By Kanchan G
(Photo found on Bramble Berry)
On this International Women’s Day, I wanted to write about ongoing discussions that happen in societies everywhere. I thought it would be the perfect time to voice a short opinion on gender inequality, kitchen chores, and Nepali culture.
Growing up I always thought it was a necessity for a woman to know how to cook and do household chores and enjoy doing them at the same time. I noticed more and more how much of household chores were expected to be a woman’s work and men could lounge about chit chatting. Anytime we would visit family friends, the boys could go about playing and being “boys”, yet my mother and other women would tell me and the girls that we needed to offer help. It was the polite thing to do. We all would help, but with bitterness because we wanted to play outside and be rowdy, instead of being polite and proper. I have lost count of the many times this has happened and continues to happen anytime we visit Nepali friends and relatives. So, at the age of 25, I find myself microwaving rice and steaming veggies (this is as far as my cooking skills go). I wonder if I should feel embarrassed and rectify the situation by acquiring more of these “home-maker” qualities.
These types of gender roles are part of cultures everywhere, but the role of a woman as a homemaker who is subservient and proper is quite glorified in Nepali culture. It’s prominent even among immigrant Nepali families in the U.S and other western countries. For a society that spends a lot of time socializing and eating in large gatherings, I find it unacceptable that it’s only a woman’s role to cook, set up, and clean afterwards. Most men don’t EVEN offer to help. I have observed instances where men would rather waste time finding someone else to do chores and tasks rather than just doing it. For me this is humorous. For example, while visiting my grandparents, my grandfather asked me to get him a glass of water while we watched T.V. After the third time I thought “hmm why can’t he get a glass of water for himself, he is perfectly capable of that” so I said, “No. You are closer to the kitchen, why can’t you get the water yourself.” Instead of getting his water, he argued with me for five minutes as to why I, as a young woman, should get him the glass of water. There goes five minutes of his life he will never get back.
Besides the humor, I think these gender roles are harmful and make it harder for young women growing up with cultural identity issues. I certainly always felt like a failure as a Nepali woman when a relative would make fun of me in “good humor” for not knowing how to cook a proper Nepali meal. But cooking, cleaning, and being a prim lady have nothing to do with real life accomplishments. So to all the young Nepali women out there who can’t make a cup of chiya or daal, don’t worry, you are not alone. There are plenty of us who don’t know how to cook and possibly never will. This is absolutely fine. Being a woman, a multi-cultural woman, is being whomever you are, cooking skills not required. ☺
Happy International Women’s Day!