The pandemic is a reminder that if there were no work ethics policies for men and women alike, women could have never worked.
I can say I am late to the party of discussing the pressing issue of the hardships women in particular face when working from home. I think this should be something we all acknowledge time to time but is also something we tend to ignore given how menial it looks in comparison to the India-China debate and with a different kind of pandemic now on the rise.
In all its sense, we see fathers, brothers, boyfriends, sons and bosses aspire for equal amount of ambition from their employees and boast about work discipline but tend to deliberately overlook that women do unpaid labor back home and now it is like swinging on both ends, all at the same time.
At a certain point of time, a lot of you might have observed how the fight for gender parity has been replete with demands for improved labor laws, better maternity laws, open spaces and improved mobility for women and men alike – basically rules, regulations and structures that would let women and other marginalised communities be at par. And now, although some offices do have women at senior managerial positions as well, the truth is that it takes a set of rules for women to be able to liberally work and when that idea of a building and a structured space seems to have collapsed with the pandemic, the discipline vanished with it too.
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Let us all look inside our own bedrooms and kitchens and even bathrooms. Do you find working women in your house rarely using their work desks? Are they running between their desks to kitchens to desks and then back to their kitchens? How often do they find their laptops useful? How often they sit and enjoy their ‘paid’ vacation? And how often do you find yourself disturbed by your partner or any external requirement, while you work?
Answers to most of these questions is instinctual. And I am not here, neither is this a provoking write-up, to accuse you of troubling your mothers, wives, sisters and female employees. This is just a reminder for all of us of what we brush aside with every delicious meal we all savor.
A lot of our houses do not have maids and domestic helps employed right now. Which means that besides cooking, tending to the kids and anxiously worrying about any gas leak, we now also have so many other chores to do that keeps the house intact.
Our mothers have to wake up early, join for work, make tea for everyone, join for work, make breakfast for everyone, join for work, clean the house, join for work, make lunch, join for work, wish for a nap, attend to calls of work, make tea, water plants, join for work, make dinner, attend to messages of work, and eventually head to sleep. This particular schedule is not universal but we could pick our pieces and complete the puzzle. We could keep at remaking the puzzle again and again, until we realise that WOMEN AND MEN ARE ON DIFFERENT PRIVILEGE DIMENSIONS.
Virginia Woolf in her widely cited essay, “A Room Of One’s Own”, asserts “Intellectual freedom depends upon material things. Poetry depends upon intellectual freedom” – that money and a space (a room of our own) are basic factors in the process of an ambitious adventure. Not a common living room, where everyone has their own matters to deal with and video calls to attend to, but a separate room for thought and action – without recurring calls to cook something and clean after someone, and when failing to do so, without shaming them for not balancing efficiently.
As ridiculous as it sounds, when my brother or my father has classes or work to commit to, their room is shut from the inside, timely teas and meals are delivered to their desks, no calls are taken around them, we don’t tend to disturb them unless or until it’s something important and they still get to feel proud of the work they put into. In their world, their only priority is to do their job, do it well and on time and thus the rewards are quick and consistent.
In the world of my mother (and sometimes myself), the moments of accomplishment and relief are distant, given how the work is never ending. Rewards are immaterial sometimes and well disappointment is now like a bra that just keep tightening and tightening around your breasts, promising to support you but ends up disabling instead. To be honest, as a daughter I too play a huge role in joining my fellow patriarchs in impinging on the space needed for my mother’s intellectual freedom, out of sheer ignorance and complicity, laziness and a self-centered point of view. I too forget in my chase for my ambitions, that empathy and shared labor are the only aims we all should be striving for, if we wish to become better humans first and commodities of production later.
Therefore, men, and women who can relate, nobody is going anywhere, we are still stuck with each other through normalcy and pandemic, so we need to choose how we come out of it, either tired and weary, or as equals who do not need to be puppetted.
Featured Image Source: NBC News