Politics of Cooking: How Ghanaian Women Are Pressured Into Performing Free Labor For Men

rafWhile suspicious, there is a remarkable difference between women choosing to cook as an individual gesture of kindness and the tweet positioned to the left. This tweet represents male entitlement, and the ways in which women are expected, guilt-tripped, stereotyped and coerced by a patriarchal society to bear a majority of the burden of domestic labor. By requiring women to perform this unpaid labor, men’s time and efforts are freed so that they can continue to amass economic, social, and political power outside of the household within society at large. Our patriarchal society demands and obligates that women do domestic labor simply because they are women. Domestic labor that is unpaid, unappreciated and disrespected because it is “women’s work”. “Women’s work” is often presented as too low, and too demeaning for men with dignity to engage in. It is devalued, rarely compensated, and taken for granted. Women are expected to do this form of labor, and they are expected to do it freely, repeatedly, and without complaining. And women who refuse, or fail to learn how to properly perform, domestic labor are hailed with insults and attacks upon their dignity. They are presented as persons who have failed to grasp the necessary essentials of what it means to be a woman, they are presented as persons who have failed to perform a necessary obligation, and even worse they are presented as bad women: unworthy of love and value. Mmaa Bone.

What Is Domestic Labor ?

Domestic labor includes all of the duties that one must perform to ensure that the household is running efficiently and effectively. It includes washing all the clothes, cleaning all the rooms, cooking all the meals, ironing all of the clothes, fixing all the broken appliances or ensuring that the broken appliances are fixed, going to market so that there are groceries to cook to eat, meeting your husband’s needs and lastly (but certainly not least) attending to all of the emotional and physical needs of children within the household.For your children, it is helping them do homework, picking them up from school or taking them to school, listening to their long stories about what happened in school, injecting them with self-confidence and resilience when they are broken, disciplining them when they engage in bad behavior, and the guilt and burden of ensuring that your children become healthy, functioning, happy people. It is not easy work. It is time consuming, it is energy draining but it is taken for granted as work that falls squarely upon the shoulders of women because women are supposedly mandated by God or by biology to do this work uncompensated.

How Does It Benefit Men?

If cooking and other domestic labor did not benefit men they would not constantly demand that women do it.

As Judy Brady’s classic essay conveys having a wife to do all of your domestic labor entitles you to free labor. It would be nice to have someone to prepare my meals for the day, and also my lunch for work for the next day if I want a home cooked meal. It would be nice for someone to go to the market and buy the ingredients to make my favorite dishes when I want. It would be nice for someone to wash my clothes, to iron them, to mend them when they are broken and lay them out for me to wear the next day. It would be nice for someone to clean up after me, wash my dishes, clean my rooms, make my bed, and wipe the water and toothpaste stains on the sink after I brush my teeth. It would be nice to have someone to have sex with, to listen to my stories and support me in all of my emotional needs. It would be nice for someone to raise my children for me and ensure that my household affairs are in order, while I focus on my career goals, aspirations and desire to build the world.

How Is Domestic Labor Invisible And Unappreciated?

Domestic labor is invisible because it is not conceptualized as work. Often times we only view work through a capitalistic lens. It is only that which is compensated economically that is regarded and respected as “work”. Yet, Domestic labor certainly has economic value. Only those with disposable income can afford to outsource the labor that women are guilt-tripped and forced to perform for men free of charge. To replace domestic labor one will need to hire a cook, a nanny, a maid, a therapist, a private tutor, and in many respects a sex worker, to perform all of the duties that women are supposed to perform for free. Yet the manner in which our society is arranged does not compensate domestic labor performed by women within heteronormative family institutions.

Domestic labor is unappreciated. It is assumed to be women’s work. It is presented as an intrinsic part of women’s obligations and women who do not perform this work: because they never learn how or do not desire to, are devalued and degraded. It is taken for granted that domestic labor consist of obligations that women must fulfill. Even women with full-time jobs are obligated to still perform a majority of domestic labor. Regardless of how tired, regardless of how stressed, and regardless of how drained women are, they are still expected, without flinching, to perform this labor for men’s benefit.

Solution (Demands)

  1. Recognize domestic labor as hard work.
  2. Respect domestic labor by recognizing that it is essential, necessary work that must be done for society to function.
  3. De-gender domestic labor by refusing to demand that women perform this labor as part of our womanly duties.
  4. SHARE domestic labor. Require that men participate in this work as part of a healthy, functioning, familial institution.
  5. Construct a societal scheme to compensate domestic laborers fairly. Either through private mechanisms by requiring families  to pay domestic laborers or publicly through tax breaks and governmental public benefits.

16 thoughts on “Politics of Cooking: How Ghanaian Women Are Pressured Into Performing Free Labor For Men

      1. Oh?
        Boy are you smart! Or should I say psychic? Or just had too much caffeine?

        Three letters gotcha all up in my head, reading me inside out, huh?

        I’m impressed at your unique ability to present a one paragraph thesis that is so inaccurate, its artistic…

        Do keep on being the psychic you are..👏👏

        By the way what color shirt am I wearing today?



  1. Assaase Yaa, here’s what I think ..

    I’ll not start being judgemental because I don’t know where you took your sample size from or what or where you sat before you conjured this article..

    Its . entertaining read, but that’s just what it is. Tweeps tweet all types of stuff, and it takes a lot more than YOUR interpretation or understanding of a tweet to lend it universal credence

    Like I said, this is probably for light reading, so I will not interrogate the factual inaccuracies and stereotypic projections that you have deliberately inundated this article with…

    Again, I don’t know what or who forms your sample size.. It could prolly be two or three Manhattan families, so I won’t belabour it..

    What I do know is that it is not fully representative of any African family that I know..

    I therefore feel safe in assuming this isn’t targeted at any African family. Or at least, any West African family..

    That having been said, I find your writing stimulating (I must confess, you’re the only blogger I follow) , interesting, but always biased..

    Is that intentional? Just so that I know what to take seriously, and what to mentally tag “fiction” so as to not engage in a 100 paragraph dissection of such..

    I do agree with you on a number of other subjects, as I’m sure u you have observed, so just take this as a divergent view, no malice intended.

    Looking forward to your next article..

    Liked by 1 person

      1. lol it’s interesting to deny that women are pressured and compelled to cook and do domestic labor in Ghana, and it’s also interesting to deny women do the majority of this work.


      2. ALL women? Who pressures them? Isn’t it because those who do are better at it? Due to the years of training THEIR moms handed down to them?

        Your blogs are too one sided, demonizing the men out there…

        I move within certain circles whose men do their share of the house AND provide financially for the entire household. But its obvious such men don’t exist in the areas where you conduct your “research” and so I can only continue to read your articles with the accompanying chuckles they deserve… ☺


  2. “To replace domestic labor one will need to hire a cook, a nanny, a maid, a therapist, a private tutor, and in many respects a sex worker, to perform all of the duties that women are supposed to perform for free.” Absolutely true, and it would behoove men and society at large to see how many different roles and duties women are expected to fulfill (simply because they are women) and question why that’s the case, and why men cannot share in responsibilities.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. May I just say what a comfort to discover someone that
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    You definitely understand how to bring an issue to light
    and make it important. A lot more people need to read this and understand
    this side of the story. I was surprised that you are not more popular because you certainly possess the gift.

    Liked by 1 person

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