When home appliances are contentious

By Harriet James
Wednesday, May 5th, 2021
Home appliances.
In summary
    • Traditionally, gender roles dictated that  men are providers and women caregivers.
    • However,  as time changed, these roles have become blurred. Nevertheless, it is not rare to see some people hold strongly to the traditional roles, especially when it comes to caregiving.
    • As such, women still bear the burden of unpaid carework even when they have 9-5 jobs or businesses.
    • Experts now call for a reevauation of the status quo and a redistribution of unpaid care work.

Harriet James @harriet86jim

John Otieno calls himself a typical African man. He married his wife, a career woman two years ago; they have two children.

However, they are constantly fighting about one thing: house chores.  John has rejected her pleas to have a dish washer and a washing machine at home.

He has also turned down her demands to have a house help, claiming that it makes his wife lazy. 

“I can’t buy a dish washer or a washing machine in the house because it is against tradition.

It makes her lazy and it doesn’t feel African to have our women wash dishes and do laundry with machines,” explains John.

John refuses to assist his wife too, despite that they both have eight-five jobs. His wife is a regional sales manager in a prestigious company and he is a IT expert.

This has further brought in conflict, with his wife complaining that she is overburdened. 

“I paid dowry and this is part of its benefit. I can’t pay the rent and  bills and still do house chores.

You start doing that and she will even make a timetable for you. Our mothers were strong and could handle everything. I think the modern woman just wants to be pampered,” he adds.

Traditional roles

Traditionally as men were regarded as bread winners, women were seen as homemakers and part of that was handling house chores.

But currently, with education and women empowerment, women too have their own money and are taking up the role of bread winner.

Demanding roles in their workplaces makes them require assistance when it comes to house matters.

John is one of many African men who think it’s a taboo to buy machines in the home that ease house chores.

They hide under a blanket statement that  “this is Africa and we don’t do or accept that in our houses.’ 

“There are indeed men with this kind of thinking. This is tied to a view that care work or unpaid care and domestic work is the reserve of women and they are better at it than men,” notes Lucy Maina, a sociologist.

Lucy adds that such beliefs are reinforced by the fact that women are socialised from childhood to fit this purpose.

Consequently when men marry, they have the idea that they are getting assistance in the home and in some cultures, the wife is called jiko, or mpishi which reinforces such attitudes.

Throughout the ages, that women have a natural intrinsic gift (touch) of care giving and that when they cook or care for their family is regarded as an expression of love, care and responsible motherhood.

Blame socialisation

“When men give bride wealth, they feel that they have a right to receive direct care from their wives.

To them, that is the best demonstration of submission, which is seen through caring and personally maintaining the home.

By them using equipment and technologies like a microwave or even hiring domestic labour removes the affection associated with direct care in such tasks by women,” adds Lucy.

These beliefs and social norms are perpetuated through socialisation, gender relations, media among others.

Yet research shows access to such, domestic appliances are associated with reduced hours of care work for women freeing them to engage in economic, social and political pursuit.

“Programmes and actions geared towards changing prevailing norms, exposing negative impacts of the burden of unpaid care and domestic work on women and how these contribute to missed opportunities are an imperative in addressing the inequalities in care work,” says Lucy.

Allan Lawrence believes house work should be shared particularly if both of you are working and paying bills.

He says times have changed and that men should support their wives attain their dream as partners in the home. 

Redefinition of masculinity

“My wife is my helper and if she wants to buy equipment or have help in the house, I will not stop that. What were machines created for?

Was it to ease work? I believe in the culture we create by ourselves not what traditions expect of us and I will help my wife in whatever she needs as she is not my slave, but partner in life,” he says.

Allan says assisting in house chores and listening to women is the key for a successful marriage and does not in any way emasculate the man.

He believes men in the 21st century need to know how to handle the empowered woman, thus they need to reevaluate their definition of a strong woman. 

“I think people are addicted to struggle love which sees a strong woman as a person who can handle multiple things without cracking.

Women are human beings and they too get tired and have needs. A caring husband will be keen to ensure her needs too are met.

A wife is someone who complements me and does not complete or replace me.”

Allan feels that men require reprogramming and a reevaluation of why they fell in love and why they got married to their spouses.

He believes mentorship will assist them in redefining their roles in the modern time. 

“I think that men should also have places and spaces where they are taught on the real definition of masculinity and what that implies in these modern times.

That’s why I long for a day we shall we have grooms showers, but all is not lost in my own capacity I’m trying to create a project that will change this,” he says in conclusion 

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