Changing Someone (or oneself)

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

When I was a kid, I remember watching movies where a woman changes her irresponsible or alcoholic husband to become her dream life partner. She accomplishes this through forbearance, persistence, and faith, qualities that tended to glorify her and epitomized womanhood. Movies are just a reflection of prevailing social attitudes. Since our culture expects women to adjust and make marriages work at any cost, it follows that a woman trying to mold her husband is/was seen as a positive and proactive way to finding happiness.

In real life, however, is it possible to change someone? Is it even fair to attempt to change someone? What are some situations where we might wish to change our loved ones?

  • We might want them to be fairer (sharing house work and parenting for instance), more responsible, or more committed to the relationship. These are reasonable expectations.  Let’s call this the reasonable zone.
  • We might want them to exercise, eat better, and relax more, out of concern for their health. Although this is reasonable, we are now entering the sensitive zone of personal choices.  What if someone’s personal choices impact our happiness?  What if your spouse is overworked and constantly irritable?  On the one hand, a healthier, happier spouse does have a positive impact on our own happiness and the health of our relationship.  Yet, where do you draw the line here?  What if someone is happy with their excess weight or their no-so-great eating habits?  Do we worry about the future impact of their habits on their health (and consequently our happiness)?  Or do we let them be because it’s their choice?
  • Some of us may even be occasionally tempted to change their tastes and preferences, and may go so far as to tell them to change their feelings about something.  This is a clear cut ‘wrong zone‘.

Expecting one’s partner to be more responsible, fair, and committed is completely reasonable. Wanting them to modify their lifestyle or character (become more disciplined, more relaxed, or more diligent) is going to be somewhat problematic, even if it is well intentioned.

However, asking them to change their tastes and preferences is completely unfair. Expecting them to change their feelings about something is not only unreasonable, it’s downright impossible. People have no control over their feelings; they only have control over their actions. They may despise someone. They can choose not to yell at this person and they can certainly choose to not hit the person. But they can’t change how they feel (intense dislike/hate).

When attempting to change someone close to you, ask yourself, ‘whose problem is it?’ If your husband likes to get up late on Sundays, take a late shower, go unshaven all day, dress sloppily, then that’s what he likes to do. It is not your problem to own. Let him be. If your wife likes to watch a certain show that drives you nuts, leave the room. Let her be. In both cases, don’t attempt to change the other’s tastes or preferences.

So, let’s assume that we remain in the reasonable zone or venture into the sensitive zone – we want someone to change because it makes them healthier, happier, less frustrated, it makes our life better, and it makes our relationship better. Even this is extremely difficult to do. Many people resist change for many different reasons. It is therefore crucial to understand the factors that constitute change, before we attempt to change someone or ourselves.

Factors that Influence Changing Oneself or the Other

1. Self awareness

Change begins with self-awareness. The first step is for the person himself to feel the need for change. When I feel tired because I’m overworked and realize it, I’m aware that I need to take breaks. When I feel emotionally distanced from my loved ones and realize it, I’m aware that I’ve been spending less time with them and paying the price for it. Awareness is therefore an important prerequisite for change. If you want your partner to change, help him/her become more and more aware of the problem. When discussing this very sensitive topic, try to be helpful rather than judgmental. Focus on how a certain behavior or habit is impacting him or those around him. Stay away from offering solutions, because interfering with the process of self awareness and self-motivation to change can be counter productive. You can’t really GET someone to change, but you can help them LET themselves change.

2. Desire and Commitment

Awareness leads to desire (to change) and desire leads to commitment. In the desire stage, we start thinking about what we want. If only I could find time to go for a walk. If only I could enroll in that programming class so I can feel more adept at my work. If only I could practice my violin. Visualizing what we would like to do can be extremely motivating. As a partner, help the other visualize what he/she would like to achieve. Of course, dreaming can only take us so far. A practical plan is necessary to execute. Strategize on what can be done to make the change happen – what are some obstacles, what are some possibilities, is there a Plan B when Plan A fails, would intermediate goals and rewards help. Review the plan daily, acknowledge successes and don’t let your partner be intimidated by setbacks along the way.

3. Be the person/change you want to see

Gandhi was right. Modeling change can be powerful. If you want your children to read more and watch less television, ask yourself how much you are reading. Children who see their parents reading a lot also tend to become avid readers. If you want your partner/spouse to exercise more, offer to go for a walk with him. If he prefers to go to the gym, offer to go to the gym with him (at least initially, to get him motivated).

