I’ve always hated that task ) and he is as neat as they come ( lessons learned long ago in basic training. My
    youngest, also, is a terrific cook and one of San Francisco’s prime bachelors. All of them are gentlemen, having learned that from someplace since they didn’t have a father present to role model it for them.

    In the US, at least, it is almost essential to have both parents work and sadly, extended families often live great distances apart. If parents don’t share in the work of running a home and raising children, it puts an extraordinary burden on the other partner. I really feel we have a responsibility to teach our children of both genders to respect each other and to be partners in the task of building a home and raising a family. After all, it took two to tango.

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    1. Welcome here Carmen and thanks for a wonderful comment. It is heartening to note the way your children have turned out despite their growing up in a single parent family without role models. The credit goes to you for the large part. Fortunately, in the West emancipation of women began early and so now the society is mature. In India, we have the curious case of women being emancipated in the Vedic periods and slowly losing their ground till today they are the oppressed sex. It is only in the last 50 years or so that they have begun finding their feet but it might be another century before they can take free steps and aspire to fly. And yes, it takes two to tango 🙂

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  10. What a coincidence.As I’m reading this post and enjoying my self,my poor pati parmeshwar is busy cutting beans for tomorrow.(Wicked Grin!!)

    If I had been a home maker,I might not(!) have bothered him.I work,.He works.We have to eat atleast a meal together.The cooking and cleaning has to be done either before 7 in the morning or 7 in the evening.I have no option but outsource.Thankfully my mom-in-law is totally supportive both in words and a action.

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    1. That’s the spirit in which it should be taken! I am proud of you, girl and also proud of your pati parmeshwar 🙂 Work has to be shared period. And yir MIL must be one of the Gen X ones who can see that it is the most sensible things to do in this day and age.

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  11. the ‘women should be home and take care of kids’ thing is stupid if you ask me. just cause the lifestyle demands today, they are working and men folks are okay with it. personally, i feel woman should be financially independent so she can make choices if she wants to continue the marriage in case of a unavoidable circumstance and if and when domestic violence comes into picture.and adout taking things at their face value, we humans are shrewd and selfish.THATS IT
    but ‘gender equality’ is a weird word. interpreted by different people in their own suitable way. some one else’s idea might be completely opposite to mine.
    but kudos to you for having pulled off the post being unbiased.

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    1. Who said that women should stay home and take care of kids? I would be the last one to say that! And women should not only be financially independent but also have mobility which gives them the confidence to take on the world. But taking this to the other extreme is what bothers me. Just because most women work outside the home, all women feel compelled to do it, even if they are not inclined to do it thereby putting pressure on themselves and others who don’t want to do it. It is reverse stereotyping where non-working women are looked down upon. I have seen both sides of it, seen too many cases of the last mentioned phenomenon which prompted me to write this post, which I confess, I did with great trepidation. I am glad I was able to remain balanced and you liked it. 🙂

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  12. I do agree with what you are saying but than this is all mentality. End of the day majority of the people work in what suits them more ..

    I doubt if these stereotypes will Ever go away.. the basic mentality is hard to change.. expectations, culture, rituals, faith and all that Pallava we have too many things involved ..

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    1. Stereotypes might never completely go away, but then when the non-stereotypes increase in number and become the norm, they will become an embarrassment. And that should make people change for the better. My point is that it is better to encourage positive change in people than emphasising on negative things if we want to get more people to change for the better. So no point in going on flogging the bad points and holding a sword over their heads to make them behave, right?

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  13. so what is up next , does the pendulum swing back and forth?

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    1. I hope not. This is one pendulum that would do well to stay put or at least just swing gently. Btw, is that question meant to ask me if I am going to write more on this? (That’s the level of my vanity, see? 😀 )

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  14. Truth is, very few men and women like household chores but realise they’ve got to be done. Some men (and a few women) try and duck out of shouldering those responsibilities and others, who are lucky enough to be in a good, meaningful relationship, give each other support and understanding.

