Summary: This essay seeks to address the menfolk. The write up is a deconstruction of the male-female divide in our society through the exhortation to exercise of a simple domestic chore like doing the laundry. Using humour and reasoning, it encourages men to embrace domestic chores such as washing clothes in their homes.
Contents: (scroll down to read all sections)
- Introduction: Men will be Men?
- Washing Clothes is fun; domestic work is fun too.
- The Indian Society and the Men—Who washed our clothes?
- Domestic work-Why We Men don’t do it?
- How Washing Clothes could be so much fun—A Hypothetical case Study.
- Wash, Cook, Mop the Floor. Live life Men!
- Get close to life and family with domestic chores!
- Take the #WashBucketChallenge Now!
Introduction: Men will be Men?
When was the last time you washed clothes? The answer, if you are a guy, is probably never except maybe occasional laundry work when you were on travel. That is not a very encouraging situation and does not bode well for personal happiness and a happy family life. Fortunately help is at hand and you can change your way of life and get started with laundry. Because cleanliness matters and your initiative in doing your own tasks and helping the family will take you further in life.
To illustrate, it well known that men who cook and help with domestic chores are better parents and partners. But you don’t have to do the laundry just because you have a mission to help; do it also because it is something that you should know; it is realization of your potential, a new life skill in your inventory and because it is fun too. Yes, we know you have been showing photos of your dirty laundry while growing up suggesting how you avoid doing it because your mother or sister is away and how it generated laughter among friends. But that is past, it was fun while it happened and you can choose to move on and embrace a life full of cleanliness driven by your own efforts with laundry.
Washing Clothes is fun; domestic work is fun too.
Washing clothes is fun? Yes!
Doing the dishes is fun? Yes!
Mopping the floor is fun? Yes!
Yes, it is fun. You just don’t know what you are missing if you are avoiding home works. I do that every day. But it is not about me. It is fun because it is an activity that yields results and makes you feel good. It is like a declaration to yourself that you are capable of these small chores that we men make a big deal of! That you are as good as anybody (including the womenfolk) with home tasks. It means that you are not just another guy who balks at the thought of washing clothes or spreading the wash on the clothesline. It means that you are organized in life; you don’t need a washing assistant, you don’t need other people to take care of small things in your life. It means that you are in more control of your life. It means that you will be a better, understanding life partner; it means that you will be more happy in life and people around you will be happier too because you help with the tasks and don’t just add to the to-do list of tasks in home.
Doing your own laundry gives you confidence; doing it for the whole home brings you love. Sharing the load means sharing the pleasure. Divide the workload and you are multiplying the pleasures. You are not just washing clothes; you are washing away family blues, family problems, family stress. You are participating more; you are closer to your parents, kids, wife, brother or sister; you are giving back to society with that effort; you are contributing like an equal member of the family and society; you are creating opportunities (of time and happiness) when you share the workload and don’t become a burden. You are a better father, a better brother or husband or son when you do the laundry. Doing the laundry is not just a chore; it is self actualisation; in part salvation, realization of human worth, activation of untapped potential.
Things that are not right should undergo change. And a lot of change especially in a country like India has to start with change of men, the way they think and behave. Attitude of work avoidance toward laundry is one of the parameters which will determine national resurgence, progress and social maturity of India. So men, don’t get left behind. Life is calling, country needs you and your wife or family needs you more than ever. So embrace the laundry, do the dishes, make the rotis, share the load.
The Indian Society and the Men—Who washed our clothes?
We are products of our society: we are shaped by the social consciousness; our behaviour is dominated by socialisation from family to school to the market place. We learn the norms, values and ethics and grow up to become an individual more or less along the ‘desired’, set pattern of our society. The society in India has been patriarchal. Which means that men have dominated the system and power, authority, privilege has been defined roughly through the male lens. This male-dominated default social organisation that we live in has a value system which has prescribed role relationships. Roughly speaking, men are to be the breadwinners who go out and earn money and women are to be in the domestic confines who cook, do the dishes, mop the floor, wash the laundry; this is like it is ordained and not by choice. Things are changing slowly but this is how it has been for a long time.
Now go back to your childhood and remember who did the laundry for you in childhood? In all probability, you didn’t do it yourself. If you are from a rich family with many servants then probably the servants did it for you. For the vast majority, it is the women in the family who did it. We looked at it as something natural, something right and something so normal. We never paused to think why our mother or sister does the laundry or cooks while we go out all the time and have all the fun. Well, fortunately, now things are changing. Start the change now men; pick a cloth and add a spark to the revolution where you destroy traditional stereotypes and redefine role sets, role behaviour and role relationships. With the #WashBucketChallenge, you can do a lot of change in society and in your own life. Results will be cleanliness of clothes and of the system too.