4. Environmental modification ( for children)

Removing temptations from the environment works wonders, especially with children. In our kitchen, we don’t stock junk food because we want everyone to eat healthy. There are tons of fruit in the fridge if someone wants to grab a snack between meals. We made a conscious choice not to have cable. We do have our DVD player to watch movies because it is so much easier to control movie watching than cable television with its constant transmission. (We get the news on our car radios on our way to work.)

Just as negative elements and distractions can be removed from the environment, positive elements can be added to it. When my kids were very little, they had 2 choices for their free time – they could stay in and read or do art or they could go outside and play. Our home has always been stocked with lots of children’s books and there are plenty of art supplies and a whole play area where they can really get messy with finger paint and other art materials. I took them on lots of outings – walks, parks, museums, aquariums, and read lots of books to them. As they got older, they willingly enrolled in team sports like basketball, soccer and cross country, which keep them pretty occupied. They’re not addicted to screens because they got so used to healthier ways to entertain themselves.

Please note that environmental modification can be used as a positive parenting tool, not a controlling tool.  It is not just about ‘removing’ things from the environment but also about giving children lots and lots of choices (positive ones).

The above are some straightforward ways to bring about positive change. But what do we do when change is hard to actualize? What if the person is resistant to change?

Some factors that create resistance to change

1. The underlying self-image and correcting it

Sometimes people are a certain way because that’s how they see themselves. We all carry these self-images of ourselves at an unconscious level. Sheela may see herself as inept at her work and feel like she’s getting by without really being productive. If she is offered a promotion (because her boss genuinely appreciates her diligence), she may see this as further confirmation of her fakeness. Ravi may see himself as an uninteresting person. If his friends ask him to go on a trip with them, he may see this as their attempt to rescue him from his boring life, as an act of sympathy. Children who are controlled a lot and have to fight for every little thing may soon get labeled as obstinate, difficult, or rebellious. Soon, they come to believe these labels, and may continue to rebel throughout their adult lives, even when it’s unnecessary. We hold on to our self-images (even when they are negative) because they are familiar and grounding.

As adults, it is therefore important to change our self-image if we want to change ourselves. Or help the people we love or work with change their self-image. If you want your co-worker to be more precise with numbers, praise her in the instances when she does demonstrate precision. If you want your son to be more considerate, notice and comment when he helps you clean up after dinner. If you want your friend to be more committed to your friendship, draw attention to the wonderful time you had together when she did make it. Complaining about what’s not happening confirms people’s negative self-images. Offering genuine praise challenges people to question their negative self-images. When you start noticing and drawing attention to their good side, they will begin to accept the idea that developing their good side is actually possible and doable.

2. Difficulty with taking input and being a ‘doer’

Some people are somewhat resistant to taking input. They feel cornered when you just “tell” them that something makes sense. Even a gentle suggestion may seem very forceful to them. Such people tend to be ‘doers’, that is they like figuring out things for themselves. It is much better to ask such people what they would like to do. Chances are they will choose the sensible path, once they are free of having a “solution” thrust upon them.

My older son is one of these people. He would typically waste a lot of time after he came home from school, then had to stay up really late to finish all his work. High school syllabus along with extra curricular activities demanded much more speed and efficiency from him, which he did not possess. As a result, he was sleep deprived and tired all day. To me, the most obvious thing to do was to start work early so he could get a good night’s sleep. But can I suggest something simple like this? Not with him (I now know that from many years of experience with him:-). Instead, I tried to nudge him toward finding his own solution. Our conversation went like this –

When he complained about being tired at school, I said, “Yeah I can imagine. You were up so late last night.”

He said, “These stupid projects and assignments! What are these teachers thinking?? How the heck can I get so much done in one evening??”

Me: “It’s certainly a ton of work!”

Him: “Yeah. It does require a lot of time.”

Me: “Uhuh.”

Him: “Maybe if I could start in the afternoon ….”

Me: “Hmm…”

Him: “I could eat my lunch quickly, then get started. Let me try that today and see how it goes.”

And it did go very well. He went to bed at a decent time that day and felt better the next day at school. He started doing that everyday and began managing the work load better. There would be days here and there where he would slip into the old habit of wasting time. But, once again, I simply acted as his sounding board. He would then self-correct himself and get back to a more efficient routine. I needed to accept that it’s simply his nature to be independent in the extreme, try out everything, and decide for himself what works and what doesn’t.

3. Simple for one is hard for another – being aware of differences in learning/abilities

Remember that what is simple for us can be hard for another. And vice versa. Being organized is easy for me but incredibly hard for my son. Making small talk and pretending to be interested in and managing large social groups is easy for my sister, but hard for me. Show understanding when the other struggles with change. Work with them. Help them find ways to problem solve. Don’t let them get discouraged when they fail. Keep reminding them that change is a process.

