Why is it okay for a man to do household chores in India, but not in Pakistan?

Published: February 23, 2016

There’s all this hype about gender stereotypes. Men feel they’re being blamed unfairly and women feel they’re being wronged. And in this entire hullabaloo, we have feminist movements, academics and celebrities pushing for equality of the sexes.

The word equality carries a lot of weight and varies from person to person. For some it may mean breaking the glass ceiling while for others it could be men sharing chores at home.

A heart moving advertisement, from across the border, manages to make viewers question these particular stereotypes. Sometimes advertisements can be a bit exaggerated, but this particular ad strikes a nerve. Why? Because it focuses on aspects which reflect reality.

It revolves around a working woman returning home from work. She’s seen multitasking between replying to her work emails, neatening the living room, setting the table, serving tea to her husband and putting the clothes in the laundry. Meanwhile her father silently observes each movement of hers and marvels at all that she is doing.

And it’s then he realises how he feels ashamed about the fact he and the daughter’s husband are just sitting there and expecting her to do these chores, just because that’s what’s expected of her. He apologises to her on behalf of most men, an apology which may not even be justified by many because that’s how society and culture moulds males and females.

It would be unfair to say that all men just sit back and watch their mothers, wives or daughters work. I have seen my father help my mother out with household chores on many occasions. This in no way made me lose respect for him; rather it made me feel proud my father managed to overlook silly stereotypes. As a child, my father and mother used to sit and play with my Barbie’s along with me. I think that’s something all parents should do in order to break down rigid stereotypes which usually develop in childhood.

Unfortunately, some may feel the aforementioned points emasculate men or portray them as sissies.

Photo: Screenshot

Photo: Screenshot

Photo: Screenshot

So if we had to analyse these comments, you’d come up with the following points.

1. Men are only meant to do outdoor chores.

2. If men help out at home, family values are lost.

3. Men performing household chores is a mockery.

These comments are alarming to say the least.

Moreover, the word chore is abused. Chores can be called responsibilities as well, and last I checked everyone has responsibilities, regardless of their sex. Can we not make it a sin for men to share women’s responsibilities and vice versa?

Luckily, stereotypes and mind-sets have nothing to do with nature, they are socially constructed, a focal point which India has picked on.

There’s a rising trend across the border; a trend which is beginning a movement in diminishing stereotypes. On the other hand, Pakistan seems to be stuck in a rut when it comes to creativity and thinking outside-the-box, with the exception of a couple of ads.

Somehow our ads are hell bent on reinforcing gender roles in a society where women are seen as the weaker and more oppressed sex. Women are seen as teaching their daughters how to cook from a young age and the entire family celebrates when she makes her first round roti, some are portrayed as annoying wives asking their husband what they should wear and some are seen as petrified daughters-in-law attempting to make kheer for her in laws.

It’s not wrong if women want to do the above, it’s great if they want to do it out of choice or love. But to just focus on one particular sex doing these things is an issue. It’s the 21st century, these archaic barriers and rigidity in gender roles really need to be thrown into the dustbin of history.

Mushal Zaman

Mushal Zaman

The author is a sub-editor at Tribune. She tweets as @MushalZ90 (twitter.com/MushalZ90)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • HADY

    Why it was OKAY for you to even compare India and Pakistan at first place? Recommend

  • UzairH

    Other than cooking (I am a terrible cook) I share all household chores with my wife. I also change the toddler’s diapers, look after her when she’s sick etc and I wouldn’t have it any other way (and the toddler naturally gets to spend more time with her mother and has a closer relationship).

    These Pakistani TV ads showing women as the one doing cooking, washing of clothes, dishwashing, feeding and bathing the kids, with their role seemingly reduced to cooking and housekeeping for their husband and in-laws and kids – they always pissed me off. It may be OK that 60% or even 80% of ads have such stereotypical portrayal, but can’t we have ONE or TWO decent ads that show men also doing housework?

