Microwave Madam (MM) explores the impact of patriarchy on her life and on society and looks for solutions. The stories come from at MM’s journal – her go to place when she needs to be heard. Each post contains a ‘story’ accompanied by a poem.
- Beacons of Light | A Tale of Two FamiliesExploring Patriarchy Chapter 1 – Amid all those women who were digging their own ditches, she now saw the beacons of light. Family, friends and neighbours who had found small ways to happiness and made space for themselves in a comfortable manner, within the boundaries of the society they lived in. And they became her role models. Poem: A Tale of Two Families Nothing to do, nothing to do, my poor dear wife has nothing to do. I come home from work and the house is so clean and she’s sitting and reading a magazine. The food is all cooked and our ironing is done, she looks like her day’s been a lot of fun.
- The Knight | Change the Woman to Change the ManExploring Patriarchy Chapter 2 – Microwave Madam, an avid reader of old romance novels, had found her knight. A knight-in-shining-armor who had never really had any practise because he’d been rescued all his life. Poem: Change the Woman to Change the Man I visit my friend and she’s at the table feeding her son who is perfectly able to eat on his own. He’s almost a teen! I wonder why it is that she just can’t see.
- Equality at Home | A Wonderful WomanExploring Patriarchy Chapter 3 – Gender equality within the larger family was another story. There differences with food and a hierarchy that decided who got offered the best. She was last on the list – a woman in a family where men ranked first, as well as a woman new to the family.
- Meet Microwave Madam’s Husband | The KeeperExploring Patriarchy Chapter 4 – MM’s husband was a forward thinking man who lacked the skills needed to make his ideas on equality a daily reality. Two things in particular that made housework and endless task for MM with no weekly off – food habits and disorganization.
- The Mother Wound | This GiftExploring Patriarchy Chapter 5 – And because of the glorification of the mother that was so much a part of her family culture, she would feel deep guilt and self-recrimination. She would forget that being a mother doesn’t raise one to God-like perfection and take away one’s humanity – one’s fallibility.
- The New Woman | Paint the Town REDExploring Patriarchy Chapter 6 – There were some digs and criticism that hurt. She learned it was okay to be childless as long as you were deeply unhappy about it. To accept what the God’s gave you and change your dreams accordingly, and be grateful and not ask for more? That, wasn’t acceptable she realized. One had to have children, or be miserable that one didn’t have children. There was no other acceptable option to some.
- These Rules | Don’tExploring Patriarchy Chapter 7 – They tied MM down though she didn’t even realize it. All these rules about what women should wear – what ‘look’ their appearance should portray. Where they could go when they went out, and what time they should be back home.
- The Suffering Mother | A Space Where We BOTH Have Our SayExploring Patriarchy Chapter 8 – Growing old doesn’t have to mean losing oneself. MM’s mother would realize this, and rebuild her life differently from her elders. And teach MM about self-reliance and independence in the only way that really works when parents want to teach something to their children. By being an example.
- Secrets | The Colour of GoldExploring Patriarchy Chapter 9 – To know that he treated her well only because her family had money, or were able to keep up a pretense of wealth. Loved because her family gave in to demands for gifts. Loved only because she finally had a boy child after two daughters. A woman remembers these things even when she pretends they don’t matter.
- Bedtime Stories | Silver LineExploring Patriarchy Chapter 10 – It was a childhood very different from families where motherhood is about complex meals and women are stuck in the kitchen with heavy cleaning after dinner. Or those where gender roles might keep men away from they joys of hand-on parenting and childcare. Or times like the current time, when the tremendous busy, the long working hours, and long commutes eat into family time and leave children lonely.
- Home Organization | How To Be A Relaxed HousekeeperExploring Patriarchy Chapter 11 – Better work-flow management in the kitchen reduced the number of dishes used when cooking. And she learned two important things that many of her friends didn’t yet know, or rather, didn’t completely have the skills to implement.
- Expectations of Love | WannaExploring Patriarchy Chapter 12 – MM realized then, that her husband had a very sub-conscious idea of love that was based on his upbringing. Where his mother had served and fetched as an expression of motherly love. These ideas went deep and created expectations that were in direct conflict with his desire to see his wife rest when she needed. Poem: Wanna I don’t wanna be the woman behind the man let my dreams flow down the sink as I wash the pots and pans. I don’t wanna be the woman who’s burning up inside and sees dirt in the smile of her sisters eyes.