So, who washed our clothes to date? You have the answer. Who will wash our clothes from now on? You have the answer again. Better late than never.
Domestic work – Why Men don’t do it?
With that background analysis in mind let us just ponder over some of the typical reasons of male resistance for laundry, or domestic chores. These are some of the reasons that relate to our upbringing, behaviour, learnt nature, work avoidance, cultivated habits.
1. The obvious explanation and reason is that men are raised to think beyond the domestic chores; women are taught to think within. This is hammered in our minds subconsciously; we behave accordingly. Laundry was never our task therefore.
2. A more simple explanation is that we men were never asked to do the laundry, nobody pressured us into doing it, nobody taught us, nobody told us its importance. Contrast it with the ease with which women do it and have been doing it since their childhood and you know how powerful (and prejudiced) gender socialisation could be. Not that doing laundry is bad; it is that your right to exercise choice was denied to you.
3. Men are stronger sex; they have to do manly works. Laundry is not a manly work. Ditto for washing utensils, cooking and so on. Men move on in life, they ignore all laundry and dishes they run into. Progress for them means avoidance of such effeminate tasks.
4. It is part of their habit. Even if they could unlearn some of their innate patriarchal ways that they are slaves to they find it hard to reform. Change is painful. They sometimes try, often give up in first few attempts. Such people come up with reactions like ‘I’ve done it once; no big deal, I can do it you know!’ They remain an also-ran in laundry; one-time wonders.
5. If there are incentives then men do learn it. Kids, adolescents, adults who have lived in settings like hostel, dormitories, boarding schools, outside of family are quick to learn it. It is survival and they have no other option than to learn it and do it; also because often they cannot afford a washer(wo)man. Still it cannot be necessarily concluded that all such men will share the load when they are married or when they are with parents/joint family; they tend to lapse to old ways when there are people around who could wash their dirt.
6. Domestic chores have notions of delegation attached to them; people tend to think that they do not have to get their hands dirty. Wives, mothers, sisters, hired services, others should do it for them. Even when one has the skill and the time, these works get delegated especially in modern-day settings in cities where utilization and effectiveness of time and success is seen as something removed from domestic tasks and chores. This is catching up among women too. In a way it is unavoidable; you can’t all the time think of laundry or dishes or cooking. The problem starts when it becomes a pattern. What is done often becomes a habit; simple task like laundry appears tiresome work. This culture gets transmitted to kids in family; laundry avoidance is perpetuated. The need is of arresting this trend with some laundry and domestic chores without completely ruining the pleasures which come from avoiding repetitive home chores. So that balance is maintained. Washing machines obviously ease us into doing the laundry; it is a home appliance that could get us that judicious use of one’s time where one does portions of laundry work and delegates the rest to a machine while concentrating on his or her extra-domestic priorities in life. Problem again starts when even this minimum task of collecting the laundry and operating the machine earns the typical male apathy to laundry or gets incessantly delegated to women in the family.
7. It would also be untrue to say that all men are slaves of culture and socialisation. There are men who realize they the problem with society and themselves but still appear as helpless. This is due to lethargy toward laundry developed due to the habit of ignoring the task of washing clothes. Such men, however, display a good sense of humour and are generous in accepting criticism and look forward to some future date from which they will do the laundry and help family with domestic chores. For many such people that day never comes but at least they remain sensitive to their shortcomings and are better husbands or family members than the typical majority of social products. A good number of educated youth (who often pick up notions of gender equality and women’s empowerment from viral facebook posts) belong to this category.
How Washing Clothes could be so much fun — A Hypothetical Case Study
Yes, washing clothes could be so much fun. You don’t have to shudder with fear at the thought of domestic chores. Work and task accomplishment brings happiness to life; not including laundry in your definition of task or to-do list is clearly your loss.
Let us analyze the work of laundry through the male lens and then know the pleasures of this work
So you are a guy; let’s call you Mr. XY. So Shri XY, you are a husband with two kids and a lovely wife. She does all the home works; you go to work. She was in job but she went off work while giving birth to your second child and she chose a domestic life after it. You are nice; you had also reluctantly offered to be a domestic husband or help with works so that a life with both parents working is possible in your home but she declined it and you both decided it was more wise and useful if you worked and she took care of home and kids.