    As a husband and father I would be ashamed if I did not also participate in the work involved in running the house. It wouldn’t matter if my wife was working or not. Thus I find the continued depiction of men as the lazy good-for-nothing fathers as an enforcement of a cultural mindset that needs to be done away with.Recommend

  • Milind A

    Somehow this is also related to women bikers disappearing from the streets in Pakistan (or Iran) as Dr. Pervez Hoodboy mentioned in one of his articles. Here in India, you will find women driving two-wheelers going out with their friends, ferrying kids to and fro from school.. Also a male pillion rider behind a woman driver is no much of a taboo these days, as one sees many of these.Recommend

  • gp65

    Hurrah for you, May your tribe increase.Recommend

  • Abdullah Ahmad

    The amusing thing about all this is that you can say

    “Can we not make it a sin for men to share women’s responsibilities and vice versa?”

    All day long but in practice, it will ONLY be the man taking off some work from the womans back, and she will go on to work and make money, then scream that she is making money from the rooftops ; but yet the husband and children are not entitled to a single rupee of her work.

    Oh, we can share responsibility, but you better share some of that cash with me just like i do for every member of the household.Recommend

  • maynotmatter

    keep it brother :thumbsupRecommend

  • Hamza

    So what are you saying that women should not teach there daughters to cook…….why is that every working women hires another women to look after her house and kids. Why women hires women to cook and clean. This blog is an open insult to all those women who stays at home and look after her family. What you are suggesting is an environment where a child wake up in the morning only to find that his both parents are out and there is a stranger women to look after him. Also if you manage to do some research even in Europe some women leave there jobs to look after there family. Women also cook at home in Europe. And it is consider normal………… What you are suggesting is an imbalance environment.Recommend

  • Hamza

    You mention ads in which women are seeing as teaching there daughters how to cook and you think it is somehow insulting…. Ok what about LUX adz in which women are clearly shown as attracting men through there scent.. Fair and Lovely adz in which women are shown as using there beauty to success ( only if you are white) . you have no objection because in those at least women are not shown as cooking and cleaning…………Right?………………. You should clear about what you want…..Recommend

  • Sarah

    it was just an ad and it was made on purpose i.e. to educate Indian men to stop this abuse with the women in the family. This clearly shows the problem lies across the border as much as here, if you are so concerned about it in the first place. There are no points or statistics in your article that tell Pakistani men do not do household chores, or may be ‘x’ number of men in India do. So why the comparison? you have a respoibility to present the fact straight rather than churn useless content coupled with headline that serves no purpose besides generating more clicks for the website.Recommend

  • wb

    Let me make a casteist comment, having seen things personally.

    Among Brahmin households, most men do all kinds of work. From cooking to cleaning to washing.

    This culture of men ordering around is very little among Brahmins.Recommend

  • Rangoonwala

    Welcome back gp65. Long time, no see.Recommend

  • ak

    Aha..Last heard these “Indian men” who lack self confidence were managing the biggest companies (like google, Adobe,Citibank,Microsoft,Mckinsey etc)..But then you sitting at home would be knowing more about “Indian men” then anyone else.


  • wb

    Is everything okay up there?Recommend

  • jau Mau Kau

    last heard Pakistani men were surrendering with 90000 men . So much for Bravado !Recommend

  • Karachite

    You are right women also cook in Europe
    But so do men. You are also right some women in Europe give up their jobs to look after their children.. But so do some men! There is nothing wrong with women teaching their daughters to cook but why not teach your sons too? I don’t see how this article is insulting anyone…its just saying we need to get over our rigidity regarding gender roles.Recommend

  • Milind A

    True… But this is also catching up amongst the non-Brahmins who have had education and moved into the middle class… Coming back to the article by Pervez Hoodbhoy (on ghairat) in this same newspaper… people move away from a paternalistic (nomad/herder/farmer) mindset…as their standard of living and education increases…Recommend

  • aditi

    There is no wrong in sharing the responsibilities..
    I don’t know how it works in Pak, but in India things are changing specially when both husband and wife working in a family, there is no way other than sharing work to reach their respective offices on time. :)
    Before only in metropolitan cities guys used to help in house hold chores but now a days in two tier, three tier cities also guys are helping in all house hold works and this is really big shift from traditional mentality of men.Recommend

  • observer

    It is okay for men to help even our prophet used to help in household choresRecommend

