What’s the Real Message Here?

Not so long ago, I sat in on a twelfth grade psychology class. The topic was security and how everyone has to do their part to maintain security. After a brief lecture, the class split into groups. Each group developed and preformed a skit about one of the following topics: security in the home, security in the plaza, security in the community, security in the bus, and security in the school.

The skits were funny and covered a range of themes from helping old people on the bus (this skit poked fun at the Paraguayan buses…more on that later) to picking up trash in the town plaza.

One skit struck me more than the others, but not because of its security message. The plot: The stay at home mom had a lot to do around the house, and so she was unable to have lunch (the biggest meal in Paraguay) ready for the hour her husband came home. She had three daughters who at the beginning didn’t help her with the house chores—one was texting, one was watching TV, and one was painting her nails. One day the father came home and lunch wasn’t ready. He got angry and told the daughters they had to help their mother because he wants lunch ready when he gets home because he is hungry. After that, the daughters helped their mother and lunch was ready for the father when he got home.

I understand that the intended message of this skit was that everyone should contribute in the house. But, for me, the skit did a better job of illustrating power relationships and gender expectations.

I found it interesting that the reason the daughters had to help was because their father wanted his lunch at a specific hour. From what I’ve seen in Paraguay so far, most women’s prescribed role is taking care of their men. Women aren’t powerless here, but the last word is usually the man’s, especially when he’s the main breadwinner. I also noted that it was three daughters—this was mostly due to who was in the group developing the skit—but I think expectations for sons are different. The sons I’ve seen do help out, but few do many house chores.

For me, this little skit was a great example of how gender norms and expectations permeate through how we see everything in society. It made me wonder how a group of high school students would portray the same topic, security in the home, in the US.