When my younger son wanted to play on the soccer team, it was incredibly hard for him to focus on his teammates directions and the ball simultaneously. His autism made it hard to separate or tune out the other team’s instructions to each other. Since he has autism, everyone around him is understanding and supportive of this. We solved this problem by assigning him a ‘buddy’ on the team who gives him instructions. The buddy works (practices soccer) with my son one on one before the game. This makes my son more attuned to his friend’s voice. During the game, he is better able to attune his attention to this single source of auditory input.

But how understanding and supportive are we of each other’s struggles when we don’t carry labels? We may be neurologically typical and yet, most people tend to struggle with certain skills. Being aware of this simple fact helps us persist with our goals without giving up and finding the right supports to facilitate the process.

4. Model willingness to change

If you want your partner or friend to change in one area, pick another area that is difficult for you to change. I wanted my friend to read more fiction and poetry (because that’s what I love discussing) and not just non-fiction (which she tends to enjoy). So, I began signing up for hiking up the hills more (I tended to prefer flat trails) because she loves making it all the way to the peaks (of some smaller, local hills). Once she started seeing me do things that did not come easily and naturally, she became more willing to step out of her comfort zone as well. Willingness to change ourselves motivates those around us to change. It also builds empathy in us for other’s struggles.

5. Assign responsibilities according to strengths/talents/interests

In my MBA class, we were part of team of 4 that worked together for the entire 2 year period. In my team, we had the analyzer, the (detail oriented) fact checker, the (big picture) strategic planner, and the writer/presenter/charmer/people person. Each of us excelled at our roles and tried to learn from the strengths of the others. Work environments frequently categorize people in teams along similar lines/strengths. At home, I hate doing dishes but I’m the better cook. When we share household tasks, I do more of the cooking while my husband does more of the dishes and laundry.   Many parents also divide child rearing duties to match their strengths – one parent may be involved with studies while the other manages sports and other interests/classes. Here, there is no necessity to change one’s style, and different styles can be complementary.

6. Ignore weaknesses by remembering strengths

There are some things that are either impossible to change in ourselves or are so difficult to change that it’s not worth the effort. It’s best to ignore certain weaknesses if they do not interfere with our lives or our loved one’s lives in a major way. My co-worker’s husband tends to be very fact oriented in his conversations. She wished more than anything to be able to have more fulfilling conversations with him at a deeper level. For him, her getting promoted would be just that, a simple fact that deserved to be celebrated. For her, it would lead to a discussion of the effort that went into it, a proper evaluation of the outcome, the dynamics of a motivating work environment, future career options, and change management. After several failed attempts at trying to change this aspect of him, and a lot of frustration for both of them, she stopped trying to change how he converses. She is now content that they do have a very loving relationship. He is always there for her and supports her in every way, in her career, in her personal life, in her interests. She has joined a book club to get those deep conversations that she enjoys (and while she is busy with her deep discussions, he gets happily busy restoring his 1960s Thunderbird in the garageJ).

Non-negotiable Situations – when trying to change someone is futile (Black and white areas)

It is important to note situations where we cannot change the other and the healthy/sane option is to leave the relationship:

  • in all cases of abuse, emotional or physical, it is best to leave – counseling can help in a few cases, but as soon as one realizes that counseling is not helping, it is best to leave
  • when you find out your husband is gay and you happen to be straight (No, you cannot change someone’s orientation, it is like left or right handedness. Your husband may have gotten married out of parental pressure; he may be fearful or in denial or selfish or good hearted or all of the above – it does not matter, just leave)
  • when your spouse is alcoholic (he needs counseling/help, and again in some cases, this actually helps, and when it doesn’t, you need to leave)
  • when your spouse is selfish, mean, is aware of this and is unwilling to change because it suits him – patience, understanding, and supportiveness have no place here. He is the way he is because it’s convenient. By staying, you are rewarding him for his selfishness. Nothing you do is ever going to make a difference because there is no desire or commitment to change.
  • finally trying to change someone’s tastes, preferences, feelings, opinions, and personal choices that have no impact on others’ lives is wrong, unfair, and when done with persistence, can constitute as abuse.

Most relationships may not be those non-negotiable black and white situations. They may fall in the grey area – where your spouse, friends, parents, children, or co-workers are not really selfish and have good intentions but may be making choices that either impact them or both of you in a harmful/negative way. In these situations, understanding what factors constitute change, being empathetic to the challenges in engendering real change, and knowing what expectations of change are fair versus unfair can go a long way in shaping our relationships to fulfill our needs.

Please share your thoughts and experiences with trying to change some part of yourself or someone you love or care for.

