The modern man and woman: the evolving role in the household

The man was formed in God’s image. And the woman was formed in the image of the heavens. Both had their roles to play that held massive importance in their own accords. Then, all of a sudden, man became the better being and woman the lesser one. How these roots of equality transcended into chauvinism and a ‘male’ dominant society overseen by ‘women’,remains a mystery to this day.

I remember my maternal grandmother sharing stories about her childhood. I also remember her sheer displeasure over her father. Despite being a good father, he was relentlessly pursued by her mother to not let her continue her education and instead got her married at a very young age. I also remember my paternal grandmother, who received a good education, and pursued her career with her father’s support despite the misplaced fears of her mother. Both of these strong, independent women, were pushed to their limits by the society, and persevered. The only difference was how both of their fathers, shadowed by their mothers,wanted a life set for them. But, even that did not change the course of their paths. Both of them did play the duties assigned commonly to men of the household due to circumstances. In a way, they both were ahead of their time. The same time that has now pressured our society to reluctantly half accept the concept of the modern woman, and in tow, the modern man.

The belief that women are homemakers and men are breadwinners started to vanish slowly and more often uneasily in the mid 20th century west as women took up roles of nurses, teachers – professions outside the walls of home.While the dynamics of their role in society was changing, the responsibilities on their shoulders were also increasing as they were working on two fronts. Very gradually, the concept of burden sharing was introduced into the family system, where ideally the man and woman both would share responsibilities in the household. In the east, this shift took place many years later, but with a little change.Sharing the burden in many families is still given little or no significance.

The importance of the few sentences said above has a lot to do with the cause and effect of resistance found in individualistic vs. collectivist cultures related to this notion; and how it affects the lives of its subjects:; men and women. Before delving into that further, let us see the role of modern man in this introspect. The concept of the modern man interplays with that of modern woman. As responsibilities started to take a shift, men became self-aware of the new shared burden in the west. Here the question arises that if they did acknowledge this and started exercising in the prescribed manner, why did this shift not take place in the east – more specifically in the post-colonial demographics.

The collectivist culture in our society, while having many positives to it, does have a few negatives.A man, holding the highest position in the family, and usually backed by his mother, has the final say in every matter. Whether it relates to the careers of his children, their marriages, their lifestyles, or the daily routines of the household members – it is a definitive that you cannot disobey the authority. The gap between this idea and the new has a stark difference that has created women as equals to men. As expected, most of the older generation, men and women see this as a challenge to their authority where sons are preferred over daughters.

Men too have always been chained by the pressures of the society. They have to act in a certain way, just as women are expected to. Having a lack of female mentors in work life for women means more female ‘mentors’ for men in personal life.A man in a stereotypical household is anointed as the sole protector of his sister, a god for his wife, a knight for his children, a king for his mother and the golden boy for his father. When the man is placed on such mantle –; pressured with responsibilities of his kin –, his personality is bound to undergo mental duress. Now, does it not sound a bit odd if we reverse the roles and place a woman on that same mantle? It may not sound to those who have ‘modernised’ their lifestyles, but it would be a sequence of riots for those who have adopted westernisation. For most people, a woman going out in the world and earning, and coming home doing household chores in old fashion is the ideal setting.

The other side of this typecast includes women handling the affairs of the household in the shadows. They do have a very cryptic authority in the household matters even when men have the final say. For example,We we do see issues like the kind of girl that a man should get married to (physical attributes, education, age, her previous record of marital status and her skill set in the kitchen) more commonly discussed by the women in the family. That is how they will be able to control their son/ brother’s marriage.When a modern man enters this environment, these rules are severed.This man is happy to let his sister take her own decisions, help and support his wife, and let everyone lead their lives according to their own will. He takes part in all the chores done by women, or pours his heart out to his close ones. Will this be acceptable in a common stereotypical household? No. The man ‘needs’ to be manly.Men are not meant to act like that or they would be looked down upon.

While the above trend is true, there is an anomaly of women in the generations before millennials who are the biggest supporters of women. The women whom I believe have truly been ahead of their times. For the best part of my life, the most powerful figures in my own personal life have been those women, and men who were raised by them. They are the women who have inspired me -– who defy all the boundaries of rules set by the society to make them behave in a certain way. They are the women who have saved me,; countless times from the ruthlessness of those women who ironically think of their own gender in inferior terms. And then there are those men who lift up the women in all the preciousness, who defy their commonly known macho side, and treat everyone with the respect that they deserve, regardless of their gender.

As someone who is a part of this confused nation, I believe that among many wrongs, we have placed the role of genders in a pre-assigned box. A slight shift in this dogma means the disruption of commonly held beliefs that would shatter our egos that we so dearly hold on to. But, it is time we break the chains of habit. If women can be strong and focused, then men can be human and vulnerable too. Both are emotions, very powerful in their own accord.

We are not the children of the veterans, where you placed emotions for weakness. We are not the children of Thatcher, where you had to suppress your emotions for the supposed greater good of people. We are the millennials, where it is okay to embrace the reflection of your true self. Since the roles of responsibility in the society have taken a shift, it is okay to embrace the change wholeheartedly.A nation can only continue to move forward in the right direction if you lift the hearts of its people, men and women, instead of crushing them, and mechanizing their souls for eternity.We are humans. Let us be humans, and not become the gods of destruction. Destruction of dreams, hopes, and destruction of that little glamour of humanity left for a better, just future.

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