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    1. Nice to see you here, KayEm! My point is that any relationship can be meaningful if some time and effort is invested in it. But the one who has an upper hand should not misuse it. We are finding a lot of relationships where the women are able to hold their own and do better. But if they start behaving like the abusive male in bad relationships, aren’t they reinforcing the stereotypes in reverse?

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      1. Thanks zephyr – interesting post. I do believe you are talking of the exceptions. I’d call them FCPs or female chauv pigs. The dominant partner, if there is one, should know better than to be inconsiderate. But on the whole I honestly feel it is the male attitude, either due to false ego, not wanting to be labelled “hen-pecked” by other men or not wanting to give up the perks of an old custom (and never mind his partner having to handle everything), that needs a bit of an overhaul.

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        1. Yes, and let there be no doubts about it here — I am talking about the exceptions. But the way things are going, it won’t be long before the FCPs as you call them might increase in number. There are many many such closet hen-pecked husbands who are hiding from social ostracism for nothing more than sharing housework or being compassionate towards their womenfolk. 🙂

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  15. Okay, I don’t know where to begin. I have so many things to say and so many places where I was nodding in full agreement. Let me just say that if I had to write, my views would be the exact same perhaps not put as eloquently as you did :). This is the time of transition as you rightly pointed out. I also see the other extreme in many girls of my generation that dismays me. I see my own husband helping me every step of the way in childrearing though he had an office to attend the next day whereas I had my struggles at home. He supported me in my work whether outside the home or inside. He also takes the burden of earning the bacon for running the house whereas I work within my limitations of time, from home and mostly for my own satisfaction with monetary concerns taking a backseat. Yes, it is difficult for the stereotypes to break down but our men are trying. Give them some credit.

    Only one point about saying and doing. I might call myself my son’s friend, but I would be offended if he backslaps me or treats me like his other pals. The point I am making is that this is not hypocrisy but a certain respect we expect in a relationship. I would expect the same to apply to my dil in the future or to me in the context of my mil. I am grateful that she treats me like a daughter, but I will never forget my responsibilities as a dil. She will love me within the boundaries of this relationship and its decency. So, it was wrong of Seema to behave the way she did on the very first day. She should have built the relationship first, invested some time in it and then her mil would even be glad or approving of her sleeping in late in the mornings as my mil does. It is all about give and take.

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    1. First off, let me say that I loved the second para of your comment. IF only all young women can think so clearly about things, relationships would be a breeze in these tumultuous times. The problem begins when we don’t know which of the things to take at face value and which to take with a little bit of understanding. The example of Seema could be changed to a number of other things and the outcome would still be the same. Your comment though, is in danger of being interpreted as being anti-women. ‘Why should the girl make the efforts to invest in the relationship? why not her MIL?’ and so on. See? This is the kind of attitude that is making the present day girls into the men they love to hate. We as a species are credited with so many positives that to misuse any of them is a sacrilege. Maybe the MIL might have actually been more amenable with a little nudge from the girl. But in an effort to ‘take’ more, she created a rift at the outset. Jyoti has mentioned the stereotypical Gen X MIL. I am working on that one next.

      It is a pleasure to read your comments Rachna. It is young women like you that give me hope for an equal and better future where there is minimal conflict between the sexes. 🙂

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      1. Thank you Zephyr for the warm words of appreciation. Maybe, I am lucky to have good relationships in my life or maybe I have worked to make them good. I do agree that certain people are very bad and have to be dealt with differently. But, when we start measuring tit for tats or become unwilling to bend a bit due to ego mostly, we are setting a path of rocky relationships.

        About my comment being seen as anti-women, I find that amusing because both the parties in question are women :). I think an approach of putting oneself in another’s shoes also provides perspective and gives one empathy for the situation of another person. I will look forward to your post on Gen X mils. Thanks again for your appreciation. It means a lot to me!