Related Posts:

I hope the following links drive home the point that change cannot be used to gain approval/validation, to alter one’s personality/preferences nor can it be used to make a failed/abusive relationship work.  Change is pertinent in primarily 2 broad situations – (1) when we ourselves are unhappy with the existing state and wish to change – and (2) when our behavior directly impinges on another’s rights.

Can a woman marry and change an uninterested man into a loving and responsible husband?

Taking responsibility for improving (?) men’s sex lives empowers women?

Does loving someone mean we should improve them?

How do we go about accepting ourselves just the way we are?

“I think most problems in life are when we look for approval and validation outside of ourselves.”

“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.”

Who would you never ask for advice?

What are you criticised the most for?

“So why do we wear clothes again??”

‘I wish one had the liberty to slap these kids to senses and send them back to kindergarten to be taught…”Why do we wear clothes again??”’ (From J’s comment here)

So why do we wear clothes?

1. For protection from heat and cold? Most civilisations that did not need protection from cold did not have rigid rules for body being covered up.

Did traditional Indian clothing have blouses or shirts? Men and women wrapped a dhoti or sari, children generally wore nothing. Body was decorated with flowers, ‘alta’, turmeric, sandal wood paste, kohl and jewelry, wanting to look good was not considered inappropriate.

When invaders arrived from locations where clothing was necessary for protection from extreme heat or cold, they also brought along the concept of ‘shame’ and modesty. In ‘Chokher Bali‘ the newly wed refuses to wear a blouse with sari, because it was too British (modern).

Once the society starts covering women up, Margaret Atwood describes how the threshold for what is found sexually attractive changes, soon even a glimpse of an ankle becomes sexually provocative.

One example: Pakizah has the hero falling in love with Meena Kumari – after he sees her beautiful feet. Was that love?

2. Do we wear clothes to look better – to look sexually attractive?

Was there this fear that if women did not cover up, men might stop finding a mere glimpse of a part of a woman’s body attractive? (Margaret Atwood, Handmaiden’s Tale)

Mr Balvinder Singh’s experience in Nagaland shows making rules about covering up a woman’s body, is the beginning of objectification of women, to ensure ‘excitement’ does not ‘turn into monotony’.

“The men wore only a loincloth and the females wrapped just a shawl below their waists. The women folk of all ages were seen working in the fields, carrying fire wood or hay for the animals, pounding barley, washing clothes at village water points, knitting on hand looms (almost every house had a hand loom where the women would knit shawls etc) or attending to other such daily chores of life, wearing nothing on top.

While a small cleavage visible under the thin dupatta or through the pallu of a woman’s saree is certainly a pleasant sight for any man worth his salt, without harbouring any malafide thoughts in the mind, but there in the villages of Nagaland it was an anti climax to see the dangling pairs of bare boobs, available to look at in abundance in all shapes and sizes. Initially they were a cause of some excitement, which was natural , but gradually the excitement turned into monotony. I was reminded of the words of a famous poet that the ‘beauty that is veiled looks more beautiful’.” [Click here to read the entire article]

3. To prevent offending the sensibilities of those who think covering up is a religious/social/cultural/safety requirement?

This is extremely subjective.

Some people find even the glimpse of a woman’s eyes offends their religious sentiments, some find sleeveless blouses offensive, for many only traditional clothing no matter how much it convers or reveals is acceptable.

Some think it’s okay to wear anything so long as one can ‘carry  it off’.

Most people simply resist any change. So in most places,  there are rules regarding not just skin, but also how much of which clothing should not show.

So the sight of boxers and bra straps offends some people.

For many other people’s legs (shorts, bermudas), calves, arms (sleeveless) and knees (skirts), midriffs (saris, lehengas), shape, curves (fitted clothing) are offensive.

In  India showing one’s back and midriff is acceptable when one is wearing a sari, but not if the outfit is Western. Nigeria disagrees! Read Nita’s post – ‘Sari an immodest garment?’

So it seems what’s okay in some societies is not acceptable in some other societies and the rules change with times, all the time. Most societies seem to accept and rigidly follow their current – generally unwritten norms.

How do these norms get created? And how do they change?

How is it that more of these rules apply to women?

Could these rules be a means to control women’s sexuality?

Why do you think do humans wear clothes?

Related Posts: 

The way a woman dresses.

No Jeans for an Indian daughter in law.

Not just a pair of jeans.

All teachers except Indian women can do their job well enough in Western clothes?

Some happy relationship rules. Add yours?

These rules make even more sense after the last three posts.

