For many this would not appear to be a myth, but a by-product of the progressive Bharat. As the Labor day is approaching, we decided to break down the word ‘work’, in context of a woman, and explore its linkages with the role of gender.
If we see the definition of ‘work’, it says that,
“noun. activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result.”
Whereas, the word ‘working’ is defined as,
“adjective. having paid employment.”
This clear yet unacknowledged distinction is not just restricted to dictionaries, but can also be seen subtly woven in the functioning of our society and its gender roles.
Predominantly, the outside work is classified mainly for men and the domestic work is related more as a responsibility of women. This stands true in both the urban and rural context of India. The domesticated role of a woman cannot be shrugged off by them, even though they are participating in earning a livelihood for the household. In addition, a man’s gender performativity is taken into account when talking about domesticated work. Also, these responsibilities are different for each gender in varied contexts like class, caste, religion, urban, rural, etc.
Women have to fulfil their duties in a ‘double day’, while both the work areas demand more time from her. If and when she fails on any one side, be it house ‘work’ or office, she is questioned and sometimes even made to compensate for it in different ways.
Many a times, the unpaid care work is practised under the garb of love that a woman is expected to fulfil; for the
child, husband, parents, etc. This also is rather a slippery slope when it comes to understanding the gender discrimination, as women are conditioned, groomed, and socialized as ‘natural’ care-givers.
On the other hand when it comes to the dominant urban media context, the image of a working woman is pictured as to be always smiling, vibrant, confident, and educated. But apart from this sunny picture of a working woman painted all over the internet, one can find several examples of a working woman in India. While many participate and contribute in earning livelihood in their homes through local enterprises, several other women contribute in the process of earning livelihood in an unacknowledged way.
Talking about the gender norms and domestic work, women are usually associated with doing ‘lighter’ work, as one of the stereotypes. But one of the lived realities in most of India is that when it comes to fetching containers filled with water or collecting wood from the forest, it is the women and girls who are responsible, not male family members. There are also women who are the sole earner for the entire family, in urban as well as rural context.
The role of women’s movement has been significant in bringing out issues faced by working women globally, like wage gap, gender inequality in workplace, double day, unpaid work, domestic work, etc. All these issues are equally important to be addressed in different contexts of people’s lives. But the myth of a working woman is going to be around for us till the time we do not think of this from an inclusive point of view and raise awareness around it for all.
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