- Respect Dis-Respects | We Have to Pay the PiperExploring Patriarchy Chapter 13 – People often think that giving to these rules is respect for the elderly. Forgetting there’s a price for it. A quicker decline for the elderly. And a frustration that affects personal relationships between the home manager and her family – especially her husband. Poem: We Have To Pay The Piper We have to pay the piper for all that we have got if we don’t pay up when it’s due it’s gonna cost a lot. He’s the one who sees the things we hide – the one who keeps the score and when he thinks our payment’s due he’ll knock our every door.
- Power Games and Rape | Wake UpExploring Patriarchy Chapter 14 – These women were stuck deep in patriarchy and the power games it allowed them to play – the martyrdom and suffering that gave them bargaining power. Power games that can make sons who are poorly educated, or have less opportunity to find their way, feel small within their home. Poem: Wake Up – A New Time Is Come You’re the mother-in-law who couldn’t let go who spoon-fed your son ‘cos you wanted control. The daughter-in-law who kept her mouth shut and they pushed you so low that you couldn’t get up.
- Femininity ALWAYS Comes With Strings | Dr GoogleExploring Patriarchy Chapter 15 – Menopause would be the biggest struggle for MM. Because our medical system is wonderful with surgery, hormone treatment and procedures for women. But it doesn’t address the biggest health issue that women face – the lack of rest and support for women at home. Poem: A Visit With Dr. Google We visit the doctor once a year when we’re not feeling too good. Just to be sure all is clear. The doctor tells us to have some tests but we decide to try lifestyle changes and a little rest.
- Men-OH-PauseExploring Patriarchy Chapter 16 – Men-OH-Pause give your wives a break don’t get up and leave them to wash up the plates. They’re on their feet before every meal cooking and washing and keeping the home clean. MM’s Story: She had always felt that society has a perceived value for money and things that far exceeds their actual utility, and their ability to create security and bring happiness.
- Space Within Barriers | My Greatest Friend in Times of NeedExploring Patriarchy Chapter 17 – She could have made this a battle with her husband, but the truth is, a large part of the problem was her. And HER ATTITUDES. Because she too had, without conscious thought, embraced this disrespect. Poem: My Greatest Friend in Times of Need My greatest friend in times of need I talk to you, say what I please. You help me out when times get tough you listen – never say you’ve had enough.
- Healing The Gender DivideExploring Patriarchy Chapter 18 – Male Rage is different from anger that is a part of the normal range of human behaviour because it isn’t natural, but created by a system we need to leave behind. MM had seen this rage many times in the lives of many women she knew.
- A Cure For Cellphone Addiction | Do You Ever?Exploring Patriarchy Chapter 19 – He loved his work and his hobbies and didn’t wish to sacrifice these things. So he did something she’d been asking him to do for a long time without much success. He started to put aside his cellphone on the weekends! Poem: Do You Ever? Do you ever leave your house without your phone call up somebody who lives alone feel grateful for the friend who was there through the sad let your maid have a day off when her back is bad?
- The Stages of My Life | DefinitionsExploring Patriarchy Chapter 20 – It used to be Baby ‘cos they saw I was young the one they looked after when her parents weren’t around. Then, it was Didi – the elder sister a young adult woman without a ‘Mister’. MM’s Story: The role of the Indian woman is defined very differently from that of the Indian man. Her career, education or income level matter very little. What seems to be important to society is her personal choices. Or those that are made for her by her family. And by the God’s.
- Microwave Madam on Building-UncleExploring Patriarchy Chapter 21 – Those of you who live in India will understand the term Building-Uncle even though it might be new to you. For those who don’t, in India, all elderly men are called Uncle wherever they go, and elderly women, Auntie. The Building-Uncle is my term for the uncle who lives within the same housing society or building.
- Life Second-Class – The Mother-in-LawExploring Patriarchy Chapter 22 – MM loved her mother-in-law (referred to later as MM’s MIL) for many reasons I’ve mentioned before in ‘Exploring Patriarchy Chapter 3 – Equality at Home | A Wonderful Woman’. A separation of living spaces goes a long way in helping mother-in-law and daughter-in-law love each other. And there’s one more important factor we often under-value, namely, the role of the Indian man.
- On Marital Rape and ConsentExploring Patriarchy Chapter 23 – MM was horrified at the lack of a law on marital rape in India. Read this article by the Times of India – Why Marital Rape Exists In Homes, In Data, But Not In Law. MM had only ever experienced caring and kindness in this aspect of her marriage, but she knew women who hadn’t. Women for who the bedroom was a place to tolerate. To endure. To dread. And to fear.
- Practising SovereigntyExploring Patriarchy Chapter 24 – Microwave Madam learns new skills. Practising. Some steps forward. Pushback. . .
