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Women cook, men experiment

By The Assam Tribune
Women cook, men experiment
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WOMEN PLUS - Nivedita Malini Barua

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Cooking is a vital part of gender stereotyping.

There is a very interesting essay on the role of women and men in the kitchen by Dave Barry. When Barry, a Pulitzer-winning columnist, asked his wife for her opinion on this stereotyping, she said, “Before women’s liberation, men took care of the cars and women took care of the kitchen, whereas now that we have women’s liberation, men no longer feel obligated to take care of the cars.”

Recently, my mother was on the phone with one of her many cousins, regaling her with stories of our eccentric household. One such story was about our cook who had gone home for a few days. She was explaining that since I am out of the house for most of the day, I cannot cook as much as I would have liked to.

Initially, I found my mother’s comment amusing. But this seemingly innocuous comment niggled its way into my mind and started to worry me. Do women feel that they have to cook in order to assert their femininity?

Have we become so attuned to this stereotyping that we become immune to the discrimination that swamps us in our everyday lives?

Not surprisingly, a study conducted by WHO/John Hopkins University found that girls around the world are affected by gender stereotypes that are encouraged by society at large. This stereotyping takes place irrespective of the country’s level of development.

One of the areas in which this stereotype manifests is the kitchen.

I started looking at the leit motif of our daily lives for occurrences that we ignore because we do not realise that there is something wrong with them. I wanted to find out whether we have really evolved as a species to do away with the stereotyping of women as kitchen goddesses.

First, let us look at social media. How many Instagram accounts of men show pictures of food prepared by them? Out of roughly 200 men in my Instagram account, there is only one man who cooks on a regular basis, going by the number of posts he uploads.

There is a very interesting essay on the role of women and men in the kitchen by Dave Barry. When Barry, a Pulitzer-winning columnist, asked his wife for her opinion on this stereotyping, she said, “Before women’s liberation, men took care of the cars and women took care of the kitchen, whereas now that we have women’s liberation, men no longer feel obligated to take care of the cars.”

To carry on with my own little survey, I turned my attention towards my circle of acquaintances. A proud host once boasted to us that he would rather not host any party at home than serve outside food to his guests. True to his word, we were treated to a home-cooked spread that was fit for royalty. Though my tummy was having a field day, I was a tad bored because the lady of the house was missing for most part of the evening. I learned that she had prepared everything in advance, but was busy heating and reheating the dishes. I innocently asked the wife if her husband had helped with the cooking, but she just laughed it off. So, our host’s confidence stemmed out of the culinary skills of his better half.

Then, there was another invitation to a birthday dinner. At the time of dinner, I asked where they got the food from, to which the husband replied, “Well, she doesn’t work, so the birthday girl has done most of the cooking.” I turned to look at the birthday girl who clearly did not share her husband’s enthusiasm, and looked as if she could have done without the elaborate cooking.

I recently saw a social media post that said, “Festivals are meant to be celebrated by everyone, and should not be an excuse for perpetuating patriarchy.” It reminded me of those festivals in which the women are seen sweating over the kitchen fire, while the men get comfortable in the living area. Some women cook happily, others cook grudgingly, and some, like me, rebel and sulk and become unpopular.

I, for one, am never the one to rustle up a quick dish as soon as guests turn up, unannounced. My lack of culinary skills is usually blamed on my status as a working woman. But, what if I were a stay-at-home person? Would I have been expected to brandish the ladle and sweat over the cooking stove from morning till evening?

Conditioned as I have been since childhood, seeing my mother cook for hordes of guests, I feel guilty if I do not want to cook when our cook does not come. If there is a holiday, and it is the cook’s day off, I am expected to don the apron and take over the kitchen.

On the other hand, the husband cooking is a big event in the social calendar, and the pictures are worthy of being clicked and shared on social media. The husbands do cook, but only when they want to try out a new recipe. I have seen males in my family who used to cook when they were single, but as soon as they brought a bride home, cooking flew out of the window. Why should it be an option for boys and a life-saving or marriage-saving skill for girls? Boys should be taught to cook, and it should be taught as one of the life skills, and not just as an ode to feminism.

