Household Work: Millennial men not holding up their end | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 04, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 04, 2020

Household Work: Millennial men not holding up their end

When 32-year-old Shabib Rahman (not his real name) got married in 2015, it came as a relief for him. From cleaning his room to arranging daily meals, everyday things he had to do for his six years of living alone in Dhaka he was now relieved of.

Shabib never really enjoyed this household work, holding the stereotypical idea that these are "women's work".

This is not an anomaly. When this correspondent interviewed 50 men, all millennials aged between 18-34, she found out that this is in fact the predominant male attitude towards household work or unpaid care work.

The interviews were held through social media and over telephone, to explore the experience of men's participation in unpaid care and domestic work.

No fewer than 48 of the 50 millennial men said they feel that men should do a fair share of household chores.

However, when asked how many hours they spent doing it, half of them reported spending less than an hour in household and care work, while the other half said they spend around one to three hours in domestic chores.

When asked how frequently they cook, more than two-thirds of the respondents said they usually don't cook, while seven participants said they sometimes cook on weekends. When it comes to washing clothes, only one-third say they do it, that too only on weekends.

The responses were similar when it came to childcare and taking care of the elderly.

Some of the participants are not foreign to this kind of work. As students, former students, service holders, and current and former migrant workers, they have habituated with this kind of work at some point of their lives.

However, it was found that they do not pay these work any attention once they have a woman taking care of them, whether it's their mothers or wives.

Somewhat paradoxically, almost all of the respondents said they believed that men should perform household chores. Asked why they don't practice what they believed in, they provided some specific reasons behind their reluctance.

Unpaid care work, for the participants, are "boring", "time-consuming", "not men's job", and more.  One said, "Since men work outside the home for long hours, they don't get enough time to perform household works."

This, however, is contrary to reports that state that even working women have to undertake more domestic care work than men.

A number of respondents pointed out the traditional stereotypical gender roles, which directs women to stay inside the home, rear children, take care of the elderly family members and do household chores.

"In our childhood, even if we tried to help our mother in domestic works, we were told not to. Even these days, when someone is seen doing household chores, others make a mockery out of it — tagging him 'uxorious'. This discourages many of us," said Mutasim Billah, a banker.

Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, said, "Due to this deep-rooted patriarchy, even if a man identifies as being progressive, they cannot accept from heart that doing housework is their responsibility as well."

In order to redefine gender roles, she highlighted the importance of redefining masculinity.

Since 2011, ActionAid Bangladesh has been flagging the issue of unpaid care work. Farah Kabir, the organisation's country director, believes that as long as care work is not celebrated, these old and conventional attitudes and perceptions will remain.

Currently, the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has no programme or initiative to address the agenda of redistributing unpaid care works and ensuring men's participation. However, Dr Abul Hossain, project director of Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence against Women, said, "I feel the necessity of a separate programme to distinguish the role of men and women in the family and establish a division of labour at home."

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