Feminists speak about the many social pressures on females and fight for equality in society. While there have been many campaigns in many different names and themes, harassment of females continues and women are still discriminated against.
There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the campaigns, and yet, the activists don’t seem to be achieving their goal of equality in society. This makes one wonder if they are not addressing a more important issue.
When studying social sciences, you would have learnt that family is the basic social unit or community. An individual first and formost belongs to a family, then to a community and society. If there is a flaw in how a family functions, it is best to correct it at that level than a social level.
This could be said of equality too. While activists focus on society as a whole, maybe it’s time they first made sure there is equality within families. Looking at most families in Sri Lanka, there is no equality. These may seem like trivial issues, but they build up and affect society.
In most families, the men folk are rarely asked to cook, clean the pots and pans, wash clothes or sweep the house. They are given chores like gardening, washing the family pet or vehicle and doing the various odd jobs like changing bulbs or tightening screws.
While this may seem fair, it does divide household chores for males, and females and has thus resulted in the belief that women belong in the kitchen.
While many would study history and say men are to blame for this, why not try to fix the situation instead of only looking at what led to the situation? You can’t say only men are to blame, for females too contribute to this situation.
In most families, the mother of the family doesn’t let the men cook. It’s seen as a feminine task and this results in males, who can’t cook and expect women to do all the cooking. Further, in some families, the lion’s share of food is kept for the males. Some females even wash the plates their husbands ate from and while they may do this out of love and they need to also realize that this leads to the men believing women are here to do their bidding.
Even today, the family house is given to the male instead of the oldest child regardless of their sex. The daughter could spend most of her life taking care of her parents and the son could neglect his parents, but social norms would still make the parents give the house to their son instead of daughter. While this may sound like the daughter took care of her parents with the expectation of the house, that isn’t the case. Such traditions lessen the value of a female and give more power to males.
When a boy grows up, seeing how females have always been tending to him, he will be of the belief that that’s what is expected of females. He would this treat females as lesser than him and think females belong at home. When he gets married, he will expect his wife to take care of the kids, cook and clean and he wouldn’t lend her a helping hand.
When a girl grows up being told she needs to be at the beck and call of men and do everything for her father, brothers and husband not out of love or respect, but because they are male and she is female, she would grow up believing female oppression is normal and should be accepted without objection. Such females will grow up to spoil their sons and bring them up with the belief that cooking and cleaning are jobs for females and not men.
Certain things come to us by birth. This is known as nature. However, other things we learn after birth, through observation and imitation. Our behavior and beliefs are shaped at home, in school and by society. This is called nurture. When we grow up with a set of beliefs, it isn’t easy to change them. Thus it is important to start at the beginning of life and at the very basic level of society.
Campaigns that address society and social issues are important and are effective, but change must start at home.