Do Indian couples truly see each other as equals?
“Only if men take up chores equally can we dream of a home free of prejudices”
When my mother married my father, she didn’t even know how to boil rice. My dad jokes about sitting down to eat dinner once, and being surprised that his spoonful of fish curry and rice was crunchy. Turns out, his young wife didn’t know that rice had to be cleaned before being cooked. Forget al dente, this meal would have sent them both straight to the dentist.
Over the years, they’ve figured out domesticity together. She taught him that red shirts and white kurtas can’t be casually thrown into the laundry together, unless you want to wear nothing but pink every day of your life. But that’s not the funniest part. It’s watching people’s reactions when they hear that my dad shares the load. The women all want to know what magic spell my mother cast. The men wonder whether my dad lost a bet.
According to the stats uncovered by Ariel as part of their new film, See Equal, for the award-winning Share The Load movement, 83% of Indian women surveyed feel that men don’t see them as equal when it comes to housework. It’s especially startling when 73% of men admit they shouldered equal responsibilities when they lived with roommates or in hostels as bachelors. The notion that the woman is solely responsible for executing household duties is still highly prevalent across social strata. The pandemic may have temporarily righted the balance, but the Ariel survey found that seven out of 10 women said their partners helped with chores during the lockdown but stopped it later. Even though many husbands had demonstrated their housekeeping skills during the pandemic’s peak, it didn’t translate into a permanent equal partnership.
It’s this inequality that the brand highlights in season 5 of their campaign. In the film, you see a couple visit their neighbours, and find the two boys engaged in household chores. The husband proudly declares that he did the same as a bachelor. On realising that the husband used to split the chores with his roommate, but doesn’t do it with her, she asks a hard-hitting question, “You don’t see me as equal, do you?”
Suddenly aware of his patriarchal conditioning, the husband takes a first step towards practicing equality in his own home by doing the laundry.
The new Ariel film entreats us to recognise the gender disparity in our own homes, and the subtle ways in which this imbalance of power impacts a woman’s confidence and feelings of self-worth. With a single question, the wife stands up for herself. Her husband is then forced to examine the deep-rooted prejudices he may have never, were it not for her gentle challenge, been made aware of. It’s a moment that we hope women around the country will draw strength from, especially considering 88% women believe it is time to talk to men about doing their share of the household equally. When we #SeeEqual, we #ShareTheLoad.