Monday, 19 January 2015

Laundry List: How to make Laundry everyone's, not just women's job

As I ruminated about Laundry being predominantly a woman's job, worldwide, even as it more pronounced in a patriarchy like India, the first thing I did was a Google search. On the history of laundry! You will be appalled that the search threw up all women's images with the laundry!

Take a look:


This source examines history from medieval times up until the 19th century. Every picture on that page has a woman or a group of women doing laundry. 
The only place where i found two men doing the laundry was here 

Oh wait, before we rejoice, they are clearly called out as soldiers (who, by definition, are alone at their duty - without women or household nearby)! phew!

It is interesting to juxtapose this against professional laundry services [done not for one's own household but as a service for paying customers from one's society]. Studies of washing as a service, in ancient India, do not even mention women. This study (source) clearly elucidates washermen were known as 'rajaka' and were one of five special categories of workers.

That brings us to this fundamental theory I derive therefrom: cooking and cleaning (aka chef & washermen) when done as a paid service to society, has been and is still, largely run by men. Whereas, the same functions, when done for household, entirely rest with the women.

This strong social bias is only further consciously aggravated / further deepened by a very powerful medium such as cinema, in a Country where cinema is a religion by itself, quite like cricket. While examples abound (I will need a new blog because it will last terrabytes), I will provide just one example to rest my case:

This is a 1996 Tamil movie (I hail from Chennai) starring a famous superstar. One of the female characters herself is shown feeling that her mother is ill-treating a male character by "getting him to do even the laundry".

I think that is sufficient articulation to bring us to the point where we unilaterally agree laundry is, indeed, like most other household chores, saddled with the women. Times of India, recently, in this article , brought out how even the Indian Courts - the final frontier for 'justice' - have placed negligible value on the worth of a woman homemaker [of course, woman and homemaker have been synonymous in this patriarchy for too long - whilst it is a privilege and great honor to be a homemaker, it hurts, as a woman, to see my ilk taken for granted in return].

hmm.. that's enough ranting .. rant, anybody can. As modern, educated, contributing women members of this society, keen to bring in change, what can we do? Here are my solutions - and trust me, I am damn serious about each of them - never mind the otherwise comical or ironical tone of expression, in some cases.

Given below are some legitimate statistics that quantify the aforesaid bias and malady amply. I present these statistics and counter those statistics with my creative solutions:

Stat 1 - More than 2/3rds of Indian women feel there exists inequality at home, between men and women.

Stat 2 - 76% of Indian men feel that laundry is a women's job.

Stat 3 - 85% of working Indian women feel they have two jobs - one each at work and home!

Stat 4 - 73% of married Indian women feel men prioritize relaxing over helping with chores

Stat 5 - More than 2/3rds of Indian men prefer relaxing with TV than doing laundry

Stat 6 - 77% of Indian men depend on women to do their laundry

Stat 1 and Stat 2 for me is a clear, deeply entrenched mindset issue. Due to a deep social mindset, women are seen as the ones who 'ought' to do the household chores, chiefly laundry and men are seen as the ones who 'ought' to be bread winners and work outside home. 

My Creative Solution 1: Its time we powerfully addressed - through mass media, cinema and awareness campaigns - the mindset issue.

Examples for Solution 1:

1. (a) Its time we got our Censor Board [for films, advertisements et al] to get to work on women's emancipation - anything that reinforces or aggravates social inequality needs to be curbed and moderated. Preferably, all our women Members of Parliament & women Members of State Legistlatures can (after due consultation with the constituents they represent] draw up a charter that can later be evolved into Law and be binding on censor boards.

1. (b) There are, as I said, two universal religions, in this Country - Cinema and Cricket. I just about handled the former. Now, for the latter. You have seen male cricketers in this Country endorse and advertise pretty much everything - ah, wait - have you seen any of them endorsing a washing machine or a washing material [powder / detergent]? Now, we are not in an era when clothes have to be beaten up with a cricket bat like object to clean them. Washing has since evolved. I want male cricketers endorsing washing machines / detergents [as a service to the Indian society that they ought to give back to] with the message, "This is a hit - kya dulayi kar dala (what a cleanser that)". Many an Indian male mindset, trust me, will begin to open up.

1. (c) Women, its time we stand up and 'ask'.  To start with, I just created this matrimonial classifieds advertisement:

I created it, so its my copyright, feel free to seek written consent and use it :)

1. (d) Now, because men are perceived as bread winners [and therefore exempt from household chores] and women as homemakers chiefly, I derive the household chores have got shunted out to women. Before we jump to conclusion that women, if they are educated, empowered and earning, can have a shared life - where household chores including laundry are shared by men - Stat 3 hits us pretty hard!

