“My World is a series of insights on gender issues by the people for the people

Kusum is a post-graduate in law, former Supreme Court advocate and law Professor. Her areas of specialisation are Constitutional Law and family law. She lives in Delhi and is an avid runner, trekker and painting artist.

An extremely thin line separates the externally and implicitly imposed duty and internally motivated choice, particularly in activities that have historically been gendered such as cooking. This question often crosses my mind, why does the sole responsibility for the kitchen always falls on the woman’s shoulders?

It is deemed that kitchen is a woman’s domain..

Is it true that kitchen is a space in which she could unwind and find a creative outlet? Do women genuinely love cooking or they choose it by default because other avenues of self-expression were closed to them? These are questions which are always left unanswered, and often not even raised or pondered over.

It is also important to consider the role played by the older women in the household in reinforcing this notion of women being solely responsible for the kitchen duties and the patriarchal society, which granted minimum freedom to women over all aspects of their life. Even if a woman wishes to break free of these societal norms, she is constantly reminded by the fellow women of her “household responsibilities” and “place in the household.”

Domestic cooking or everyday cooking is an obligation, labour and a craft, it needs to be identified as a skill. Everyday-cooking takes time away from cerebral activities due to the work which goes into cooking such as chopping, serving, cleaning up, figuring out what to do with the leftovers, remembering what is there in the kitchen and attempting to juggle between 2 different generations in a household. Women always have to keep these things in their mind as this part of the household typically falls in the woman’s domain.

Everyday cooking is either done by domestic helps from lower castes, who don’t have the option of not doing that work. Many urban women’s financial independence and time for creative work hinges on the condition that the housework be done by someone else, usually the domestic help. So domestic cooking is the labour within the household, which is perceived as being less important than labour outside the household. As a result, such household tasks are deemed menial, insignificant and not given due importance and respect.

It is a call of the time to tackle the transformation of cooking as an obligation to a choice by finally teaching boys to cook. I enjoy cooking, it’s not something I can do all the time and only thing in my life. When the wife is unable to cook, the husband should be able to cook as well. We should make an effort to share the kitchen space and should make it “our” instead of “their.” It would be amiss to not recognize the small but significant architectural changes as open-door kitchens are more common and they have now been incorporated as a part of the main household instead of being located in a remote corner of the house.

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