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        1. Relationships need necessarily have to worked at to make them good though I agree some are more lucky than the others. Like my other posts this one also deals with normal conditions which are made bad by the people concerned due to a variety of reasons. There are some comments which seem to feel that the post is biased against women but like everyone else, I am fully aware that the lot of the women is still bad and men hold more cards against them. But this is slowly changing and in a couple of generations we are in the danger of things being bad in reverse, which is my concern. As you say, both parties are women, but MILs are not considered part of the sex 😀 😀

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  16. AlkaGurha · · Reply

    As I go down the memory lane I recall that when my father’s colleagues came home, he introduced my mother as, “Meet my Mrs,” or “Meet my wife.” He would refrain from taking her first name, even though she was a good five years younger than him. It was a matter of propriety, a courtesy title and not a deliberate attempt at obscuring her identity. The idea was not to insult, but to give respect. And I doubt if my mother took it as an offence. Today however, urban couples prefer to take first names, irrespective of the ages. Even the nameplates display first names of both the husband and the wife.

    Subtle but radical changes.

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    1. It is the changing times as you have rightly pointed out, Alka. I had mentioned in my post for Rachna how our mothers and grandmothers got the equality and even control without having to fight for it because they knew their territory and each did their roles. But one can’t expect a complete change in the space of a generation. The one change that has indeed come about is that women are becoming like the men with the qualities they so despised in them because now they can afford to do it. Power corrupts, whether in politics or in relationships.

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  17. Yes, the pendulum has swung the other way, exactly as you have described it, Zephyr.

    I know of a couple where the marriage began with the wife standing open-mouthed as she watched her husband stitch buttons onto his shirt ! Today, nearly 20 years on, she orders him to clean the kitchen after she has messed it up after cooking. She goes to bed at 10.00 pm and he at 11.00 as he has to clean the kitchen, boil the milk, set the curd for the next day, lock up etc., etc. He gets up before her to lay out everything for cooking before she gets up in the morning. All this in the name of equality. The wife thinks this is empowerment and equal rights, and as for what the husband thinks, I don’t know.

    Times are tough indeed for both men and women of this generation, but I think it is tougher for men as while they are not expected to let go of their traditional roles, they are expected to take on at least some of the roles, that were traditionally done by women.

    Another superb article, Zephyr.

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    1. Sounds like the Ajay of my post! It is fine if both are working but often I see that the women get the men to do all this and more because they have to ‘share’ the housework. There is nothing wrong in men doing what was traditionally women’s work either, but the motive is what makes it demeaning and a matter of punishing him for the sins of his sex!

      And some would even argue that if the women do it, why not the men? Let them know how it feels! Never mind if three centuries of men in his family have never put down women. He belongs to the male species, right? You are right. This is what they think is empowerment, and like I said, they are becoming the men with all their weaknesses, the moment they get the power to control the latter.

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    2. Zephyr and Sudhagee,

      Standing ovation from menfolks for your acknowledgement that the time is tougher for men!!! This is the point that most people fail to see. Most women understand this only when they face their daughter-in-law or sister-in-law. I don’t think no man goes through even 1% of women’s labor pain at any stage in their life. They carry babies for 9+ months in their stomach when we find it so difficult to even carry a pen in pocket for few hours. My respect for women always goes up when I think of how biased the nature is. My most respected two people on this planet are women (my mother and wife!). At the same time, we have to understand that a lot of reverse-discrimination is going on now and it is not serving any purpose. I know of many men who would have committed suicide long back if not for their kids. They are so harassed in their lives. Their parents are helpless. Even some of my friends (including women) jokingly tell me, “You are lucky, you have a girl baby. We have a boy. We don’t know how much harassment we would have to go through!”. It may be a joke now but I am sure that is how life in next generation is going to be.