  1. If a man wants you, nothing can keep him away. If he doesn’t want you, nothing can make him stay.
  2. Stop making excuses for a man and his behavior.
  3. Allow your intuition (or spirit) to save you from heartache.
  4. Stop trying to change yourself for a relationship that’s not meant to be.
  5. Slower is better.
  6. Never live your life for a man before you find what makes you truly happy.
  7. If a relationship ends because the man was not treating you as you deserve then heck no, you can’t “be friends”. A friend wouldn’t mistreat a friend. Don’t settle.
  8. If you feel like he is stringing you along, then he probably is.
  9. Don’t stay because you think “it will get better.” You’ll be mad at yourself a year later for staying when things are not better.
  10. The only person you can control in a relationship is you.
  11. Avoid men who’ve got a bunch of children by a bunch of different women. He didn’t marry them when he got them pregnant, why would he treat you any differently?
  12. Always have your own set of friends separate from his.
  13. Maintain boundaries in how a guy treats you.
  14. If something bothers you, speak up.
  15. Never let a man know everything. He will use it against you later.
  16. You cannot change a man’s behavior. Change comes from within.
  17. Don’t EVER make him feel he is more important than you are…even if he has more education or in a better job.
  18. Do not make him into a quasi-god. He is a man, nothing more nothing less.
  19. Never let a man define who you are.
  20. Never borrow someone else’s man.
  21. If he cheated with you, he’ll cheat on you.
  22. A man will only treat you the way you ALLOW him to treat you.
  23. You should not be the one doing all the bending…compromise is a two way street.
  24. You need time to heal between relationships…there is nothing cute about baggage… Deal with your issues before pursuing a new relationship.
  25. You should never look for someone to COMPLETE you… a relationship consists of two WHOLE individuals… look for someone complimentary…not supplementary.
  26. Dating is fun …even if he doesn’t turn out to be Mr. Right.
  27. Make him miss you sometimes… when a man always know where you are, and you’re always readily available to him – he takes it for granted.
  28. Never move into his mother’s house.
  29. Never co-sign for a man.
  30. Don’t fully commit to a man who doesn’t give you everything that you need.
  31. Keep him in your radar but get to know others.

This is said to have been written by Oprah in her book (Not sure though). Thanks for sharing Ashwathy!

A Sari to make you a Respectable Indian Teacher.

A local government college in Bhopal has banned jeans pants for lady teachers instructing them to wear saris while in the campus.

A spokesman of the management of Sarojini Naidu (Nutan) College said that the decision was taken to instil Indian culture in the college.

He said that till now, teachers were wearing salwar suits, kurtas and jeans due to which it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between them and students.

The spokesman said that a similar decision on enforcing a dress code for students would also be enforced from the next session.

“A dress code for students cannot be enforced during the middle of an academic session,” he said.

Or watch the news here.

“There is a personality of a teacher. You are standing wearing anything, or jeans that look vulgar, that is not right. Even students do not respect you as they think. So, this is very important,” said Pandit. (A teacher)

Should colleges be telling the students that traditional clothing can make a female wearer look ‘respectable‘? And so not wearing a sari does exactly the opposite?

Why is a salwar kameez – very much a traditonal Indian outfit, less respectable?

One assumption could be that the sari makes a woman look older. Also traditionally, in some parts of India, all married women must wear sari. I have blogged about meeting someone who thought that married women who do not wear sari are doing it behind their in laws’ and husband’s backs.

Bombay High Court held that a marriage can’t be ended over a sari.

The college could to be trying to say that a teacher in a sari is seen as older and ‘respectably married’ (or at least marriageable).

This is how stereotypes are created.

Is it okay for a college to ask the students to associate ‘respect’ (or honor!) with sari and vulgarity with Jeans?

“In thousands of ways, our culture has conditioned us to anticipate rape as a natural consequence of violating social norms”. These misconceptions are responsible for women blaming themselves for sexual crimes against themselves (…makes it easier for those who don’t care to take action).

The male teachers are not expected to wear dhoti and achkan. Doesn’t the college think the students need to respect the male teachers too? Why teach the students that double standards and gender bias are acceptable?

Has the college really given this a thought? There are many who think sari is ‘sensual’.  Jeans are actually seen as comfortable and easy wear, and saris as ‘dressy’ by many others. Many others feel sari is not easy to maintain or move in, and not weather appropriate, while jeans and salwar kameez are.

Also consider why is it so essential for the female teachers (if at all) to look ‘different from students’? What if a teacher continues to look like one of the students (i.e. young and unmarried) no matter what she wears?

And most importantly, shouldn’t an adult female wearer (like the rest of the population) be trusted to decide what is appropriate for her to wear?

Compare this news from Bhopal to this news from Lahore,

Jeans, Body Hugging Dresses Banned in Lahore College fearing Terror Threats.

