Too many a times, I have heard the wardens of the patriarchy argue, “Who kyun chai banaega? Woh larka hai!” (Why would he make tea? He is a guy!) and “Uski khair hai? Wo larka hai!” (That’s alright, he’s a guy!).
When I got sick and tired of being told this and demanded Khud khana garam karlo (Warm your food yourself) at the recent Aurat March in Karachi, our entire community got infuriated. Wow!
“Wait. Come again, WHAT? How dare she even say that? These feminazis are just crazy! Look at them right now fighting for kitchen rights? Dude! Feminists used to have real platforms earlier. What happened to it?”
Such sentences are blurted by all strata within our society, but of course, most commonly by men alone. They will argue endlessly that there are better issues for women to focus on. They will say that most women love their domestic roles of service. They will contend that this is what a woman’s job is, and that ‘Islam said so.’ It’s easy to drag in religion and fabricate as to what warrants the other person right, isn’t it?
They will remind women that they can’t do the conventionally ‘masculine’ chores, such as earning a hard-earned income and paying the bills, and so much more, no?
These men tend to forget that while they brandish claims of male competence, their wives, mothers, and sisters are in the background ironing their clothes and making them food to help them get ready for office and life outside home. Isn’t that a contribution that keeps you men in action out there?
Women nurture sperm in their uteruses and give birth to men, feed men from their own chests, up-bring them, and embed in them the basic human functions.
However, women, bound by societal roles, are not allowed to impart — and get no help in imparting — to their sons one crucial aspect of life: self-sufficiency.
How to make your own bed, clean up after yourself, wash your own underwear, iron your own clothes, and, of course, the most contentious of issues: heat up your own food.
Patriarchy perpetuates the lie that women, by ‘nature,’ are bound to nurture the men around them, that satisfying men is what women are born for, that the life cycle of a woman starts with taking care of her brothers and fathers and ends with serving her husband and sons.
The idea behind my poster Khud khana garam karlo was not that we should reverse the social order and that men should become domestic slaves to women; it was rather about men being self-sufficient or at least acknowledging women as deserved. The idea is about learning the concept that these women are no less. They contribute to your success, without which lives would have been in a miserable state. If you think these roles are irreplaceable, then try it… No man is complete without a woman.
A woman truly completes a man, be it as a ‘mother’, a ‘daughter’, a ‘wife’ and so on.
When we teach boys how to brush their teeth and take a shower, why can’t we also teach them how to clean their room and cook?
Just like how young girls are told to join their mothers in kitchen to prepare food and wash dishes, and help in other chores of the house, boys should also be made to do the same.
If men take up more and more domestic responsibility, children will learn that these chores are not naturally gendered. When children see only women do housework, they internalize domestic work as being fundamentally feminine — and this is how the cycle repeats and gendering reproduced.
And for those women who fail to understand this, who think that these roles are a form of women loving men: Is depriving men from learning basic self-sufficiency really doing the men we love a service?
Khud khana garam karlo is a demand encompassing many realms beyond just men heating up their own food. It’s a call to change the very nature of male-female relationship in our society.