The man/woman of the house
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The man/woman of the house

The Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation and the Thai Health Promotion Foundation advance the idea that household chores are the responsibility of all genders and ages

Cindy Bishop giving away flyers for the seminar at Victory Monument. (Photos courtesy of Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation)
Cindy Bishop giving away flyers for the seminar at Victory Monument. (Photos courtesy of Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation)

Should women or men be responsible for household chores? For Suthin Kreerotjanee, he doesn't believe it is his job.

"Chores are my wife's duties. When I come home, the meal must be readied. The house must be cleaned," said the 59-year-old.

Pisan Kongkarath, 66, said that if he did housework, his friends would tease him. "They would think I was afraid of my wife."

Anuluk Aiamsri has a reason to believe household chores belong to women. "We saw photos of women cook in [school] textbooks. No photos of men doing any chores at all," said the 20-year-old.

Jadet Chaowilai, director of the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation, second left, and men from the foundation network. (Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation)

But why do men think housework is women's duty? This was the main question discussed at a focus group which interviewed 1,995 male subjects about their attitudes towards household chores. The focus group was arranged recently by the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation (WMP).

From the survey, however, there were good signs. More than half of participating subjects -- around 55% -- said that instead of being ashamed, to help their partners out by working on household chores was something they should be proud of. Though more than half of them didn't mind doing housework, 53.5% of respondents thought a good woman must be a domestic goddess. One out of three respondents believed housework is women's responsibility, even if women had their own jobs.

To change attitudes toward household chores that lead to gender inequality and increase violence in families, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation teamed up with WMP in organising a seminar titled "Household Chores Are Everyone's Responsibilities" at Koh Phayathai, Victory Monument, recently.

At the seminar, American Japanese model Byron Bishop came with his celebrity wife Cindy Bishop. Byron said he was surprised to discuss housework because he didn't expect it could be an issue. When he was young, his mother let him and his sister take care of household chores equally.

"My mother didn't push responsibility onto my sister only because she was a girl. It was our house and we must look after it. When Cindy and I had babies, I helped her take care of our kids because I saw her exhausted from work. For the first time, I changed a diaper. I will never forget that," said Byron.

Cindy added that their relationship has been strengthened due to his care.

To help with the housework can strengthen relationships. (Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation)

"If we went through difficulty together, the relationship got strengthened. I understand that in some families, husbands are the ones who provide a living to the families, but please don't overlook women who stay at home and raise kids. It is a tough job which has no pay and doesn't have a day off," Cindy said.

Most people may think household chores are not important and that it would be such a waste of time to discuss the issue. In fact, it can build up a happy family and bring about gender equality. President of the community in Soi Sinsab, Dusit district, Ratchawet Kamsamerkotchasri is an interesting case. He was violent and used to beat up his wife and scold his children, but taking care of his grandchild changed him.

"I was a gambler for a living who had never done any housework. My wife took care of everything. When I was a kid, I had never seen my father do housework. My mother did everything though she had her own job. Whenever she came home, even if it was very late, she would do household chores. My wife did the same. I drank and sometimes beat up my wife if we had an argument.

Left and Below  Helping with the housework can strengthen relationships. (Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation)

"My adult children kept their distance from me because I abused my wife. They pretended to be sleeping while I was home. I woke them up and scolded them. My turning point was when I was home with my grandchild by myself. The baby needed a diaper changed, but nobody was around, so I decided to change it for him. I later cleaned up the house because I didn't want my grandchild crawling on a dirty floor," Ratchawet said.

His changes made the family happy, but at that time, he had to be patient with comments from friends.

"My friends teased me that I was afraid of my wife, but I was happy with what I did for my grandchild. This reminded me of what my mother and my wife had done for me for years. It made me feel sorry for them. After I continually did housework, my children started talking to me as well as my wife. The friends stopped teasing me. They eventually accepted that taking care of the grandchildren is my job," said the 54-year-old.

Obviously, attitudes towards housework start at home. From the focus group, 74.2% of those interviewed agreed that their families built up their attitudes towards household chores, and 73.3% thought it was time to change attitudes. People of all genders and ages should do housework.

To help their wives do housework can strengthen the relationships. (Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation)

WMP director Jaded Chouwilai said the results of the focus group demonstrate that men who are older than 45 believe housework is women's work because they saw their mothers do all of it.

Some men refuse to do household chores because they believe they shouldn't go under clothes racks or pick up female sarongs.

"We don't blame men who have those kinds of attitudes because they were cultivated that way. We noticed that the new generation started changing the attitudes. Parents of the new generation have done housework together. When my wife had a baby, I took one month of parental leave to help her take care of our baby. I understood that it was tiring," the director of WMP said.

"There was news that a mother hurt her baby due to stress. It was a result of the mother being neglected by the father. Housework is another factor that builds up the relationship between a husband and a wife. And if a father doesn't take care of the baby, he won't be a part of the baby's development. It is a regret that he won't be close to his baby."

To make changes, Jaded suggested that men should join a network.

To help their wives do housework can strengthen the relationships. (Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation)

"We will form a team in a community, and people must give support. Women should support men when they do housework by not complaining or criticising if they can't do it like women do. It takes time to learn. And as in many Western countries, there should be a measure to allow men to have parental leave, so they can take care of their babies after their wives give birth."

The president of Soi Sinsab community recommended that people who don't know how to start can go to the foundation.

"WMP can assist us in many things. In the past, I didn't realise that my behaviour was violent. With encouragements from people at the WMP six years ago, I started cutting down on alcohol and participated in the WMP's activities. I then realised what I had done to my family. Recently, our relationship is better. We are happy. We hang out as a family together, which we hadn't done before," said Ratchawet.

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