The idea of salary for housewives mooted by Kamal Haasan’s party has opened up discussion on how housework needs to be monetarily recognised. The seemingly noble idea has gained support from the likes of Shashi Tharoor but we are failing to recognise the fact that by paying salary for housework, the woman’s role at home is being further subjugated in the family structure with the man becoming the provider.
We have refined the word housewife into homemaker but the thankless routine of housework remains the same, with the women endlessly toiling in most households receiving no recognition for their efforts.
The partnership in marriage is based on mutual respect, love and understanding, which by the introduction of salary for the woman will be transformed into the role of employer and employee. The value of housework done by the women in their household is precious and cannot be commercialized like everything else in today’s world. Even the Supreme Court order has noted that the value of a housewife’s work is no less than her employed husband.
Even if we begin quantifying housework into money, on what factors is the salary to be calculated? Are we going to introduce performance appraisals and monitor their growth? Who gets to make this appraisal? Is there going to be a retirement age and do they get to have pension? If the woman is not happy with the job profile, is she allowed to quit? These factors will primarily place the husband in a superior position within the family structure.
The work done by the housewives has always remained invisible and unrecognised. Plenty of women who have remained housewives are on duty 24/7 at home. The housewives feel less valued when compared to their working counterpart, despite their endless mind numbing slogging at home. The tiresome repetitive work done by the housewives is valuable but they deserve support and recognition from the family members. The attitude shift towards housewives is very crucial in rescuing the women who find themselves buried under unending housework. All over the world, women continue to do the backbreaking household chores with very little support from their male partners. While in India, an average male spends 1.5 hours in unpaid house work daily, the female counterpart spends 5 hours doing the same.
Even if one decides to commodify the housewife job profile, it is very vast and differs from home to home. Every homemaker ensures the smooth running of the household with much personal sacrifice and love that cannot be compensated by any amount of money.
What is required is a greater empathy for women along with sharing the household work load without any gender biases. There are women who endure domestic abuse within their homes and who have absolutely no say in the family unit.
A woman should be allowed to make an independent choice on whether she wants to do housework without being judged for the decision she makes. A working woman is truly independent only when she has control over the money she earns to make independent well informed decisions. If a woman chooses to be a housewife, it is very important for the men in the family to support her. The job profile of a housewife comes with no instruction manuals, recognitions or leaves and with absolutely no scope for growth. Every family has a duty towards the homemaker to give them unconditional support and much needed break from the drudgery of housework. This can be possible only if we break away from the gender stereotypes.
I leave you with the trailer of a Malayalam movie titled The Great Indian Kitchen. The movie narrates the story of a young happy woman whose zest for life gets snuffed out by the demands of never ending boredom of housework. The movie comes with very touching performances and echoes the fact that men are completely clueless about the oppressive element in the traditionally dictated gender roles. The film will leave you with a better understanding and respect for the women in your life.