Too many a times, I have heard the defenders of the patriarchy argue, “Wo chai kyun banaega? Wo larka hai!” (Why would he make tea? He is a boy!) and “Uski khair hai? Wo larka hai!” (He’s fine, he’s a boy!).
When I got sick and tired of being told this and demanded Khud khana garam karlo (Warm your food yourself) at the recent Aurat March in Karachi, our entire community burst out in anger.
“Wait. WHAT? How dare she say that? These feminazis are just crazy! Look at them right now fighting for kitchen rights? Man! Feminists used to have real platforms before. What happened to it?”
Such sentences are uttered by all ranks of our society — but of course, mostly by men. They will argue that there are better issues for women to focus on. They will say that most women love their domestic roles of service. They will contend that this is what a woman’s job is, and that ‘Islam said so.’
They will remind women that they can’t do the conventionally ‘masculine’ tasks, such as earning a hard-earned income and paying the bills, among others.
These men forget that while they brandish claims of male prowess, their wives, mothers, and sisters are in the background ironing their clothes and making them food to help them get ready for office and life outside home.
The idea behind my poster was about men being self-sufficient.
Women nurture sperm in their uteruses and give birth to men, feed men from their own chests, raise them, and teach them basic human functions. However, women, bound by societal roles, are not allowed to impart — and get no help in imparting — to their sons one crucial aspect of life: self-sufficiency.
How to make your own bed, clean up after yourself, wash your own underwear, iron your own clothes, and, of course, the most contentious of issues: heat up your own food.
Patriarchy perpetuates the lie that women, by ‘nature,’ are bound to nurture the men around them, that satisfying men is what women are born for, that the life cycle of a woman starts with taking care of her brothers and fathers and ends with serving her husband and sons.
If men take up more and more domestic responsibility, children will learn that these tasks are not naturally gendered.
The idea behind my poster Khud khana garam karlo was not that we should reverse the social order and that men should become domestic slaves to women; it was rather about men being self-sufficient.
When we teach boys how to brush their teeth and take a shower, why can’t we also teach them how to clean their room and cook?
Just like how young girls are told to join their mothers in kitchen to prepare food and wash dishes, and help in other chores of the house, boys should also be made to do the same.
If men take up more and more domestic responsibility, children will learn that these tasks are not naturally gendered. When children see only women do housework, they internalise domestic work as being fundamentally feminine — and this is how the cycle repeats and gendering reproduced.
And for those women who fail to understand this, who think that these roles are a form of women loving men: Is depriving men from learning basic self-sufficiency really doing the men we love a service?
Khud khana garam karlo is a demand encompassing many realms beyond just men heating up their own food. It’s a call to change the very nature of male-female relationship in our society