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Leisure in modern times play a very important role in our daily lives. For many, leisure could only mean entertainment and for others it may be defined as the state of not working. However, it is very important in order to lead life constructively. We need time away from work to think, spend time with family, friends and the community that generally strengthens one’s potential to shed energy and expend their personal labor in the days followed at the workspace. Unfortunately, leisure is not always, perhaps not commonly, thought of in positive terms.

Far too often, it is regarded only as cessation from work. Thus, it is not just “impractical” but also idle and futile. However, the very aim of leisure is to enable greater capitalist productivity. Being a tool for capitalist production, workers or laborers are allowed to avail other incentives as well that sometimes is an alternative to leisure. Apart from the leisure which is part of capitalist mode of production, the concept in general ascertains wider meaning and scope.

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Here the focus is to see leisure from the gendered aspect of shaping reality. For every individual, leisure may have different understandings and meanings, either defined by oneself or by socially constructed meanings. Whereas the concept of gendering of leisure raises the questions on the politics of labour within the institution of family. This has been highly understudied by the academia. The existing scholarship have investigated the ways societal norms shape leisure and its relationship with the question of work. Some studies also have emphasized on the nature of gender and leisure, and state’s intervention in childcare and family through policies and laws.

the very aim of leisure is to enable greater capitalist productivity. Being a tool for capitalist production, workers or laborers are allowed to avail other incentives as well that sometimes is an alternative to leisure.

The Leisure Question in the Institution of Family

In almost every part of the world, with a few exceptions of primitive communes, the domestic work is performed by women of the households. Despite the fact that women engage in work related to earnings outside the household (where they are basically underpaid compared to their male counter parts), they are further burdened with the responsibility to undertake all the unpaid household work that involves child rearing, caring, cooking etc.

The patriarchal nature of societal arrangement is to be blamed for such a state of affairs. The family institution has been a large contributor for production and reproduction of labour. Since only the paid work is accounted for the calculation of the values of the economies, the idea of unpaid work is entirely invisibilised. Thus, the women who are under leisure generally engage in the unpaid household work and none-the-less has a zero leisure for personal usage.

Menon in her classical work titled ‘Seeing Like A Feminist’ states, “If you bring the question of fundamental rights into a family and if every individual in the family is treated as a free and equal citizen, that family will collapse”. A family as it exists is based on clearly established hierarchy of gender and age, with gender trumping age; that is, an adult male is generally more powerful than an older female. Thus, the leisure is hardly an entity of women within the institution of the family.

A family as it exists is based on clearly established hierarchy of gender and age, with gender trumping age; that is, an adult male is generally more powerful than an older female. Thus, the leisure is hardly an entity of women within the institution of the family.

Working Women

As a matter of fact, every women who indulges in activities that can be considered as work is a working women. However, as the definition suggests it only takes the account of paid work. Thus, we here imply the similar understanding. We consider those as working women who performs both paid and unpaid work as these forms of work involves the double burden for the women doing it.

The women’s lack of ownership of resources which is largely an outcome of male-inheritance of family property and wealth due to the existence of religious sanctions showcases how leisure is also gendered for working women. While I was interviewing a working woman around what leisure is for her, she mentioned that her travelling time is her leisure. It takes her an hour to reach home and she describes it as the best hour of the day.

She emphasizes on the fact that this one hour in a day helps her think about her own self and her aspirations for the life ahead. As per her, the formally assigned leisure time by her employer just increases her miseries as she is supposed to involve in chores of the household with a zero support from her man (husband). She further mentioned, it wasn’t the same before her marriage. She had ample amount of time to spend with herself as the responsibility of the chores was performed by her mother.

Dalit Women And Leisure

Work in India for ages has been valued based on who performs it. As per the cultural sanctions, men must go out and work and women remain in households and perform chores. These very ideas stand as the foundation of religious scriptures such as Manu Shastra. However, based on which caste of men performs the work, the work occupations are classified accordingly.

ased on the name of caste such occupations are defined as their ‘caste duties’. It is a servitude that they have to perform for the rest of the society for living. Thus, the question of leisure is a privileged discretion that the Dalit women do not possess. The concept of leisure is almost non-existent in the lives of Dalit women as they are at the perilous bottom of every institution of Indian society who do not have an agency.

The upper caste groups do not engage in menial jobs. It was made a ‘divine’ duty of lower caste Shudras and ex-untouchable groups to engage in degrading work which is considered as polluting. Unlike, upper caste women who confined to household chores, the lower caste women are to go out for work. As per the sanctions, they are to perform most menial and humiliating forms of work. In the case of Dalit women, it also involves removing the human excreta with the bare hands. They are prone to contagious diseases.

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And these inhuman treatments have not ended even today in the second decade of the twenty first century India. Based on the name of caste such occupations are defined as their ‘caste duties’. It is a servitude that they have to perform for the rest of the society for living. Thus, the question of leisure is a privileged discretion that the Dalit women do not possess.

The concept of leisure is almost non-existent in the lives of Dalit women as they are at the perilous bottom of every institution of Indian society who do not have an agency. It is a matter of fact that it is difficult (maybe impossible) to find more than 1 percent of Dalit women performing organized work that comes under the framework of formal institutions. Those who have a doubt on such a proposition may go through any of the government and non-govt. organizational data sets that are available. When almost 99 percent (approx.) of Dalit women are in informal sector with precarious, contagious and at time in the most inhuman working conditions, therefore, the question of leisure is merely non-existent to the majority of them.


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