Cooking is not a moral act. In fact it is the least bit fun when it is mandatory. Therefore, the fact that women in Pakistan are presumptuously handed this task is an abomination. No one likes to stare at a sink full of dirty dishes or blow at the firewood to light the clay stove. Women collectively spend more time doing this than working on building the next big disruptive technology or work on a craft that makes them upwardly mobile. Even in offices, women end up doing what we term as office housekeeping: cutting the office birthday cake, ordering pizza for the boss’s promotion party or taking on tasks none of the men in the office want.
Back at the house regardless of how much they toil in the fields or write thankless minutes of meetings, they roll up their sleeves in the evening and get to the housework, especially the cooking. For crying out loud, let us sap the morality out of simmering the vegetables and stirring the haleem. There is nothing caregiving about it, except that it doles out calories to first the men in the house and then the male children, then the female and lastly the women, in this order — calories that can be gotten elsewhere, without breaking women’s backs. It’s the 21st century: it’s the era of specialisation. It is the era of letting people, including women, find their calling.
This is why it was very excruciating, pelvic exam excruciating, to hear a large political party’s MNA Tahira Aurangzeb debate that gas load-shedding in the country is leading to more divorces. First, as an MNA, do feel free to find out the context of the developing world energy crisis and then advocate for better solutions. Secondly, spare women from the burden of serving food to men when they demand it. Third, please understand that divorce is not a boogeyman. To the contrary it is recommended that women leave men who smash plates on walls when they are hungry and dinner is not served.
The gas load-shedding problem deserves a solution because it thwarts economic progress, not because the wife beaters nationwide find new excuses to put their souses through new and improved torture.
I find it ludicrous that such arguments are presented at the National Assembly. That somehow women’s inadequacy (in the one thing they are measured up against) will be used as a weapon to change what is a resource problem with the state’s service delivery to its citizens.
This is indicative of how traditionalism grips us even at our apex bodies. It infests even women themselves and sadly women themselves perpetuate it when they have khansamas for their own personal needs. Even when it is 2016 and women are perfecting the string theory elsewhere.
Women will be behind the stove for a while in Pakistan, some even do it as their mode of flow and joy. Sometimes the men help them out. The fact of the matter is that women should not be pigeon-holed into the role of the cook, the server and the cleaner. This is extremely dangerous to both their mental health and the well being of the family as a unit.
Also, this statement tends to give liberty to the aggravated state men find themselves in when the food is undercooked, tasteless and late to be delivered to their famished selves. It is never ok to blame a woman because for whatever reason the food is not up to par. Cooking is a gracious act of love, not of duty. It ought to be treated as such. With the dignity it deserves. It deserves community, not tasters and raters.
Yet the argument appears to suggest this — fix load-shedding or our sacred family system will fail us. The same one that infantilises grown men and oppresses women until they are right about the ripe age and close to death, then they are deified.
There ought to be more responsible arguments made at the National Assembly. At the least they shouldn’t stereotype or delegitimise women’s versatility. This argument right here is so full of gas.