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Tharoor- Ranaut Exchange Highlights The (Gender) Trouble With Housework

. 5 min read . Written by Sanjana Bhagwat
Tharoor- Ranaut Exchange Highlights The (Gender) Trouble With Housework

That “homemaker” is a gendered designation is something most of us need only look in our own homes, to know is true. Women have attempted to share the labour with the men in their lives, spoken at length about the need for equal distribution of unpaid care work, and even petitioned to governments about it – but it remains a fact.

The pandemic, even when reducing the disparity in some homes, only highlighted and heightened the disproportionate burden on women, in most others.

“It is only fair,” a cousin explained to me many years ago, when as a child, I’d pointed out a gendered pattern that all the scripts of her make-believe doll games seemed to follow. “The man works hard to take care of the family outside the house. The woman does whatever is needed within it.”

The unfairness, women often grow to realise, doesn’t lie in this division of where one works, but in the division of value assigned to men and women’s work. The injustice lies in the lack of value assigned to the homemaker by extension.

It lies in the financial dependence that comes with unpaid care work, and the conditioned inferiority that comes with this lack of independence.

Is the progressive solution then to stop trying to equalise the burden of housework between genders, and start assigning monetary value to it instead?  

Shashi Tharoor Shared His Thoughts On A Tamil Nadu Party Proposing Salary for HomeMakers – Kangana Ranaut Shared Her Thoughts On His Thoughts

A Tamil Nadu-based political party, Makkal Needhi Maiam (MKM), helmed by film personality Kamal Hassan, announced that its economic agenda if elected, includes setting up a salary for home-makers.

“Homemakers will get their due recognition through payment for their work at home which hitherto has been unrecognised and unmonetized, thus raising the dignity of our womenfolk,” the party stated.

“We still have to work out exactly what amount will be given to them as compensation but we are confident this can be done,” Hassan told The News Minute. “We are looking to directly pay women a monthly amount that they can save and use at a time of crisis.”

Tharoor extended his support to the party’s plans, saying that valuing housework as a “salaried profession” would enhance women’s “power and autonomy”.

Kangana Ranaut, as she is wont to do, responded to the Twitter thread.

“Don’t put a price tag on sex we have with our love, don’t pay us for mothering our own, we don’t need salary for being the Queens of our own little kingdom our home, stop seeing everything as business. Surrender to your woman she needs all of you not just your love/respect/salary,” she typed out.

Tharoor, with restraint that few engaging with Ranaut on Twitter have been able to show, responded explaining that the intent was to give every woman the privilege of being as “empowered as [she is]”.

Ranaut went on to use the universal descriptions used to glorify housework – a “mother’s sacrifice and life-long unwavering commitment”, saying these are not things one can put a price tag on. “It’s like you want to pay God for this creation, cause you suddenly pity him for his efforts. It’s partially painful and partially funny thought,” she wrote.

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She asserted that we cannot “reduce a home owner to home employ” (not considering the fact that most women are not only not legal homeowners, but also in fact, often treated as something akin to servants in their own home.)  

The Supreme Court Says Fixing An Income For Homemakers Is Necessary For Social Equality

Equitable distribution of housework between both genders has been difficult to ingrain and even more difficult to universally implement. Women’s empowerment has been restricted to superficial assignment of value to home-makers, akin to Ranaut’s adulations of sacrifice and unwavering commitment.

But maybe “love has no price” is no longer a good enough justification to invariably relegating women to being the second sex in society.

Just this week, the Supreme Court, when dealing with the Delhi High court reducing the compensation granted for a deceased wife in a motor accident case, as she was a home-maker, said that this lowered value given to homemakers was “problematic”. The bench said that the “conception that housemakers do not work or that they do not add economic value to the household is a problematic idea that has persisted for many years and must be overcome.”

The Court said that the homemaker’s salary would have to be determined by Courts like most other activities – keeping in mind the number of women engaged in the activity, and the value of their service, labour and sacrifices.

It’s true that such incentives will most likely still encourage more women than men to be homemakers – but at least they will be encouraged to be homemakers rather than relegated to being one.   

Do you think making housework a salaried profession is a good thing? Tell us in the comments! 

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