Photograph — developmentdiaries.com

“Why is laundry only a mother’s job?” asked Ariel India at the end of their recent campaign launched with the hashtag #ShareTheLoad. Since its launch, the video has garnered over 10million views, with over 200 thousand shares, and hundreds of comments with varying opinions on Facebook. Clearly, the video has touched a nerve to gain such an enormous amount of attention.

The two minute video details the complexities in the life of women who juggle being wives, and mothers, while working a job, with no help from their partners, and how parents (fathers) are responsible for passing on these cultural stereotypes from one generation to another.

Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook has described the video as one of the most powerful videos she had ever seen. As a big advocate for social change, Sandberg said that the video shows how stereotypes hurt everyone and has failed to evolve overtime due to parental negligence. “When little girls and boys play house they model their parents’ behaviour; this doesn’t just impact their childhood games, it shapes their long-term dreams,” she said in a Facebook post. 

“Are we passing on gender roles that haven’t evolved with the times?’ Maybe it’s time to ‪#‎ShareTheLoad.”

The #SharetheLoad campaign challenges the long practised cultural stereotype of women being objects of domesticity who pick and clean up after everyone, including her partner. The widespread belief that a woman should live for her husband and family has fostered inequality in homes, leaving the woman with a greater share of household responsibilities.

However, in truth, parents alone are not to blame for the long-held stereotype of gender inequality in the home; the media has also constantly bombarded the society with TV programmes and adverts that convinced everyone that the kitchen is the woman’s realm and that taking charge of all household chores for the family was the way to fulfilment. This flawed notion and practice has led to an increase in the number of unhappy wives or women, and consequently unhappy and disintegrated homes. Comments around the video support this:

“My marriage disintegrated, in large part, because my ex, who always bragged that he was good at all household chores, suddenly became all but useless in the face of running a large family. He viewed his role as the worker, the breadwinner, and viewed my role as everything else.”

Although conversations around gender inequality and women stereotypes are discussed around the world today, the dynamics for change is far more prevalent in Western countries as the gospel of gender equality is largely frowned upon in certain African societies. In some Nigerian homes, it is not uncommon to find parents who send their sons out of the kitchen, or yell at them to drop the broom for their sisters if caught sweeping. The common backup statement for such commands is, “the kitchen is no place for a man,”or “a woman’s place is in the kitchen.”

Contemporary African men who offer to share domestic chores with their spouse are of very little percentage in comparison with those who ardently believe that it is the woman’s duty to tend to all things domestic. This new generation African men who share in the cleaning, cooking, and everything else are jeered at, and given the title of “woman wrapper.” Hence, some of these men help their wives in hiding, and not in the presence of family members or friends.

Ariel’s #ShareTheLoad campaign video advocates the support of fathers and husbands in the home, and how they can take small steps – like doing laundry – to promote equality in the home. Despite some of the debates surrounding the campaign, the video won a Glass Lion award at the 2015 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. But the real win as Sheryl Sandberg puts it, is the way the campaign is changing stereotypes and showing that a more equal world would be better for all of us.

However, unlike Sandberg, not everyone is singing praise of the campaign. Many are of the opinion that it delivers a contrary message by enforcing the idea of stereotypes in the home, “Using the word “help” when the dad says I will help your mum more, just capture the stereotypes that the house work belongs to the women and the dad is just helping her. Dads should be partners. Not helpers. This movie is keeping the traditional thinking that laundry is for mum. And if dad helps? Wow. He is amazing. This point of view is Women’s biggest problem,” reads a comment.

Watch the campaign video below:

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