XY, you are nice and fine. But you don’t do the laundry, you don’t mop the floor, you don’t help with cooking. You still partly help with making tea once in a while, you drop kids to school while going to office, and you sometimes turn the ladle when she is cooking curry in kadahi. You sympathise with the many tasks she has to do; you told her that you hold her in awe for these stupendous achievements. You feel you are tired after nine to five office work and have no time for anything else including house works; you feel you are lucky you have a wife who takes such wonderful care of your home. You watch her do the domestic chores, you even remind her at times about what she has to cook and what laundry needs her attention. You say ‘men make houses, women make home’; ‘house is made of brick and stone, home is made of love alone’ and so on to make her smile. But nothing more, nothing substantive, nothing real in contributions to home tasks.
In short, you XY is not doing all that you could do in home because you gratify yourself with the thought of achievements of office tasks as your primary and only role in the household. You could do some tasks but you have not defined any such task for your exalted, trumped-up persona. So you are not doing any laundry because you didn’t even think of doing it (money making and career is your default and only business); more so since your wife chose to exclusively focus on home and hearth. Your roles in life XY are cut and dried. When asked, you occasionally joke about it, make yourself look small in comparison to your wife and try to tell how you got no time for all this.
A possible example in this connection is the Delhi CM Kejriwal’s Women’s Day statement (8 March 2015) where he thought he was paying his debt to his wife: My message is to all the men in the city. It is admirable how women fulfill their responsibilities honestly and without making any fuss. They play many roles such as that of a mother, daughter, wife, sister and daughter-in-law…
Don’t pay tributes; instead we XYs should develop endearing attributes. We have to embrace the laundry because it is our home; what will we reform if we don’t reform and make changes in our own home. If women in your family don’t make fuss then it still means that your responsibilities also matter and what is their responsibility is also your responsibility.
Ok, Mr. XY. Time to reform. Now we discuss how it could be so much fun. Probably you know it already. Narrating it in an essay or story won’t be of much use. You will smile maybe and agree with me and probably choose to continue with your regular life which has no place for laundry. I’ll still give it a try. No harm in showing us a picture of the idyll that arrives with laundry works shared and done well. Let’s see a picture which would be different from the usual days in your home.
So you get up at say six on a summer morning. On other days your wife used to get up before you; today you have beat her at it as you are alive to your responsibilities in home. So should we go straight to laundry then? Nah, don’t ruin the fun. Laundry is just one task; you got to kill many birds with this one stone of early rise today.
So you head to kitchen; you make tea for your wife. You sit close to her and wait for her to get up. She has got up in half an hour. You are sitting close by her with water and tea. She gets up rubbing her eyes and rises like a spring! She sprang to action not because you are awake and that has surprised her but because that is how she is, as if in an autopilot mode. You observe and realize only today how automated her life is; she has no time to luxuriate on bed in mornings, think of the dreams of last night or just lie in bed with open or closed eyes. You do it every day of your life while she gets up like a machine. Her mind, if you may choose to delve in, is full of domestic tasks: clean house, laundry, cooking, checking on the servants (if any), watering the plants, dusting the home, making batter, grinding masala, readying kids for school, talking to your ma over phone or making tea for her if she lives with you, buying or ordering groceries, packing your tiffin, ironing your clothes (you don’t even do this, eh?) collecting clothes from clothesline, making cake for Chintu’s (XY junior!) birthday in evening and so on! The list is endless. Your list has only your office, your monetary goals, your career goals, your success, your public life and so on. Your work is structured, easy, defined; hers is more difficult, multiple and often exasperating. Ah, you see you have been so blind to her.
And not just to her. We have been blind to women in our lives; we have been so to our mother and sister in home, we have perpetuated a system of minimum workload share leading to untold oppression of women in the household.
It is time to make amendments. It’s time to change; it’s time to shake ourselves and rise with laundry. It’s time to collect all dirty clothes of your wife, kids (Chintu included), parents and start washing them day after day. It’s time to rid ourselves from habits that enslave us and stop us from becoming better men and husbands. It’s time to cook, do the dishes, mop the floor and do the laundry. That will liberate us; that will be true human empowerment, that will be uplifting of the society and that will be a value addition to our portfolio. It’s time to cleanse ourselves with laundry.
