Internalizing Gender Roles

Author: Janani Sampath

Do women internalize gender chores? Yes, they do! Here is how to fix it

The other day, the Internet was abuzz with a video of acclaimed actor Shefali Shah talking about how she still grapples with her own attitude towards chores. She said: “If there is a party at home, I only think about whom I should attend now. Has everyone eaten?” 

She was discussing how women find it difficult to snap out of their everyday roles, irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds. They always assume to be responsible for feeding, caring, and hosting!

One can’t agree more. I vividly recollect attending a birthday party, where women assumed the responsibility of arranging the plates with pastries, puffs, chips, and a glass of juice to accompany them while the men sat in the hall enjoying the fun as they watched the children play and sing. Soon, a young family joined them. Yet again, the man sat comfortably on the sofa while his wife rushed into the kitchen to get him a plate of the delicacies. I looked around the room and saw tired women but energetic men. That left me wondering: why can’t women enjoy the party as men do?

Internalizing gender roles isn’t a recent phenomenon. They have been happening for generations now. However, it can be reversed in the same place it begins—the home.

Here are some ways to do it:

Talk about it: Discuss how chores have to be divided irrespective of gender. Talk to your partner about sharing an equal load.

Everyone can do everything: Explain to children in the house that cooking and cleaning are life skills. These will help them embrace the same mindset towards chores.

Question stereotypes: Some stereotypes have travelled through generations. Point out what is wrong and ask questions about the biases that have led to these becoming a norm.

Encourage kids to speak up: While it is good to teach kids, it is equally good to listen to them. Ask them what they feel is wrong or right about what they see around them and if they think it has to change.

Internalizing gender roles doesn’t happen overnight. Changing the thought or the norm can be daunting, given the conditioning that perpetrates it. It is essential to break that chain or cycle that takes it forward. To begin with, break that cycle in your home.