Related Posts:

Not Just a Pair of Jeans

No Jeans for a Indian Daughters in law.

The way a woman dresses…

Provocatively Dressed.

Imperfect lives.

On March 7th 1964, Dr Henry delivers his twins, and while his wife is under sedation, decides to give away the ‘imperfect‘ twin, born with Down’s Syndrome.

Phoebe, the twin with Down’s Syndrome is sent to an institution. Here’s what the institution was like.

Dr Henry tells his wife they had a still born daughter and a healthy son. She wanted to hold the baby once, visit the grave and hold a Memorial Service…  She was advised to ‘move on’, and to focus on the child she had.

‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’ by  Kim Edwards touched a chord. 

Most of us have clear guidelines laid out for exactly what can make us happy. Who we marry, who we divorce, who we raise, who we abandon, what careers we choose, who we respect and whose opinions, feelings or wishes we can’t be expected to take seriously (like a child with Down’s syndrome)…

I liked this scene.

We expect happiness to come from success in career, being married at the right time, to a conventionally suitable partner and raising perfectly formed, class toppers and merit listed kids. Anything less could only mean disappointments and frustration?

Watch the trailer. (I hope the movie is as good as the book). Read the book. And think again.


The book is about women, men, children and families who fit, and those who don’t fit, into the ‘fit-to-be-happy‘ mold.

The book is also about some of us controlling the lives of some others amongst us. Phoebe’s mother longs for another baby but once again has no say in the matter. All with best of intentions to protect her from any further unhappiness (i.e. another imperfect child). For her own good. Her sister’s life shows how life is still a choice each one of us makes.

The book is also about women’s changing lives as they learn to break the norms and take control of their own lives.

And about how little (or how much) our happiness depends on how conventionally perfect our lives are.

 

Irresponsible girls who throw away their lives while in throes of lust for the completely wrong person…

In response to “Don’t let me down dear daughter!”, a comment expressed this opinion.

“In defense of parents – and while absolutely hating my parents for their emotional blackmail – I do see where they might come from. I have seen innumerable girls (and sadly this still applies to girls in our society) throw away their lives while in throes of lust for the completely wrong person.

These girls typically run away with the first guy who gathers enough courage to ask them out the first time. Typically this guy does not have a great value system, any sense of responsibility, any education,ambition, willingness to improve their lot in life, respect for women and so on and on. As a result, the said girl either lives her life in grief or returns to her parents home where none of guys among us will marry her anymore.
I have seen way too many examples of such irresponsible behaviour and so do not have any hopes of parents granting girls “freedom” within bounds.

As they say, it is the limitation that defines any freedom.”


I was going to delete this but further comments indicated that this was written in all seriousness.

My response:

I wonder why don’t we consider guiding these daughters instead of locking them up. That’s a more reliable ‘protection’. But is it really about protecting the girl from unhappiness? I don’t think so, because we don’t kill to protect.

Also…

Strangely, this  protection is only from falling in love (etc.) – not from violence, being burnt alive, abuse, murder or rape in their marital homes, even if this home is chosen by the parents.

Can an intelligent adult be expected to blindly trust such hypocrisy?

If the arguments given are honest and logical. If caste, community and the neighbour’s father in laws’ third cousin’s  opinion are not the reason given for rejection of a partner a daughter (so lustfully!) chooses.  Then the opinion of the elders would be considered worth taking. The parents have to earn this trust.

Sometimes girls are pushed into running away to escape forced-marriages or other problems at home. If the family accepts and supports their choices, girls won’t be forced to run away, they will see their home as their sanctuary and support system – as the place one always wants to come back to.

Assuming they do choose badly, could it be because they were not allowed to form independent opinions or choices?  While anybody can make a mistake  (including the parents) – some basic guidelines could make choosing easier for the daughters, but parents don’t want to hear of girls choosing their own partners.  They would rather kill them. One Khap supporter claimed only prostitutes choose their own partners.

When the parents arrange a marriage, do they always choose well?

Giribala said, ‘Freedom to obey’ is not ‘freedom.’ And when the obedient girl marries the person of her parents’ choice, she gets the ‘freedom to obey’ for the rest of her life!’

Freedom to obey also means, they can’t come back home.  Sometimes they must adjust till they die. Sometimes they kill themselves, sometimes they  are burnt to death, sometimes they are sixty before they realize they can’t go on. They are told their happiness depends on their luck. Does this make a daughter see the parents as her genuine well wishers?  Think about it, would you trust someone who says it’s your Destiny to live an unhappy life and your Duty to serve those who make life unlivable for you?