  • Hassan

    On the basis of just one advertisement the author thought they have broken the shackle?? can’t you see the general perception of the Indian society towards women???don’t u see the daily protests across India against violation of women’s right in India??? just one add and all is clear and we on the other hand are not thinking out of the box, the author, being born and raised in a family where she saw her father helping and assisting her mother on daily household chroes still feel its we who need to change our views??? as if its considered a crime in Pakistan to help one wife, mother or sister. in India girls are riding bikes going places on their own without security in a country where rape cases are rising everyday, and here in Pakistan we drop our sisters wife and mothers where they wanted to go, no matter how busy or tired we are, this is a service and respect we give our women. we do participate in daily household works, at home we do everything including cooking, first of all in every house there is a maid these days who wash clothes and clean the house, then there are women who don’t make rotis themselves as u have mentioned above, now they brought it from a nearby hotels. there is nothing absolute and perfect, things varies but to compare it with India was an insult to us. in no way this comparison is justified.specially for a girl who saw her father as an example, and she is writing something against what she have been watching all her life.Recommend

  • Concard

    Daily protests in India against violation of women’s rights? Stop reading rupee news. If women protest in India it is for better security not for rights. Men and Women are equal in Indian constitution. There are 2 Women Chief ministers in BJP, 2 are in Cabinet in highest positions, and others are in Minister of states. There are other women chief ministers in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Show me one women Chief minister in Pakistan. No, the Bhuttos and Sheriff family don’t count. The rest of your comment only shows the mindset Pakistan have towards women. Read news in yesterday tribune, your Sheriff was begging people to stop honor killings.Recommend

  • Hassan

    In that case you need to study Pakistan political history, its useless to discuss things which u don’t know, secondly constitution cannot be used as shelter to save women, if your constitution would have been of any use than there wouldn’t be so many cases of rape were reported. this is the answer to your constitution argument. now as far as honor killings are concerned we don’t defend it neither we denied these cases unlike India, where everything is just fine. u need to change ur attitude, unless u accept ur shortcomings how would u overcome them?Recommend

  • Nandita.

    You’re back. Nice to see you. :)Recommend

  • LS

    The gripe isn’t that no one does it. The gripe here is that most don’t do it.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    90,000 Self-confident Pakistanis surrendered to those weak and confidence lacking Indians.Recommend

  • Hassan

    very well said…Recommend

  • Hassan

    As if you are from first world…hahaha…btw the standard of living in Pakistan is way too high from India, population, poverty and rape are some classic examples of your shining India and this is the reason we should not compare ourselves with a poor and unorganized country like India.Recommend

  • Hassan

    wow..One in 1.3 billion people happens to become a CEO that does not mean every tom dick and harry is a CEO in India, check out the statistics, the CEO of city bank left India when he was only 16, he was just a born Indian and that is it, the CEO of Microsoft proudly shows his American nationality, u guyz keep telling that he is from India but he does not want to disclose his indian nationality. now some reality check for u Former McKinsey senior executives, Rajat Gupta and Anil Kumar, were among those convicted in a government investigation into insider trading for sharing inside information with Galleon Group hedge fund owner Raj Rajaratnam.Though McKinsey was not accused of any wrongdoing, the convictions were embarrassing for the firm, since it prides itself for integrity and client confidentiality.now these are the names truly represent India. you people still think every single student is like this, most of ur population is after bollywood and are involved in singing dancing acting,living in a fools paradise of becoming a hero one day, or a singer, or a dancer, every other person is dying to become a hero, they are more into movies, dancing or wanted to become a ”bhai” than education.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    And btw what about pak army?Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    I never did that then.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Next time they will show women attracting women, happy?!Recommend

  • Hammurabi

    Very Important issue has been raised.Pakistan is a more patriarchical.society than India..Pakistan’s new generation is also changing towards better attitude for women..Indians have been peace loving since ancient times.They never attacked any other country since centuries.Indian men believe in equality between men and women since their literacy rate is higher.Indian women are allowed to chose their spouses whom they love.In Pakistan honour killing is common.As a Pakistani Muslim I still love Pakistan.But I have the habit of speaking truth even at the cost of annoying my biased friends.Recommend

  • Hammurabi

    indians have a strong culture.Literacy rate is high.Marriages are love based.Men helping women is a sign of a civilised society. Occasional honour killings.Recommend