By Manasi Nene
France-based graphic artist Emma is out with a new series called You Should’ve Asked, and we love it. Highlighting the mental cost of domestic work, something that is almost always left to the women, Emma understands how exactly to explain it to someone who cannot see it, and makes it easier to understand.
“You Should’ve Asked” is a common refrain for a lot of the feminist men in our house – fathers and grandfathers during dinner parties, our brothers during our PMS. Of course, it isn’t so easy just to ask and get something done. Because gender is so deeply linked to our performance of it, most people can’t even articulate how woefully inadequate that phrase – “You Should’ve Asked” – is.
Emma draws links between housework-management and corporate management – management is already a full-time job, and it is generally not the manager or planner that ends up executing the plan. In contrast, at home, it is often the women, the mothers, daughters, grandmothers and sisters that end up managing and getting everything done. She explains the “mental load” that this creates – the difference between just doing the dishes, and 1) doing the dishes 2) remembering to buy more soap 3) actually buying more soap 4) fixing broken bartans 5) tracking down all the dabbas and pots and pans and every other offshoot of the simple act of doing the dishes.
The feminist problem here isn’t merely the refusal of the physical workload – it’s also about the mental workload. Emma’s comic shows that true equality isn’t just about big concepts like the glass ceiling or reproductive health – it’s simple, everyday things that often end up hurting women more than men, whether we intend to or not.