TW// Misogyny, casteist slurs

You may have heard the line “Hamare ghar mai toh ye ladka-ladki ke beech bhedbhav or caste wagera ka kuch nahi hota,” in discussions based on gender and caste-based discrimination. Slowly, we all start labelling ourselves and our homes as “progressive”. So, let’s decode “our progressive homes.”

One of my favourite parts about Delhi University (DU) is the availability of safe (debatable) spaces for discussions or events based on the subject of gender and caste. Dialogues over gendered or caste-based division of employment, as well as discrimination in public settings, are held often. If you attend such gatherings, you may have heard comments like, “hamare ghar mai toh papa bhi help karte hai”, “Mere ghar mai toh caste wagera ki baat hi nahi hoti thi”, and so on. Soon, a large portion of the audience begins to agree with these views and begin to label their homes or families as forward thinking. But are our homes truly progressive?

One thing that I started to notice recently in these discussions is this distorted line of equality. 

“Mere ghar mai essa nahi hota, mummy khana banati, and papa hi sabzi wagera kaat dete.” Patriarchy is so deeply ingrained in our society, particularly in our homes, that even a slight shift in the notion of, “Aadmi kamaega and aurte ghar ka kaam karegi” (Men will earn and women will do household chores) makes us progressive and blocks us from challenging the ever persistent patriarchal roles in our homes. Does the gender-based division of labour vanish if men partake in household chores? Is this what we mean by an equal work division, at home? Will the men in one’s household perform all of those, “acts of help” in front of relatives or guests? One of the most important things to realise is that we are too quick to label ourselves as open-minded. Help is not the same as work. A working woman is expected to undertake household chores, but if men help even a little, it’s as though the foundations of patriarchy have shattered. Why are domestic tasks the responsibility of women if the house belongs to both?

To quickly understand gendered division of labour and how help is not the same as equal work division, here is a part of an extract from a document by the ILO International Training Centre, Module on Gender, Poverty and Employment– “The way work is divided between men and women according to their gender roles is usually referred to as the ‘gender division of labour’. This does not necessarily concern only paid employment, but more generally the work, tasks and responsibilities that are assigned to women and men in their daily lives, and which may, on their turn, also determine certain patterns in the labour market.”

A person, when asked about the division of labour in his house, told me that they have a maid in his house since both of his parents work. As a result, no such patriarchal standards exist. It’s amusing how people perceive gender issues as a separate entity while completely ignoring the caste and class aspect that intersect with the former. This gendered division of labour, in which women are often underpaid, is fueled by patriarchy. 

“3000 milte hai 1 ghar se. 2 ghar mai kaam karti hu 5-5 ghante”

A maid who works in the houses of Malka Ganj.

Liberation from patriarchy for the upper class involves exploitation of the lower class. 6,000 for a 30-day interval, 10 hours of work per day. Would you choose a job where your salary for a 10-hour shift is the same? The sad reality is that most of the so-called “safe and progressive spaces” in DU are dominated by upper-class and upper-caste individuals who typically describe themselves as centrist or apolitical. They fail to look outside of their own narrow bubble, which limits their knowledge on these issues. 

Another part from the extract from the ILO document reads- “In the context of gender, horizontal segregation refers to the extent to which men and women are located in different occupational sectors. Women are usually highly concentrated in the sectors that require lesser skills (e.g. agriculture), that promise little chance for career advancements (e.g. services) and that are related to care-giving (e.g.: nursing), which often coincide also with low wages. On the other hand, vertical segregation refers to the extent to which men and women occupy different hierarchical positions within the same occupational sector. Within the same sector, women tend to occupy the lower ranks of the hierarchical ladder (and consequently the lower salary ranges).”

While “help” is categorised as “progressive” in the case of patriarchy, “not talking about caste” is termed “progressive” in the case of casteism. You may have heard claims from critics of reservations that they were unaware of caste prior to their entrance exams. They think that casteism is a thing of the past while turning a blind eye to the way it prevails in everyday life. They fail to notice how their parents have domestic staff sit on the floor while they sit up and how they are made to  use different utensils to eat or drink tea. Beyond households too, the use of casteist slurs like chappri, bhangi, etc normalises them. Taking pride in one’s caste is also a way of propagating casteism in everyday life.

The majority of us, the so-called liberal progressive people who take part in these conversations, come from privileged backgrounds. The majority of our discussion on gender issues within the four walls of class comes from a second or third-person perspective. One wasn’t aware of caste since one didn’t have to regularly experience such discrimination as privilege always acted as a line of defence. In college, we slowly attempt to comprehend these problems, while remaining well within the boundaries of our privilege. We fail to cross those boundaries and understand these issues. 

We must not be blinded by our privilege and attempt to empathise with the lived experiences of other individuals, and consider how caste, class, and gender all interact with one another in various ways. The only way to truly understand these issues is to recognise intersectionality. Along with this, claiming to be “apolitical” or “centrist” will not be of any help, as politics is deeply rooted in society. 

Thus, the next time you describe yourself or your homes as “progressive”, stop and consider if this is actually the case or if structured patriarchy and casteism have masked the true meaning of the word.

Featured image credits: Hindustan Times

Read Also: Conditioned By Patriarchy 

Dhruv Bhati

[email protected]