A few years ago, a relative that I live next door to was hosting a religious function. This meant that quite a few family members had come around to help with the preparations. Naturally carrying out all this prep meant that they would eventually get hungry, and hence it was agreed that lunch would be cooked in our house. Those helping with the prep came in and out of our house to eat in between helping next door. Unfortunately for my siblings and me, it meant that dishes kept piling up, but we found a way around it by taking turns. As my brother’s turn approached, I went looking for him in the house next door and frustratedly complained to my mother that I could not find him. It is at this point that an auntie laughed, in an attempt to embarrass me and my mum, and exclaimed in Gujrati in what can be loosely translated to “oh my god! You’re gonna turn him into a housewife. That is a girl’s job and I can’t believe he actually washes the dishes”.
Ridiculous right? My blood began to boil as I retorted “well in our house we don’t think that because we live in the 21st century”. My mum looked on proudly as I said this as from a young age, she has taught us that the belief that men should not help in the kitchen is ridiculous.
Unfortunately, this auntie is not the only one within the South Asian community to have such a mentality. There are so many others out there like her, that contribute to this idea that women belong in the kitchen and are inferior to men. There are so many situations around me where there are discrepancies between the responsibilities and expectations of the son and the daughter Be it curfews, or chores, dating, jobs or even education in the most extreme cases.
What upsets me, even more, is that quite a lot of women within the South Asian community have this mentality. Our ancestors have been brought up in this whirlwind of gender norms that have been shoved on them and to see them still being implemented really breaks my heart.
The debate around this topic is long and extensive. Many of us have witnessed these double standards and are susceptible to it within this community, even within the diaspora. I am no expert in the field but below I share ways, from my experiences as well as the experience of those around me, in which to intervene and stop these double standards from being spread.
How do we stop it?!
Stopping it is difficult as quite a lot of aunties like the one in my story have internalised this belief that women shouldn’t be allowed to do certain things.
The first step would be to educate them and start a conversation as to why this mentality is not only wrong but outdated.
Worst case scenario when you do this is that you are going to get into an argument, and this is when we hope that it is constructive and not heated.
Pull out the facts and statistics in order to get your point across and if you are like me and very passionate about the issue then always make sure you have them at hand. You may never know when you are going to get into a debate with an auntie or an uncle at a community event or family gathering.
If the argument is heated, sometimes, it may be better to listen and not react as they try and convince you that they are right. I say this because in some cases it may be the case where a person has internalised their belief past the point of return. Which quite frankly is just sad. Several people within the South Asian community are guilty of this, and sometimes it may be the case where you may have to listen to them the first time and try to have the conversation at another time. Whatever you do, try not to give up as in most situations they may try and exert their opinions on others. Last but not least if the auntie or uncle in question are sharing this belief in order to spite you or someone you know, shut them down! Use your voice to show them that their thinking is wrong especially when they may be aware of it yet still try to push their agenda. It is fundamentally important that it is done in some situations as they have to know that you will not stand by and watch them share their potentially harmful and outdated opinions. If you can get someone their age who shares your beliefs to back you, it makes the situation a lot better.
In my case, the story ended with my mum backing me as she proceeded to ask my cousin, this auntie’s daughter, who was sitting nearby if she would ever get together with a man who could not look after himself and expects her to do everything. My cousin responded with a straight no.
It is so important that women/girls within the South Asian community are taught from day one that they should not be held back from doing anything they put their mind to. These double standards and ‘one rule for her and another for him’ need to stop existing so that South Asian women can know their worth and be free. It’s important that this is asserted even in small situations like chores.
Sonaili is a massive nature and animal lover which she attributes to having been born and brought up in Kenya. She is currently pursuing journalism in the UK and is an avid writer who loves exploring topics related to arts, lifestyle, culture and representation. Her journalistic aspirations also involve investigative reporting but outside of this she also enjoys indulging in poetry and acting.