Avoiding conflict vs. freedom to choose?

So I have been reading IHM’s blog for almost 4 years now and have understood and learnt a great deal from it. Apart from her insightful write-ups on gender bias in contemporary India, it’s heartening to see that there are people who can write anonymously to her about multiple issues relating to gender discrimination and get very rational and unbiased opinions from multiple people who read the blog and care to comment and provide advice. Most of the times, the advice given out is to stand up for yourself and demand what is right and fair to you instead of accepting the status quo and other people’s discrimination.

In contrast to this, I see that a lot of people around me follow the ‘choose the path of least resistance’ or ‘learn to pick your battles’ mantras. Most people I know try to avoid conflict if possible. Some examples of this attitude in practice:

1. One of my friends, S, who got married last year doesn’t have a facebook account. She didn’t have one initially because she didn’t want interference from her family. Then she got married and made an account for a few months which she eventually deactivated. On being asked about this, she said “a lot of people are not ready to accept that I’m married and I can’t have party pics on FB… his family doesn’t know that I drink and might have a problem… he doesn’t have a problem but they might.. just playing it safe…” Now I know that having a facebook account or not isn’t really a big deal, but my problem is how she has to decide and live her life according to the in-laws’ expectations from her.

2. A lot of women who live overseas tend to wear jewellery and/or specific clothes when their in-laws are visiting. Their rationale being that since there are here only for a few weeks/months, it’s not worth the effort to argue over these things. Again, isn’t this violation of an individual’s freedom and choice? In principle, isn’t it wrong for anyone to have a say over how an adult wants to dress up?

3. On visiting India, most of my family wants me to dress up in certain ways because they feel that how I dress normally is inappropriate. First, it’s not like I wear short skirts and spaghetti or tube tops when I’m in India. But my tops apparently have a deep neckline! Secondly, as an independent and mature 27 year old, don’t I have the right to decide how and what I want to wear? Clothes that may seem appropriate to me may seem inappropriate to another person and vice versa. But what gives them the right to dictate what I wear?

And this brings me to the main question, should you fight people’s interference in your life and stand up for your rights? Or accept attitudes that are not too inconvenient to avoid conflict?

On that note, why do some people try so hard to avoid conflict? Why are people willing to sacrifice their personal space and individuality just to avoid conflict?

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5 Responses to Avoiding conflict vs. freedom to choose?

  1. Being the rebel that I am, I totally believe in standing up for your rights even if it means it might result in disagreements or conflict. I too know of people who will give up their rights for the sake of avoiding conflict but I often wonder how much of themselves they end up losing in the process. Oh and don’t get me started on people telling you what to wear…a couple of years ago I had a major argument with an Indian social worker at work when she told me I’d have to ‘compromise’ once I got married and wear clothes that pleased me husband. That was basically waving a red flag in front of a bull and I had a go at her. In short I told her that my parents had never told me what I could and could not wear and no man was going to tell me that either! I will wear what I feel comfortable in. Period.

    • kinmin says:

      PB, I totally agree with you on standing up for yourself even if it results in conflict and that somehow, you lose a little bit of yourself every time you give in.. But then some of those people think – you have a finite amount of energy for a day and they choose to pick specific issues that are more important to them over others.. And sadly, I sometimes end up doing that as well because I don’t have the energy to fight it out all the time! C’est la vie!

  2. Mi says:

    That’s the indian society. Even if you are clad in a yellow saree with perfect blouse, they will question, why isn’t the saree red or some other color. People have ego issues in india, and it should be satisfied by people who are lesser in age. This has been the norm. Talk about dressing, eating, living life in a certain way, wearing jewelry, talking, waking up, sleeping, cooking…every single thing. This country has people who live happily if pleased. But nowadays most of us, aren’t really living that way,. We are becoming more individualistic having our own mode of expression, and that is termed as being rebellious. So either one avoids the conflicts and satisfies the egos, or just goes about traversing a rebellious path alone with a few fanatics one may find onthe way!
    People are really difficult at times!

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