- The Chief Picker-Upper & Fetcher of ThingsExploring Patriarchy Chapter 25 – They wanted their stuff. And their ideas. Even if they didn’t work anymore because life and lifestyles had changed so much.
- Holding On To SelfExploring Patriarchy Chapter 26 – As I mentioned in Chapter 24, Microwave Madam had begun practising sovereignty. This meant unlearning ideas that make women think that running on empty is ok. And learning that support is a two-way street.
- Solutions – Moving On From AnxietyExploring Patriarchy Chapter 27 – It’s cuddly dog and happy face and we have to look our best, hair always neat and in place. Skirt around what’s going down because talking like it’s okay can turn things around. This chapter was inspired by a wonderful book on positivity – ‘I’m OK – You’re OK’ by Thomas A Harris, MD.
- Solutions – My Friend TemperExploring Patriarchy Chapter 28 – Temper. My Friend. You keep me safe when the load gets too heavy and they won’t give me a break. Speaking out calmly and assertively when there’s pushback is always a risk. Now, it was a risk she was willing to take. A risk she was angry enough to take.
What happens when the busy is more than families can handle? Do they see that it’s a problem and realize they need to do something about it? Or do they accept it and wait till it reaches breaking point?
Here’s the story of the busy of Microwave Madam. A busy that combined with rigid gender roles and took away ease in daily living. See how her struggles made her look for solutions.
- When Chores Take Over | She’s got OCDFire Fighting Mode Chapter 1 – She’s got OCD – it keeps her safe, the world will end if the tendli is cut round, not straight.
- Gender Roles | The Bottom of the BarrelFire Fighting Mode Chapter 2 – She’s like the bottom of the pot where the spoon scrapes when there’s not enough inside to put on our plates. Like the bottom of the barrel that bears the pressure when it’s filled to the brim. With no ease or leisure.
- Reaching For Help | Five Years a VictimFire Fighting Mode Chapter 3 – The sins of the mother come down to her son, but how long should we blame her for what he’s become? One year of marriage – a journey together, a year during which we learn more about each other.
- Ownership | The Sins of Their Father’s MotherFire Fighting Mode Chapter 4 – Do women deserve a weekly off or do they need to pay for the sins of their husbands mother on that seventh day? The mother who never got any rest and thought that it was right to be an obedient daughter-in-law and a quiet unopinionated wife.
- Hope | Not WonderwomanFire Fighting Mode Chapter 5 – Microwave Madam was at a turning point now. Where one hits rock bottom and discovers there’s only one way to go. And that’s upward.
Becoming Microwave Madam
Meet Microwave Madam and understand why she gave up her career and opted for work-from-home with low pay.
- Conditioning and WaysBecoming Microwave Madam Chapter 1 – She didn’t realize she’d been conditioned to think a certain way. That he too, like her, had been conditioned by social and cultural expectations, as one often just looks at them as the norm.
- Microwave MadamBecoming Microwave Madam Chapter 2 – You might need to remember India at the time home appliances entered the market, to understand Microwave Madam. The resistance to new which also encompasses the attitude to the new woman in a housing societies, but does not extend to her husband.
- Gender Roles and MarriageBecoming Microwave Madam Chapter 3 – Marriage for many starts with the premise that the income of the husband is permanent and therefore more important, and that of the wife an option and not a real need. That’s the way she thought, and the way he did too. It’s the way it was for their parents, and a system familiar and therefore easy to adopt.
- The MaidBecoming Microwave Madam Chapter 4 – The maid was a solution that started another problem – She goes on leave for just 15 days from the 15th of Feb till the 15th of May.
- Juggling RolesBecoming Microwave Madam Chapter 5 – It would take her years to learn to be efficient at cooking, cleaning and organization, because doing this meant discarding old ideas and traditions. Fixations on they way things had to be done that come down from generation to generation in Indian families and are so much a part of customs and traditions that one needs to really be pushed against a wall to question them.
- This BusyBecoming Microwave Madam Chapter 6 – 9 to 5 equals 7, on days that are busy they’re home after eleven. Both of them work and their schedule’s real tight, it’s what they expected but this busy isn’t right.
Hi, I’m Anitaelise. I teach piano lessons and write poetry. I love walking in the sun, listening to music and playing the piano. Happiness is seeing my students in piano class. Writing in my diary. Being out in the sun. Planting in my little compost pots. And looking up recipes that I’m never going to cook. Minimalism and and organization have relaxed my housekeeping and brought much joy to daily living.
The Relaxed Housekeeper by Anita Elise Kohli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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