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Women cook, men experiment

WOMEN PLUS - Nivedita Malini Barua

Image

Cooking is a vital part of gender stereotyping.

There is a very interesting essay on the role of women and men in the kitchen by Dave Barry. When Barry, a Pulitzer-winning columnist, asked his wife for her opinion on this stereotyping, she said, “Before women’s liberation, men took care of the cars and women took care of the kitchen, whereas now that we have women’s liberation, men no longer feel obligated to take care of the cars.”

Recently, my mother was on the phone with one of her many cousins, regaling her with stories of our eccentric household. One such story was about our cook who had gone home for a few days. She was explaining that since I am out of the house for most of the day, I cannot cook as much as I would have liked to.

Initially, I found my mother’s comment amusing. But this seemingly innocuous comment niggled its way into my mind and started to worry me. Do women feel that they have to cook in order to assert their femininity?

Have we become so attuned to this stereotyping that we become immune to the discrimination that swamps us in our everyday lives?

Not surprisingly, a study conducted by WHO/John Hopkins University found that girls around the world are affected by gender stereotypes that are encouraged by society at large. This stereotyping takes place irrespective of the country’s level of development.

One of the areas in which this stereotype manifests is the kitchen.

I started looking at the leit motif of our daily lives for occurrences that we ignore because we do not realise that there is something wrong with them. I wanted to find out whether we have really evolved as a species to do away with the stereotyping of women as kitchen goddesses.

First, let us look at social media. How many Instagram accounts of men show pictures of food prepared by them? Out of roughly 200 men in my Instagram account, there is only one man who cooks on a regular basis, going by the number of posts he uploads.

There is a very interesting essay on the role of women and men in the kitchen by Dave Barry. When Barry, a Pulitzer-winning columnist, asked his wife for her opinion on this stereotyping, she said, “Before women’s liberation, men took care of the cars and women took care of the kitchen, whereas now that we have women’s liberation, men no longer feel obligated to take care of the cars.”

To carry on with my own little survey, I turned my attention towards my circle of acquaintances. A proud host once boasted to us that he would rather not host any party at home than serve outside food to his guests. True to his word, we were treated to a home-cooked spread that was fit for royalty. Though my tummy was having a field day, I was a tad bored because the lady of the house was missing for most part of the evening. I learned that she had prepared everything in advance, but was busy heating and reheating the dishes. I innocently asked the wife if her husband had helped with the cooking, but she just laughed it off. So, our host’s confidence stemmed out of the culinary skills of his better half.

Then, there was another invitation to a birthday dinner. At the time of dinner, I asked where they got the food from, to which the husband replied, “Well, she doesn’t work, so the birthday girl has done most of the cooking.” I turned to look at the birthday girl who clearly did not share her husband’s enthusiasm, and looked as if she could have done without the elaborate cooking.

I recently saw a social media post that said, “Festivals are meant to be celebrated by everyone, and should not be an excuse for perpetuating patriarchy.” It reminded me of those festivals in which the women are seen sweating over the kitchen fire, while the men get comfortable in the living area. Some women cook happily, others cook grudgingly, and some, like me, rebel and sulk and become unpopular.

I, for one, am never the one to rustle up a quick dish as soon as guests turn up, unannounced. My lack of culinary skills is usually blamed on my status as a working woman. But, what if I were a stay-at-home person? Would I have been expected to brandish the ladle and sweat over the cooking stove from morning till evening?

Conditioned as I have been since childhood, seeing my mother cook for hordes of guests, I feel guilty if I do not want to cook when our cook does not come. If there is a holiday, and it is the cook’s day off, I am expected to don the apron and take over the kitchen.

On the other hand, the husband cooking is a big event in the social calendar, and the pictures are worthy of being clicked and shared on social media. The husbands do cook, but only when they want to try out a new recipe. I have seen males in my family who used to cook when they were single, but as soon as they brought a bride home, cooking flew out of the window. Why should it be an option for boys and a life-saving or marriage-saving skill for girls? Boys should be taught to cook, and it should be taught as one of the life skills, and not just as an ode to feminism.

[email protected]

More in Entertainment
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