      For a moment, let’s forget this discussion around men and women. In any relationship, even if it is between two people of the same gender, one of them will be more dominating than the other. The wiser, more knowledgeable, more assertive person will be the dominating one. If it is your ‘man’ in your case, please don’t scold his gender for that. They are less in number anyway. It would all change soon. There is no need to talk about equality there. It’s just a human trait not the gender’s. And, as I had told in one of your earlier posts, there are good people and bad people in both genders. We don’t want the banner of feminism to be misused by the bad women to hide behind it. Because it just delays the justice for the women who are actually in need of it.

      Next, I have no disagreements when you say both have to share their housework equally when both are working. But, I know some women who don’t go to work, don’t do anything worthwhile other than watching all TV serials two times (once in the day and the same thing again in the night) but keep talking about equality. They have maids for everything (If the maid is a woman is it not against feminism?). What their maids can’t do… they have their men to do. It includes everything… starting from bathing the baby, changing diapers and putting it to sleep to tolerating all nonsense she talks in front of people to keep reminding him that she is superier to him. In these cases, it’s the men who cry like the women of last generation. It’s the women who harass their men.

      Finally, yes – that’s the point. Evolution is always better than revolution. If you want sustainable change it has to happen gradually. If you change things overnight, it would be back to square one in the same speed.

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      1. You know what? If the woman watches TV all day and night it is her prerogative as a woman! Why do you want to grudge her that? And if her husband has to do all that the maid doesn’t, how many millions of women end up doing that kind of work while their lazy husbands watch TV, smoke or goof around? It is justice, man! But seriously, it is men like you who respect their women that get a likeminded response from their better halves, not the ones paying lip service. And as your tribe increases in number, the one-sided relationships whether loaded in the woman’s or men’s favour, will slowly come to an end and we will have societies as in the West, where no thought is wasted on such issues.They have larger issues to deal with — single parent families, depression, behavioural counselling, divorces etc etc. We will deal with them when we are faced with that, ok? For the moment, let us look at our partners with understanding and compassion and enjoy the fruits of it.

        Agree with the last line of your comment completely. Only back to square one would be with the roles reversed, which is not a good thing at all. And oh, didn’t you know? Mothers-in-law are not considered part of the female species 🙂

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        1. I did think of it while writing itself. Yes, there are millions of women who work like machine from dawn to dusk while their hubbies are loafing around. I am sure in another generation or two all these will be alright. I also understand that when there is a mass movement or change like this there would be some wrong victims here and there. However, I could not resist talking about a few examples that I have personally seen where men play duel roles and their better halves do nothing other than what I talked about. Maybe, we should be better prepared to digest such things for some time.

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          1. That is a very mature way of looking at things, being a man at that 🙂 Yes, let this gen of men also take the aberrations as such and hope for a more equal society in the not too distant future. 🙂

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  18. Oh yaa…my dad is a perfect example of the non stereotype man of the previous generation…he used to help amma with everything right from cleaning our bums, to combing my hair, to cooking up delicious food..everything…I have been brought up in an atmosphere where the man and woman were equal..always…my mother ensured my brother learnt everything I did…and I am thankful for that…My bro helps my bhabhi with everything…

    in my case, RD is a great help as well..though we do have our fights on ‘how you didnt water the plants’ or ‘you give a bath to R today’ he is pretty much an equal partner as far as housework is concerned…and definitely I give him, my bro and dad total credit for what they are 🙂

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    1. And do you know R’sMom, that’s what makes your relationship tick 🙂 I mean your giving credit where it is due without making the other person guilty for what his forefathers did to women 🙂 And when the feedback is positive, the behavior gets reinforced too. But the problem is when everything is reduced to a man-woman thing. There are girls who hate to cook and men who hate to work (yes, there are!!) But there is something called genetic programming in us too, that makes us do certain things better or even make us want to do them. I am sure you sometime feel that way about the house, R, even RD. And it has nothing to do with your being forced to be that way, right? Enjoy!

