Tamil films routinely depict a man who does housework as a "henpecked", pathetic creature.

Suriya takes up dosa challenge for Magalir Mattum but will this go beyond a kitchen cameoTwitter/Suriya_offl
Voices Kollywood Monday, February 06, 2017 - 13:46

The trailer for Jyothika's upcoming film Magalir Mattum released a few days ago. It shows a group of women taking a road trip and discussing their lives on the way.

They have a lighthearted yet pertinent conversation on how many dosas they would end up making in their lifetime and the answer runs into lakhs...but then comes the question - would anyone ever make a dosa for them?

Of course, the subject of this conversation goes beyond breakfast options. It touches upon the gendered division of labour in the home front, where women (whether employed or not) are considered to be its automatic caretakers and men play only a "cameo" in cooking and cleaning, so as to speak.

Following the trailer, 2D Entertainment, Suriya's production house which is behind Magalir Mattum, has come up with a ‘dosa challenge’ on Twitter. It has asked men to make a dosa for an important woman in their life (mom/wife/sister/daughter) and to tweet photographs of them doing it.

Suriya, of course, was among the first people to take up the challenge and has posted pictures of himself making a dosa and posing along with wife Jyothika. He has also tagged actor Madhavan, director Venkat Prabhu, and music composers Harris Jayaraj and Devi Sri Prasad, asking them to pick up the ladle next.

While it certainly makes for an interesting marketing campaign and cooking for someone can only be a nice gesture, what would be even better is if we went beyond tokenism and thought some more about everyday sexism and how much we celebrate it, including in films.

A husband who does housework, for instance, is routinely depicted as a "henpecked" and pathetic creature. Washing the wife's paavadai is the ultimate sign of emasculation in most Tamil films.

There have been very few films like Yennai Arindhal (and Ajith plays a single dad in that one), Kabali (Rajinikanth's character doesn't cook but his wife orders him to heat up water for her), or Joker (Guru's character takes care of his wife who is bedridden for the most part) where we've seen the hero participating in household chores without anyone making a joke about it or denigrating what he's doing.

Even when he's a complete wastrel as in Remo and has plenty of "free" time on his hands, the hero rarely lifts a finger when it comes to housework.

In reality, though women still do the lion's share of housework, there is increasing participation from men at the home front, especially in nuclear family setups.

However, the notion that housework is women's work (as if we were all born knowing how to make sambar) and that men who contribute towards it are doing women a big favour is still pretty strong.

Which is why, so many see the dosa challenge as a "tribute". In a more equal society, a man cooking for his partner or family shouldn't be a one-day gala event, but an everyday routine. He is not "helping" the woman but sharing work that needs to be done by all members of the family.

The dosa challenge is great if it puts the men who are doing it on the path of thinking about how much they take for granted from the women in their family. And effecting a change in lifestyle.

But if it stops with them applauding themselves for being the "nice guys" who took out five minutes of their lives to make a dosa, it would be nothing more than an empty gesture. Battering gender stereotypes takes a little more work than that.

In other words, dear men, stop playing the cameo in the kitchen. Your masculinity can be put to good use by pulping tomatoes, and the world will be a better place for it.

Note: Views expressed are the personal opinions of the author.

 

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