Now with this perspective in mind, do you feel that if you help with laundry and other domestic chores it will be too much for you or something that you cannot afford to do? You know the answers; all XYs know the answer. The work is clearly not big; often it is us with big egos that lie like boulders in smooth passageways of domestic life. Kick this boulder with all your might; tear it to shreds with your will to do the homes tasks of laundry or cooking. And there you are, a better man, a better husband, a better son, a better brother, a better father, a better friend, a better citizen. Ah, you just won the life’s battle with laundry, so to speak. Don’t let this feeling of empowerment desert you; pick the nearest dirty cloth and start right away! You are a man and you are good with laundry. Say to yourself, feel proud. Close your eyes, appreciate the better person who lives in you now.
So Shri XY, just try to interrupt the usual everyday story in your home. Go to your washing machine, run your hands on its smooth body, check it out, read the manual, see the parts, try to operate it. If you don’t have a machine then soak detergent in water in bucket and start the process. You spread dirt; it is time to spread some happiness and cleanliness now.
Disrupt that pattern in your life where women are doing the household task and men are bystanders. Take part in the process; it is your laundry, your life, your family, your work. Your contribution matters. Contribution has to be with physical work not empty words and sweet nothings. And laundry anyway is no big deal. You have a win-win situation for all; you have nothing to lose but only your apathy to domestic chores.
Wash, Cook, Mop the Floor. Live life Men!
Think of domestic chores as diversions from your usual boring life. You keep complaining that all is not well in life and you dislike your office, your boss, your work. Well, that may not change anytime soon but what can certainly change is how you feel about things.
What do you think of when you think of pleasure and freedom or break from your monotonous tasks? Men often think of drinking, movies, dating, travel with friends or family and so on. Okay, good but we are missing something. How about home tasks? Why can’t we use the home chores creatively? Why does mopping the floor have to look or doing the laundry appear taxing to us? It is our attitude to them; the work as such has no inherent attribute to generate repugnance.
With this framework, we can choose to use all house works to our advantage. It could be great diversion. Imagine collecting all dirty clothes and putting them in machine is like mindful meditation for ten minutes; it provides us a clear break from our regular office, dog-eat-dog world and life that we want to run away from. Think of mopping the floor as a stretching exercise (and it is a good one anyway); think of doing the dishes in the sink as an activity that brings you as much pleasure as watching a film where you have a dance scene with waterfall. Doing the dishes is vastly different; it is pleasure, it involves working with water and leather; it is accomplishment. You have cleaned a dirty sink or dirty clothes and stacked them in drawers. You have done something good for yourself and your family; you are making a better society especially when your son learns it from watching you or when your friends visiting you get inspired by you (rest assured, they may laugh at you first but don’t let that set you back).
Your life is useful, resourceful, rewarding. Where does the notion of boredom and pain come from when you think of laundry? Change the way you look at things and you have a whole new world before you that you have missed. Grab that world with both hands; laundry is your ticket to this new exciting El Dorado world; you will not return empty handed when you get your hands dirty. Your family, kids, parents will tell you they find new treasures when you take a journey to this world inside your home by helping with day-to-day tasks. Go to your washing machine or your wash bucket and exercise the powers of your mind and body to apply yourself to the pursuit of cleanliness and come back enriched, empowered, more skilled, loved and ennobled.
Get close to life and family with domestic chores.
You get to spend more time with family members and be close to them when you are helping with household works. Laundry will bring you closer to your wife, to parents, to kids, to other family members. And don’t confine your contributions to just laundry; once in a while cook and and help with other tasks too. Laundry can ignite your conjugal life and make your life more exciting.
You will find that you are finding your family more by finding opportunities for common work and togetherness. What you call laundry or washing is actually a fun trip. It is a work only in name; it is a wonderful activity that takes you close to your loved ones. It is a shortcut to familial love. It is a passport to happiness and the laundry or cooking help that you will do is your daily visa to your preferred destination. You have Switzerland or Andaman right in your home; you are just not able to see it. So get your hands dirty and clean the cobwebs in mind and see the whole pleasant picture.
You are also undoing the social injustice by doing things right now. And it is huge fun too. And it is priceless; though it doesn’t cost anything. It only takes a little effort, by you.
Take the #WashBucketChallenge Now!
Enthused, inspired? To change things in your own home? Go ahead and take the challenge. It is one of the most rewarding things you will do in life and the rewards will be for all your family and not just you.
- How-to? For Drinking deep.See the Ariel website for laundry help. It has the beginner’s guide to laundry, how to sort clothes for laundry, how to remove stains, how to make ironing easier, tips and hacks for the uninitiated.