“10 years ago, the girl would have been counselled on how to change her dress sense for the boy, how to do as he says.”

As 2013 comes to an end – an email with a positive story.

One of the many ways patriarchal societies maintain social, gender, class, age, wealth  and family hierarchies is by allowing (even encouraging) some members to ‘attempt to improve’ the personal lives and choices (etc) of those who can be coerced to ‘display respect’ by tolerating this unasked for guidance/help.

And who has the permission to ensure that those ‘lower’ in social/family hierarchy stop being their ordinary imperfect selves and come up to their better expectations?

Generally anybody who is older; or who earns or inherits more; or who holds more degrees; or is a ‘ladke wala. Or simply those who others are advised to see as ‘more successful’ – basically most of those who fall in this category.

It seems more of us are, finally, beginning to see the Emotional Abuse in obvious control that the one who is being allowed to ‘improve’ is being given over the life of the one being persuaded to ‘display respect’ by trying to become someone they are not, and probably can never be. 

Hopefully, as time goes, we will hear less of, “It’s for their own benefit.” 


I am writing to share a very positive story that I heard on my visit home this year. never thought this will happen, but its in these small ways that the change is happening.
A family friend got engaged to a boy. I heard that within 3 months, the engagement was called off.
I asked my mother for the reason, and she told me this really heartwarming story:
The boy apparently criticised the girl on her dress sense. He made her feel inadequate against his expectations. The girl came home and the marriage was called off, because we don’t want our girl to live with constant criticism. She has to be accepted for who she is.
10 years ago, the girl would have been counselled on how to change her dress sense for the boy, how to do as he says. I was soo zapped to hear this – asking that our girl should be accepted for who she is.. Yahoo!
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32 thoughts on ““10 years ago, the girl would have been counselled on how to change her dress sense for the boy, how to do as he says.”

  1. Awesome! 🙂 I also see many people who talk about the girls of today being arrogant because they earn. It is not arrogance, why should a woman or whoever be submissive to the other spouse? Some see woman’s financial freedom as threat to this ‘obedience’ they are expected to have. Both are partners, & must be equal.


  2. It’s ridiculous to make someone feel inadequate for something so silly. If the guy hadn’t liked her clothing, he’s been gifted with beautiful things called “eyelids”. I heard that you can close them when you don’t want to look at something. Too bad he couldn’t put them to good use!

    Anyway, I’m glad things are changing. There’s still quite a ways to go, but it’s the small things, really, that count. 🙂


  3. Was she dressed too “revealingly” and did that make him uncomfortable?
    After all, even if he could operate his eyelids to close them, there was no way to control the eyelids of others.

    Was she dressed too “conservatively” and he wanted to see more skin?

    Just curious.

    Anyway, all that he should have done was to tell her what dresses he likes to see women wearing without insisting on them. He should also have asked her how she would like to see men dressed and have a frank discussion to see if they could come to some understanding so that future problems are avoided.

    I like to see my wife in a saree, but never object to her choice of salwar kameez which she chooses to wear most of the time.
    I refuse to wear jeans, even though my wife expressed her desire to see me wearing them.
    We get along fine.

    If they could not agree on sartorial preferences and if they could break up early, on such an issue, it is quite likely, that they would have had even more serious differences on diet, spiritual inclinations, finance, family relationships, children and career plans,

    Any way there was no reason for him to make her feel inadequate. He was probably trying to establish at an early stage, who was going to be the boss in the relationship and the girl was quick to recognize it.

    That boy must be a wiser man today, after this experience.
    It can work the other way too.
    I know another case where a girl lectured a boy on his occasional smoking during the “interview” and he called it off.

    Better for both.



  4. Story of my life.
    Many moons ago I declined a marriage proposal because the guy seemed to be upset by the fact that I did not eat non-vegetarian food. His ridiculous concern was how it would affect his social standing with his American friends who he often partied with.
    So glad I dodged that bullet.


  5. This is not uncommon. There is a lady here whose husband doesn’t want her to wear jeans!!
    So, imagine in this cold – she walks around when she can shivering in the cold!! And she’s pregnant to boot!!

    This is indeed a very nice change!! I have hope – if this is happening in our beautiful country.. then maybe some of the repressed Indians living abroad will learn a lesson or two?


  6. my favorite part of this story is that she was able to call off the marriage for such a “trivial” issue as dress sense. thankfully they were able to infer the root cause as incompatibility instead of trying to forcenfit what would probably never have worked.


  7. If one were to be the guy in this situation, would you go ahead and break the engagement yourself because you don’t like your fiancé sense of dressing? What will be the right thing to do for the guy? Accept the dressing sense, try to change it or break off the engagement directly? Especially if the guy asks the girl to change , she refuses but doesn’t break off the engagement from her side. Will we call the guy an arrogant misogynstic than?


    • Nope. We’ll call him a guy who knows what he wants and what he is willing to work with. Better not go ahead with the association than regretting it later. As simple as that.


    • Anonymous,
      If you go back and read a bunch of random posts here, you’ll notice the tone of most commentators here : we all believe that men are affected by patriarchy as well in very subtle ways. So no, calling off an engagement by a guy for any reason he feels is valid is not misogynistic. What is misogynistic is the “society” that will brand the girl as someone unsuitable for family life because some guy “rejected” her.


    • Well, if you’re a guy or a girl, and you have a problem with the way SOMEONE ELSE dresses, then you probably need to think about why it concerns you so badly, the type of clothes that others put on their body, and why you need to control those types of decisions. Again, this is for both men and women. I see lots of judgmental people everywhere, and it boggles my mind why such personal decisions that someone else makes bothers them so much.

      With that being said, the right thing for the guy in the e-mail, as well as the guy in your hypothetical situation to do would be to ultimately accept the person’s dress sense and understand that it doesn’t affect you. Even if it isn’t necessarily your cup of tea, hey, you’re not being forced to wear those long johns under your pants and socks with those sandals. However, if you’re the judgmental type of person, then do everyone a favour and break off the engagement. No one deserves to live under constant judgement like that. Find someone who dresses more to your taste and make everybody happy. Not a perfect decision, but not a bad one either.


  8. This is a good trend that I’m seeing these days – breaking an engagement is considered more acceptable than ever. One of my good friends had an engagement broken when the guy stopped agreeing with relocation plans, and yet another case where the girl was simply not easy to get along with.

    But in general, I think arranged marriage in it’s original form needs to go. There shouldn’t be commitment without dating. I heard that one of extended family members was advised to avoid a girl who had a broken engagement. They simply felt they could find another girl who had less issues for them to think through. This is rather pathetic.


    • Niketan: I really think that in a lot of cases, these small things are early warning systems of deeper problems that can get worse later. so strictly, imho, it is much better to call off something that might snowball into something disastrous later.


      • I don’t agree, how would either of us feel if we were the woman I just talked about? I think arranged marriages are really a way to eliminate people, not choose them. I’d rather choose my partner than have other non-candidates eliminated


    • “They simply felt they could find another girl who had less issues for them to think through”

      The feelings are mutual. I’d say the girl dodged a bullet.


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  12. Men adapted western clothing (pants, shirt) around 1940s. Whose permission did men seek when they changed their way of dressing from dhoti to pants. If should not have to get permission to accept a different variety of clothing, then women shouldn’t either. If anyone wants to mandate the wives dressing style then husband should expect to get similar treatment from wife.


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