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      1. Pratibha · · Reply

        Can not resist sharing with you.

        One of my friends hates cooking, or for that matter all household chores.She loves to keep herself fashionably dressed at all times. And yes her both hands have an inch long 10 finger nails. Interestingly her hubby enjoys household chores and is also good at odd repair work of any sorts at home. So, they have a beautiful arrangement. My friend works and gets in money and her husband takes care of the house.

        I know it is very rare. Personally, I see nothing wrong in it. Though people do make fun of him by referring to him as “house husband”. I hope society starts accepting such changes 🙂

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  19. I bet this post might have had a different ending if you had daughters !

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    1. But I have written from the perspective of both and my having daughters might not have changed anything, least of all the ending, which stresses on both sexes being appreciative of each other!

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  20. Hmm. Another topic close to me.

    While my mother does not conform to the prototype (should I use the word stereotype? Nah.) described in the post – she has been a through and through homemaker, taking care of my grandparents and us alongwith the father. Only in the last few years has she started volunteering a couple of days every month, and ensuring at the same time that we don’t get hassled by that. My father was majorly operating out of home as a consultant in the past, and has never per se shied away from any household work. Even today, he does a lot of housework, to the extent of troubling Mom (doubling her workload, she says) now and then.

    The idea here is that while my mother has related herself to the older model, she is aware of her own freedom and wants to exercise it. My father has been of the mid-range model, where he helps out in some ways – more than what his generation does, my research tells me. The disconnect is very simple – the status quo, inertia if I may, is that ‘Mom’ is the centrepoint, and if she wants to move out for a while, then that is not allowed – even if she is taking steps to ensure that the gap is filled, with minimal friction during the process & period. I wonder how to break this particular logjam.

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    1. Working from home! Then your mom has had to put up with more than anyone of her generation 😀 ask me! For a stay-at-home mother, the time when the house is her own is the best space she can get. And since her efforts to take a break from the monotonous routine is being met with resistance, I think the adult children should come to the rescue and get her that reprieve if she is not able to do it on her own. It all ultimately boils down to the individual cases and finding individual solutions will work till there is a change in the society at large when being a stereotypical male of female will mean social ostracism, to be avoided at all costs. So it is for you and your sis to get your mom the much needed break and don’t be afraid of becoming unpopular with the other parent. They usually come round to it.

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      1. Well, it has happened like that only. Mom started volunteering only after my sister got married, and she increased it only after I became financially independent. I’m not worried about the financial implications of hiring a cook – that is all affordable. If my father were giving valid reasons for disallowing her from going, I would support him – but he does not, so Mom has my full support.

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        1. It could be some other reason then, like being dependent on her, not for his food but emotionally. It is best if you have a talk with him alone and find out the cause. Women suddenly find themselves unable to take things anymore in their middle age and it can be a terrible need. I am sure you will be able to crack this.

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  21. I so agree with you – as long as the gender roles were clear and well demarcated, there was little confusion. And I think it worked well in a way for everyone. And the wizened up me thinks, that there were there for a reason (after all, it was perfected over generations, right?) and the socio-economic nature of that day / age worked well with those boundaries. As you said, we are living in changing and confusing times where roles are not well-defined and it can lead to confusion and blame game, as well.

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    1. Blame game and going into the revenge overdrive for boys and girls respectively. when it is all reduced to proving a point and putting one over the other, things become unpleasant. What can be a smooth transition can assume battle proportions. And yes, we have to adopt and discard customs and thoughts as times change.

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  22. You really have a way with words. It is indeed very difficult to stop in between reading your post. 🙂

    As for the words themselves, I totally agree. I was nodding my head at every line. Upwomanship….he he…this is very true these days. More than equality its the question of respecting each other as a person. Lets hope ,like you wrote, that it takes only one or two more generations to reach that.

