Get Me Another Sandwich, Woman!

“If you love a guy, let him go. If he comes back, the other woman made lousy sandwiches.”

This is what was printed as the “joke” of the day in a supplement of a leading newspaper recently. Here is what it implies:

1. Guys are with you only because of your cooking skills.

2. Guys are incapable of making good sandwiches by themselves.

I don’t like cooking. I’ve been avoiding learning it for five summer vacations now. I don’t enjoy it, and it doesn’t come easily to me. The reason is that it involves winging it. “Just a hint of the flavour” type of instructions are not my cup of tea. I’m a major believer of exact proportions.

My parents worry about how I’ll manage once I live alone. I tell them I’ll figure it out like everybody else does. And I will, I guess. It can’t be that difficult to cook edible meals for one person, can it? I agree though, that I’ve got to learn it some time.

Here’s my point: Cooking is a life skill. A life skill, I say. Not a woman-specific skill. Which is why the above joke is highly offensive to me.

Feminine stereotype

This is a “feminine” woman in her rightful place; the kitchen

I remember, in primary school, we had a picture in one of our textbooks. It showed a family in their home. The husband was sitting on the sofa, reading the newspaper. The children were playing around. The wife was in the kitchen, cooking. I remember looking at it and getting irritated. Even though I wasn’t old enough to know fancy terms like “stereotypes” and “gender-based roles”, it still made me mad. Because of one simple reason: I felt like an outsider. Someone whose family didn’t fit into this established norm. I felt that the picture wasn’t showing everybody’s reality.

My mother likes getting up early in the mornings and reading the newspaper over her cup of tea. My father is fond of eating as well as cooking, and he’s an excellent cook, “hints”, “flavours”, and all.

But I agree that this doesn’t happen in most households. When my mid-day snack was appreciated by my classmates, they said, “Be sure to complement your Mom. This is great!”. My response, that the said snack was actually made by my father was met with awkward silence, and sometimes outright amazement. Rarely did people say just “Oh” and left it at that. Really? Do no men cook in this country? I refuse to believe so. I’ve got proof. Most famous chefs are male.

Sanjeev Kapoor

Sanjeev Kapoor

Talk about a male-oriented world! But that’s for another post.

My problem is this:

What was government-approved textbook doing, re-emphasising these stereotypes?

What is a national newspaper doing, normalizing the utterly ridiculous idea of dumping all responsibility of household chores like cooking or cleaning?

What happened to social responsibility?

I know that the role division is as above for the majority of the population. I know that most children, if not all, saw the depiction as a familiar setting. But for once, I would like to see a depiction in a textbook where the husband is helping the wife around the house. I would like to see a depiction where the wife is being handed a briefcase by the husband. For a lot of children that I studied with, most of these ideas were foreign. But isn’t that what education is all about? Introducing new worlds and ideas to children when they have an impressionable mind.

I don’t say that division of work should happen in a certain way. There is no right way. Every family figures out there own rhythm. But there’s no wrong way either. People, especially children, should be made aware of this fact.

We have grown accustomed to reading about such notions. Or listening about them in songs. And at some subconscious level, it does have an impact. We grow used to the idea. And that’s where the problem lies.