Social conditioning has such powers – some girls do.

Some rebel.

They can see that if they are old enough to get married then they are also old enough to choose their partners. Nobody has more right to decide who they marry than the girls themselves…

Sounds like common sense? But we tend to put custom (i.e. old habits ) over common sense.

There are some with unlimited freedom to control other citizen’s lives . It seems Gujarat  government has forgotten that these citizens are voters too.

GANDHINAGAR/SURAT: The Gujarat government has asked courts not to register marriages unless there’s parental consent in writing. (Click to read – Thanks for this link Desi Girl)

What do men need liberation from?

1. Men need liberation from being family breadwinners or ATM cards. All responsibilities should be shared by all adult family members.

If there is a family business, the son must (and the pressure increases if he is the first male child) join it, no matter how unsuited or how unwilling.

2. Men should be able to pursue their dreams.

I know of one talented man who wanted to be a theater artist, and still hopes to – some day when his family is settled. Men need liberation from a system that expects them to  – marry, ensure their spouse is dutiful,and have sons to carry on the family name …and the same responsibilities.

3. Men need liberation from being ‘protectors’ of women. Boys as little as four are taught to take care of all the women in the family. We might think it’s no big deal, it prepares them for taking over future responsibilities – but it is a burden, and I think every child has a right to stay a child while he is a child.

Girls who do not have brothers manage perfectly fine, women who do not have sons or husbands learn to ‘protect’ themselves. I think families should make an effort to encourage girls to take care of themselves, so their brothers – sometimes years younger – are not forced to be their ‘protectors’.

4. Another responsibility a lot of Indian boys have is of escorting the women in the family. Thousands of women travel to work and at all hours on their own, but many thousand more from all backgrounds are always accompanied by some male relative. It is a waste of time for the male relative. I think our society should realise that they have more to do in life than following (or leading) female relatives who can easily learn to move on their own.

I know of this woman who had an opportunity to sing at a Radio Station (in 1970s) but since her brother couldn’t accompany her there everyday, she had to miss her dream opportunity. The woman was 25 then. Why couldn’t she be shown how she could commute on her own, instead of forcing an unwilling and bored sibling to accompany her?

5. In many families men are also the family chauffeurs. Women – same generation, age and educational qualifications wait for male members to drive them wherever they have to go. This when thousands of women all over the world drive their own cars.

Shouldn’t a man know that if he needs to be driven somewhere, he can rely on a female member with the same ease she finds him reliable. Driving and cooking are important skills for all men and women.

6. In conservative families men are expected to know whether their adult spouse and siblings  are appropriately (modestly) dressed.  They also must guide them about where they can or can’t go (apart from driving them till there). This is seen as a part of ‘protect the women in the family’ responsibility. Once again, why not make every adult member take responsibility for themselves?

Even if the dependent female members initially dislike it, eventually everybody benefits from this.

7. And then unlike girls who are encouraged to get married and move on with their own family life (sometimes against their wishes, but that’s a different topic) – men are under immense pressure that their spouse, probably chosen by the family elders,  is taught to be  dutiful and respectful to their family.

Most parents are less selfish when looking for a life partner for their daughter. Dowry  and social standing worries apart, they try to make sure they find someone who would care for the girl. The rules often change when it comes to sons.  The family elders rarely look for a partner for the son, they generally look for a daughter in law for themselves.

Here the men often have little say in who they marry. Their life partner is chosen for her dowry, her height, her skin colour, her marks in Class X, her sister’s character and the number of male children in her family. And even after all this, if he falls in love with the wife, he is made to feel like he is abandoning the family. Daughters face no such problems, they can rave about how wonderful they think their husband is, the entire family looks indulgently, even proudly that a daughter from their family is so well settled. If she misses him, she is teased affectionately.

(This often makes a married daughter lie about any problems she might be facing, but that’s another blog post.) The happily married daughter is seen as an asset to the family name and honor,  but not a happily married son. A married son’s opinion – if he disagrees is seen with suspicion because it might be tinged with his wife’s opinion, but a happily-married-daughter’s opinion is valued. Her spouse – unlike a son’s spouse, is an important family member. (Maybe the most important family member).

And the son dare not object to this bias because that is seen as the worst betrayal a son can ever show.

Now with equal property rights and equal responsibilities – this does seem unfair.

8. Being able to do jobs that are ‘reserved for women’ – like cooking or cleaning. The first ones to protest are women, mothers who have seen nothing better, and then wives who have been taught this is not a man’s job.

Remember ‘Salaam Namaste’?

9. Being able to enjoy looking good without being labeled.

Something as simple as being able  to grow their hair. Why is it that most offices have no problem with women in long hair but feel men with long hair mean lack of discipline?