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    1. Look how far we have come in two generations. From the time when girls needed permission from their parents to work we have come to the stage when it is taken as the done thing. And from the times when boys took it as their right to be catered to by their sisters, to when they have to pull their weight around the house. In the meanwhile, mud-slinging and bad-mouthing will only make for unpleasantness, but both sexes should accept the change gracefully — boys as it is inevitable and girls because they deserve it. It is when the girls think of it as some kind of revenge that things begin going downhill.

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      1. But these women have reasons for behaving like that. Not all are blessed with understanding and helpful husbands. They need to spend quite a few years to bring about that change in their husbands. Thats because not all in Gen X were open minded mothers. They were working women but still considered or were made to consider the husband as the master of the house. I really wonder if that is changing, because I still find women struggling over a hot stove to impress the hubby/in laws while he/they enjoy a cup of tea! And these are modern educated men and women. 🙂

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        1. Can you honestly condone this swinging of the pendulum? The very fact that they could change the men at least to some extent despite their being cossetted by their mothers speaks for the mettle of the men, doesn’t it? And do await the post on the kind of Gen X MILs you have described. I wanted to start this series on a positive note, so started with the new age men, who are wonderfully coping with their new roles.

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  23. Interesting anecdotes!! 🙂

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    1. Thanks Giribala. 🙂

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  24. You raise a lot of ‘Points to Ponder’…when I was in the UK, there were times I’d have happily used the weaker and meeker of the species card if there was someone to pander to it only to realise that I, the champion for men and women to be treated equally can’t squeal about having no help to carry heavy shopping bags or muscling my way through stuff. The problem I feel Indian women face is rather a crisis of where we see ourselves – we cant selectively expect chivalry and then want to compete with men ‘at their terms’ in others. We all need to remember stereotypes are a two-edged sword..and we could be mutilated with our own weapon..

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    1. Your comment had to be retrieved from the spam folder. This is what happens when you don’t comment for so long that WP doesn’t recognise your lovely smile 🙂

      you have put it very well. Actually, that is the problem here. Not all women can do heavy physical work with ease and not all men are gentle when it is required especially while handling babies and stuff. It is in the genes. I remember reading in the ‘Second Sex’ by Simone de Beauvoir how even nature conspires against women! So here we are trying to transcend not only societal mores but also our sex genes! Which is why I am stressing that we should appreciate the differences of and the efforts made by the other to change. The change will come but it will take a couple of generations before it does.

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  25. Zephyr aunty. WOW. Absolutely loved this post. You talk about all the women in my life – my mom, my MIL, my grandmoms, my cosisters and me! Though my hubby helps me plenty and does as he is told, I wonder when things will change to such an extent that men don’t need to be told and think of things themselves! Even if he helps me out, why is it me who wakes up every morning and wonder what meals are to be made and what chores need to be done? The entire mentality of women being supposed to do a set of things and men another set of things needs to change. and honestly, world over.

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    1. That’s exactly what I am asking the generation to do: be sympathetic to each other — to your husband for trying to break out of the conditioning and do his bit and he for your excellent achievements at work. So while we wait for the change to come over a period of time, let us enjoy each other! The reason why I went back two generations is because such changes take time to take roots in people’s minds. What this generation is going through is the result of two and more generations’ work and thought processes. So be happy to be a part of the change and be patient, because such things need to be gradual for them to be long lasting.

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  26. In this age of duality we don’t necessarily adhere to what we try to project to the rest of the world. Since we don’t want to look outdated so we mouth the necessary lines, even if we don’t believe in them.

    Like you said, such transformation will take time. It’s not a battle of the sexes but respecting each other’s space.

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    1. But that is the beginning, because soon, not doing what you are talking of will make you stand out. And you have rightly pointed out that it is a respect for each other’s space. But why is everything then reduced to a battle of the sexes?

