When I was a kid, I totally enjoyed reading Enid Blyton books. As I grew older, I heard people criticizing them for being sexist and stereotyping girls. I used to wonder what the fuss was about. Today some 20 odd years on as I read out an Enid Blyton story to my daughter, I do see what the fuss is about. One story begins like “Jack and Jane lived in a lovely house. Jack was 9 and he was a strong boy. Jane was 7 and she was a great help to her mother” And the story continues …….
Why is it that even in children’s story books it is girls who are supposed to help around in the house and not boys?
Enid Blyton belonged to a different era and different society but when I look around me I really wonder if things are any different.
Just the other day a lady from my building society was telling everyone who cared to listen that she was teaching her daughter to do chores around the house. After all I don’t want others calling my daughter names she declared.
Why is it that mothers only impart lessons to daughters so that they make good wives? Ever heard a mother talking about giving her son some advice on how to be a good husband?
No matter how much we scream about Gender equality we as a society are somehow conditioned to treat women differently. Particularly, we girls are programmed to accept differential behavior as normal and as a way of life. While sometimes obvious measures are taken, at other times subtle hints are thrown at us, the objective always being the same. From childhood, it is hammered into our brains that we need to keep house and take care of household chores. In stark contrast, boys are brought up to just lay around with their feet up while their mothers and sisters scurry around the house.
While having a casual conversation with another lady I know, she started telling me how lucky I was to have a daughter. Surprised, I started blabbering about how loving girls are and how I always wanted a daughter when she jolted me back to reality by stating , “No I don’t mean that , when dinner is done both my husband and son walk away , if I had a daughter she would have helped me with the chores.” “Well, teach your son to help with household chores at least his wife won’t have this problem”, I said in my mind!!
In ancient times, tasks were divided on the basis of gender purely for ease of operation. So while men collected firewood, hunted animals and gathered food, women cooked and kept house. This arrangement, which was started merely for the sake of convenience gradually became the norm, a tradition that is still followed. Young girls grow up watching their mothers, aunts and other women folk dutifully take up cooking and cleaning and they embrace it as a way of life and something that they must pass on to their daughters .
Just the other day, I had some guests over. While I was getting dinner ready, my 5 year old daughter came into the kitchen and started insisting on helping me out. Finding her help more of a hindrance, I declined, when an aunty exclaimed to my daughter, “Go and play now, after all you have to do all this when you grow up” with emphasis on “Have to” !!
Such kind of gender stereotyping annoys me extremely. In today’s world, girls are equally educated, work in the same environment, earn similar salaries if not more than their male counterparts, then why is it that household chores are taught only to girls? We obviously want our daughters to be at par with our sons when it comes to career and so we never compromise on their education. Why do we then burden and pull them behind with our efforts to domesticate them? And just like we educate our daughters, why can’t we ensure that our sons get trained on the domestic front as well?
I’ve been fortunate to be blessed with parents who never made me and my younger sister do household chores just so that we make good wives. We were never treated differently just because we were girls. And I’m never going to treat my daughter any differently than I would have treated her if she were a boy. I think if every mother resolves to raise her daughters to be an independent individual and a good human being above all, we might move towards true gender equality. But till then we have put up with all the aunties of the world who have taken it upon themselves to make us and our daughters good housewives!