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Breaking the mould: women have no monopoly on chores

May 13th, 2024

by Similoluwa Ifedayo

“Is this how you will be doing in your husband’s house?”

One of the most widely debated and deeply entrenched topics on social media in Nigeria is the place of a woman. As a young Nigerian woman, it’s rare to go through a week without encountering a thread and trend on social media platform X regarding the place of women often centred around traditional gender roles, with cooking and cleaning being designated as “a woman’s job.” Mostly, these threads and trends are related to life-coping skills every human being should have.

However, amidst these debates, a critical question needs to be answered: are household chores inherently tied to gender, or should they be approached with a focus on creating clean and functional living spaces for all?

The typical Nigerian response to an unpleasant act of a young lady often involves questions like: “Is this how you will be doing in your husband’s house? Is this how you plan to feed your husband?” Instead of “Is this how…?”, what about teaching her how to be a responsible person? First, for herself and then for the people she loves and will come to love.

A few years ago, I found myself in a shared environment where both young men and women coexisted. A timetable governed the cleaning and sweeping routines. One day, a young man refused outright to sweep, asserting: “I don’t sweep in my house.” Apparently, he grew up in a space where ladies were ‘meant’ to sweep. Anticipating a firm response from the coordinator, I was surprised when I heard: “Ladies, one of you should sweep this place. Don’t mind him; he is a guy.” What happened to: “That’s in your house and that’s your personal rule. Here, life-coping roles are not gender-specific.”

Throughout history, societal expectations have often dictated that women bear the primary responsibility for domestic tasks, while men are assigned roles outside the home. These gendered divisions of labour have been deeply ingrained in cultural norms, shaping attitudes and behaviours across generations.

However, the impact of these gender roles is not uniform. Is sweeping a woman’s role by default, or should chores be assigned based on capability, maybe interests, rather than gender? Every individual needs to run with a belief that no chore should be limited to a specific gender and should embrace a more egalitarian approach to household tasks.

I agree that genders have their strengths and weaknesses. I also agree that you can’t cheat the law of nature and how the body was created. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t be an excuse to limit a woman’s dream because society believes that she should think about a man first before she thinks about herself. It should not be an excuse to force a woman into the kitchen after going through the same tasks and stress a man went through.

For younger generations and the ones yet to come, the consequences of assigning specific household chores based on gender are far-reaching. Beyond perpetuating gender inequality, these expectations can also have detrimental effects on women’s well-being and sense of self-worth. This will make them feel confined to traditional roles, restrict women’s autonomy, and limit their ability to pursue their passions and ambitions outside the home.

Truly, there has been a notable change in this new generation of young adults, and women especially are also beginning to speak for themselves. However, more work still needs to be done. We have to acknowledge historical context, the jobs women performed then and the jobs they perform now, recognise intersectionality and accept that the world is evolving. It’s unfair that a woman would go to work the same way a man would and still be expected to do all the chores because it’s a ‘woman’s role’. There must be progress towards a more equitable distribution of household responsibilities.

Together, we need to build a future where sweeping a floor, cooking a meal, taking care of the kids or learning life-coping skills will not be seen as the sole responsibility of a gender but as shared responsibilities aimed at creating a clean and functional environment for all.

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About the author

Similoluwa Ifedayo

Similoluwa Ifedayo is a dynamic writer, certified public speaker, and accomplished campus journalist. She has over five years’ experience crafting compelling articles on youth engagement, leadership, creative storytelling, and newsletters. Currently pursuing a Law degree at Lagos State University, she channels her passion for advocacy into academic pursuits. Similoluwa’s unwavering dedication to transformative movements is reflected in her commitment to making a difference. Eager for growth, she aims to share her knowledge, aiding fellow youth in realizing their potential. With academic prowess, extensive writing experience, and a passion for positive change, Similoluwa is set to become an influential figure in her field.

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by Similoluwa Ifedayo

“Is this how you will be doing in your husband’s house?”

One of the most widely debated and deeply entrenched topics on social media in Nigeria is the place of a woman. As a young Nigerian woman, it’s rare to go through a week without encountering a thread and trend on social media platform X regarding the place of women often centred around traditional gender roles, with cooking and cleaning being designated as “a woman’s job.” Mostly, these threads and trends are related to life-coping skills every human being should have.

However, amidst these debates, a critical question needs to be answered: are household chores inherently tied to gender, or should they be approached with a focus on creating clean and functional living spaces for all?

The typical Nigerian response to an unpleasant act of a young lady often involves questions like: “Is this how you will be doing in your husband’s house? Is this how you plan to feed your husband?” Instead of “Is this how…?”, what about teaching her how to be a responsible person? First, for herself and then for the people she loves and will come to love.

A few years ago, I found myself in a shared environment where both young men and women coexisted. A timetable governed the cleaning and sweeping routines. One day, a young man refused outright to sweep, asserting: “I don’t sweep in my house.” Apparently, he grew up in a space where ladies were ‘meant’ to sweep. Anticipating a firm response from the coordinator, I was surprised when I heard: “Ladies, one of you should sweep this place. Don’t mind him; he is a guy.” What happened to: “That’s in your house and that’s your personal rule. Here, life-coping roles are not gender-specific.”

Throughout history, societal expectations have often dictated that women bear the primary responsibility for domestic tasks, while men are assigned roles outside the home. These gendered divisions of labour have been deeply ingrained in cultural norms, shaping attitudes and behaviours across generations.

However, the impact of these gender roles is not uniform. Is sweeping a woman’s role by default, or should chores be assigned based on capability, maybe interests, rather than gender? Every individual needs to run with a belief that no chore should be limited to a specific gender and should embrace a more egalitarian approach to household tasks.

I agree that genders have their strengths and weaknesses. I also agree that you can’t cheat the law of nature and how the body was created. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t be an excuse to limit a woman’s dream because society believes that she should think about a man first before she thinks about herself. It should not be an excuse to force a woman into the kitchen after going through the same tasks and stress a man went through.

For younger generations and the ones yet to come, the consequences of assigning specific household chores based on gender are far-reaching. Beyond perpetuating gender inequality, these expectations can also have detrimental effects on women’s well-being and sense of self-worth. This will make them feel confined to traditional roles, restrict women’s autonomy, and limit their ability to pursue their passions and ambitions outside the home.

Truly, there has been a notable change in this new generation of young adults, and women especially are also beginning to speak for themselves. However, more work still needs to be done. We have to acknowledge historical context, the jobs women performed then and the jobs they perform now, recognise intersectionality and accept that the world is evolving. It’s unfair that a woman would go to work the same way a man would and still be expected to do all the chores because it’s a ‘woman’s role’. There must be progress towards a more equitable distribution of household responsibilities.

Together, we need to build a future where sweeping a floor, cooking a meal, taking care of the kids or learning life-coping skills will not be seen as the sole responsibility of a gender but as shared responsibilities aimed at creating a clean and functional environment for all.