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  27. I so very identify with Seema 🙂 The men of today are indeed very ‘modern’. And its quite heatening to see them help around the home.
    When I was bringing my infant son for the first time, my mother had been worried that how I would manage. But then when she came to know how we shared duties she was wide eyed. Changing diapers, preparing feeds by a man was unfathomable for her.

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    1. I do hope you don’t have a ‘naam ke waaste’ liberal mother in law like Seema 😀 As I said, even that is better since you refrain from being the ‘monster-in’law’, at least for appearances’ sake 😀

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  28. This post would be treated as blasphemous by my grandmother who still insists on chasing me out of the kitchen if I so much as try to touch something there with the intention of cooking. You should have seen the look on her face the first time I asked her to teach me how to cook daal khichdi 😉

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    1. your grandmom is TWO generations older and it is understandable if she thinks the kitchen is the domain of the women. But your mom of ‘sandwich generation’ thinks differently, right? And you and your sis of Gen Y think even more differently. I have great hopes for the future generations 🙂

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      1. Maa always encourages my tiny forays into the kitchen if only to be able to cook sustenance (I refrain from calling it food because I can only do some dishes right, and no Maggi does not count as one of those 😛 ). Sister on the other hand hates me being inside the kitchen but not for the same reason as my grandma. She shares the older ladies’ passion for cooking and is not amused by someone else “messing up” what she’s doing. In fact even Maa keeps me out of the kitchen when something lavish is being prepared. Its only the everyday mundane when I am allowed near the kitchen. I have only two explanations for that – either I have appalling kitchen skills or they’re afraid the food may never reach the table 😉

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        1. The problem here is one of orderliness, right? If she is comfortable with your cooking and cleaning she would have no qualms about letting you in. I have this problem too since I feel that after any ‘help’ I will end up doing more work by cleaning and so refuse entry to the gents. I think though in your case, the last mentioned might be the actual reason 😀

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          1. Pratibha · ·

            Actually, I enjoy my children being in the kitchen when I am cooking. My daughter is a great help. She understands what I require without even mentioning it. And of course, she is a cleanliness freak! So, a great help. My son is always ready to taste food during all the stages of cooking and give his comments. He keeps us entertained with his wit & humour. As far as cooking is concerned, I am happy both like to cook. I would be thrilled to eat what they cook. But the problem is that they like to cook & I LOVE to cook. So I rarely let them cook.

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          2. Some qualities are inherited like cleanliness! Good for you your kids are helpful around the house because you must not have made a big deal about their being boy and girl, but children.

            There are many like your friend who hate cooking and those who can afford it hire cooks and other help even if the menfolk don’t help out as your friend’s husband does. But interestingly this phenomenon can’t be found in poorer families where oppression of women is more prevalent. interestingly too, where they can afford help, some women want to make their men slog because now they are in a postion to call the shots. It is this thing that I have objections to.

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  29. I feel yin-yang !
    every good has a bad in it and vice verse !
    i believe stereotyping has both good and bad in it !
    http://deepakkarthikspeaks.blogspot.com/

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    1. Stereotyping puts people in straitjackets and labels them. I am wondering how it can be good? I would love to hear your explanation of it. 🙂

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      1. Labeling or stereotyping a person’s abilities can have both a negative and also positive effect on them,
        For ex, labeling a kid as GOOD PERFORMER IN MATHS but WEAK IN COMMUNICATION skills, we can’t avoid stereotypes.
        Judging others is not at all bad, it is bad only when it is used to abuse and degrade that person, if a stereotype brings happiness to a soul, what’s wrong in stereotyping ?
        for ex: Cybernag posts are bloody brilliant 😛

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        1. Labeling is fine but stereotyping can be harmful in the broader sense: all women are good cooks; all mothers-in-law are wicked and mean; all men are good at handling mechanical things, etc. This puts a lot of pressure on the people concerned. But labeling is fine: the child is a brilliant student; the girl is born to dance; and of course Cybernag’s posts are bloody brilliant 😀 😀

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