Men also have restriction on the colours they can wear, although most Indian men don’t care for colour stereotypes.

10. Freedom to show they are sensitive. Feelings like jealousy, frustration, fear, nervousness or insecurity are not be reserved for women, but men are expected to never show these feelings.

11. Paternity leave. And the freedom to show they are more than sperm donors. I know of men who made great parents, and their children would have benefited from some more time with them. Men should have the freedom and facilities to choose to be full time parents.

I am sure there are more. And just like equal rights for women are good for the entire society, equality for men is also good for the entire society.

Related post: International Men’s Day.

Provocatively Dressed

To Moral Brigade(s) and their Supporters,
We should know that frivolous terms like Provocative Dressing might make a sexual assaulter feel that the responsibility of preventing sexual assaults lies with the victim.

Violent men are helpless victims of provocation?
Saying women must not dress provocatively makes us sound like Taliban. (Now we wouldn’t want that?)
We also need to keep in mind that we are talking about adult citizens here, they have the right to vote, they can get a driving license, and they can even own property or start an independent business! And often do and very successfully too. (I understand that can make anybody painfully jealous, it does seem wrong that they should do so well despite the major hurdles their gender faces … but women these days are like that, give them a chance and they fly, reach the sky, and even the moon. Accept it.)

Your over enthusiasm and interest in her clothes might lead some to believe that you are looking at women more than you should be. (Most women consider such unwanted attentions very revolting; they might suspect your morals).
Your insistence on deciding the correct code of dressing here is against the law. (I am assuming most of you offenders and supporters have not been to school, so I am simplifying it for you.) Instead we need to ensure that men are guided very firmly about the acceptable code of their own conduct. They need to get it very clear that tight jeans and noodle straps are poor excuses for criminal acts against other equal (even if they are better qualified, they are only equal) citizens. We need to concentrate on providing a secure academic and emotional foundation to create a nation of women who do not hold themselves responsible for any and every atrocity committed against them. Your own mothers, daughters, sisters and wives also will benefit more from this (much more) than from being taught how to dress.
I know of thousands of women who have not benefited in anyway, when they were compelled to cover themselves from head to toe in traditional attire. Their families, specially their children have suffered because these mothers were often made too weak, by such controls, to stand up for them in all so many ways children need their mothers to….so it seems wearing traditional clothing does not automatically make you a better mother, sister, daughter, citizens, wife, woman etc.
Strong mothers and strong women make a strong nation.You think it is only about drinking in the Pub? The drinking in the Pub is just symbolic
(Just like PCC is). You understand symbols? Like bangles for weakness? Like Duryodhan and Duhshsan for … if only you had some education, it would have been simpler to explain. But let me try …When a nation overlooks an act of violence against it’s citizen only because they are women, they are not creating a very confident generation of women. Let me try and speak your language again, …these women are going to raise the future of this nation… Please let us stop treating them like they have no thinking capacity!

And this is a nation where women are anyway having difficulty even being born. We make it tougher for parents to have daughters, and for those daughters who are born to feel safe, let alone feel free.
Women (and men) need to be able to decide for themselves how they dress, what careers they choose, when and to whom, if at all, they marry or live with without marrying. Because we have hungry families, and unemployed men, and no drinking water, and houses which flood every monsoon.

Tomorrow you might find even a girl’s face, eyes, lips or feet provocative? How are you guys going to survive?

I think we need a stricter code of conduct for men like you here.You will benefit from gentlemanly behaviour and discipline. Women are now everywhere. And we will see them as bosses, better drivers, being able to afford better recreation … (I understand the surge of envy, but you really have to work harder, just being born a male is not really important any longer, at least in their circles…). Many of them come from families where success is more important than marriage and children are. (Yes I am aware that this is all too much to digest, it seems these women come from a different planet, well in a way they do.) Many are happily married with children, oh yes and their husbands are aware that they drink, and talk to men in their office and also outside but no, they don’t drag them by their hair for that … (You ask, ‘Why not?’. Let’s just say, self confidence does that to men. And women too. You won’t understand …)

The world has changed too much while you were worrying about which caste or religion or language or region was being victimised.
But it’s never too late. You just need to understand that they are your equal. No matter how much better they earn, what fancy cars they drive, how much more fun they seem to have, how much better they look … they are only your equals.

As for their clothes, for all you know there is probably a future scientist behind that Rakhi-Sawant-dress-alike.

Related Posts:

1. What women ‘choose’ to wear…

2. Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work.

3. What do ‘modest’ women have that their ‘immodest’ sisters don’t?

4. She does not ‘ask for it’.