Stat 3 goes on to say 85% of working Indian women feel they have two jobs - one each at work and at home. Geez! That's a real problem on our hand. This tells me, while the Indian woman has, along with her multitude of domestic responsibilities, successfully adapted to a traditional man's role (of earning and being a bread winner), the Indian male has not even begun the journey towards adapting to a traditional woman's role [of handling household responsibities - please note, I consciously use 'responsibilities' here, not 'chores']. My creative solution 2 for this is:

Start employing as a 'couple' or 'family' not as 'individuals':

I know, this must sound radical and I prepare myself - with trepidation - for the backlash.

See, my argument is - desperate times call for desperate measures. Most Indian women will be dead given there is a tremendous mismatch between their adaptive speed (in moving towards the traditional man's role even as they upkeep the woman's traditional role) and men's adaptive speed.

Let me begin where it all begins - the Indian ethos about 'marriage'. What is it? Its sharing. 7 circles to vow how a couple will take on life. No, i don't want an 8th circle that says "i shall share thy laundry with you".

What i want is - the whole distinction of male / female roles should stop once a couple is married and embarks on a family. The family as an entity - this society wants, in letter and spirit - should and ought to override and gain precedence over - the underlying individuals as entities. Right? I can't see anyone objecting to it.

Then, why not employ a couple / a family? Instead of an individual? In most cases, the Indian woman today is as educated and skilled as the man (in some cases, trust me, more). If not, let's get the woman to the same level within a time window.

What happens if a couple / family is employed instead of individual husband or wife?

The couple alternate work at office and home. Say, three days a week (or one-half of the working year), one partner (male or female) handles office whilst the other handles home and then they rotate. Isn't that a beginning of a solution? Women, let's support organizations and companies that want to partner us in this positive social move forward.
That way, we make a move away from traditional mindsets around what is whose role. Sharing becomes, at first an induced and thereafter an evolved, way of life. Work is work - whether at home or office - and both pay the 'couple / entity' pretty much the same net benefits. Slowly, as young children - girls and boys - see their parents share all roles - kids will grow to be more accepting adults. Did I just hit a sixer? In cinematic language, can I get some 'taaliyan' (claps)?

Next, stats 4 to 6, I bunch together to suggest my creative solution:

Stat 4 - 73% of married Indian women feel men prioritize relaxing over helping with chores

Stat 5 - More than 2/3rds of Indian men prefer relaxing with TV than doing laundry

Stat 6 - 77% of Indian men depend on women to do their laundry

Ok, so men like relaxing as natural human disposition. Laundry, as things stand today, is nowhere in that realm - relaxing, as a TV is. Granted.

Creative Solution 3: Let's make Laundry relaxing and fun:

Stop staring. Start believing. You think doing laundry can't be relaxing or fun? Fault your mindset to begin with. Then fault the methods, machines and materials.

Let me elucidate.

Can you see how much the TV has improved and evolved in the last four decades? Has the washing machine improved as much? Or the kitchen stove? A TV is curvilinear, has 3D, has sensors, has computing powers .. oh boy! Precisely - oh boy - is that because men used the TV predominantly over the last few decades? Why doesn't, for that matter, a kitchen stove, sense milk's boiling temperature and turn the damn knob off before boiled milk overflows? Why doesn't a washing machine - unlike a computer or a TV - not have inbuilt voiceovers or instructions or help options? Why oh why?

Women, let's heartily start supporting washing machine and materials makers [detergent and powder brands], who start and support this dialogue and transformation.Thank you Ariel, on that note, for initiating this dialogue & crowdsourcing awareness and solutioning. Delighted to participate.

I would like a washing machine - when switched on - that clearly voices over - step by step - how to do laundry. Washing machine makers, here is a progressive men's advice site I found, just in case you want to reference.  
Oh by the way, I would also like the washing machine to have the infamous 'reset' mode, thanks to computers and those of us who bank on a 'reset' as a birth right.

I know - that by itself, is not gonna get laundry to be hyper fun or relaxing.

So, let me solution further:

What if washing machines connected to our Wii & Playstations and other gaming devices and what if men/women could play games or play music as we did the laundry? I would go a step further and link washing machines to smartphone Apps - have you ever thought, how come, we do not have a damn 'Laundry App' - that links the washing machine and provides cool gaming options and even cooler online credits for a job well done? Let's get started.

Hope you enjoyed my thoughts and solutions. I guess I will end the rinse and spin cycle here lest I turn folks off with too long a laundry list :)

I am writing for #IsLaundryOnlyAWomansJob activity at in association with Ariel.

Cheers :)

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