The Battles We Fight

By Richa Pokhrel/@richapokhrel

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Photo credit: Rhijuta Dahal

I have written a piece before about how we should have more courage to stand up to the atrocities we see in our societies, but lately I have been thinking about battles within our families and  communities. Recently when I was at a relatives’ house, their youngest daughter told me a story about her interaction with another male family member. In that story, she said that one of her uncles had asked her to get her something from the kitchen, she said no and told him that he should get it himself. He was an abled bodied man who could get whatever he desired. I was proud of her because she stood her ground. However, it made reflect on conforming and confronting in our families.

To be honest there have been a lot of times in family and community gatherings where I have bit my tongue, I am sure most of you know what I am talking about. Whether it’s someone making a racist comment, demanding a lot of his wife or daughter, talking about someone else in nasty way, abuse, etc. I like to think of myself as a strong woman who would stand up to someone when it’s critical, but I have come to realize that I can’t always battle with people. Something’s are better if they are just let go. For example, girls are expected to learn how to make tea from a young age so when there are guests over, we can make and serve tea to them (we have a past post about this too).  This is a sexist expectation, our brothers are not expected to do this nor encouraged by our parents. But sometimes this expectation seems like a right of passage, one that was experienced by all the woman before us. To be fair, our mothers probably just want to show others how wonderful her daughter is and that she can make a delicious cup of chiya too. I would get annoyed in my youth when I had to do it, but I wasn’t going to embarrass my parents in front of guests by arguing with them.

For me personally, I accept that some traditions have a way of bringing people together. Yes, they may be outdated, they may be stupid, and we may not always understand them, but I do think some of them serve a purpose. I am not saying this is a reason we blindly accept everything in our society.  Our culture is one that focuses on the community, not the individual. The American culture focuses on the ME instead of the WE. I have always struggled to find a balance between these two. I value my parents’ support and I also seek their approval, even now as an adult.  I have pushed many boundaries, I have broken a few rules, and there have been times when I come head to head with my parents. I want to be an individual, but I also want to belong and fit in. That’s why I choose carefully what battles I fight.

Sometimes what I don’t reflect on is my mother and my grandmothers having to deal with the same thing. We can’t fault the older generation for not always understanding us, but we can acknowledge that they probably had similar struggles and thoughts. Just imagine what it was like for them to grow up in their generation. It was so much more limiting than it has been for us. Let’s be honest though, conforming is something that mostly falls on women. We are taught from birth to take the responsibility and the burden to keep quiet and accept things as they are. 

I have had some close male relatives say that I should just speak up when I feel that things are not right. What they fail to recognize is that it’s not that simple. They don’t understand all the little things I have to go through, all the little things that are said to me, all the little things that are expected of me. They doesn’t understand that sometimes I am tired, sometimes I don’t have energy, sometimes I fear for my safety, and sometimes I know that no matter what we say, the other person will not get it. I used to think that if someone felt something was wrong, they should speak up no matter what. However, I am slowly coming to realize that doesn’t work for me especially when I want to maintain relationships. I can speak my mind yes, but I can’t expect everyone to change their opinion to match my own. I can tell my grandma that some of her notions are outdated, but I can’t be mad at her for thinking those things.  I need to listen to the other person to understand where they are coming from. The only thing I can do is try to educate, it is up to the other person on how they want to respond.

On perfect example is harassment that women face EVERY DAY of our lives. I have had so many inappropriate things said to me since before puberty, I have had men stop in the sidewalk and look me up and down, I have had someone spit in my face, and a man threaten to punch me. To be honest with you I have never confronted anyone during these one-sided interactions because 1) I am scared, 2) I don’t think they would get it, 3) it happens so often that I just don’t have the energy to say anything. How many males could I possibly reprimand? I bet some would just see it as harmless fun, a way of complimenting me. I know this doesn’t necessarily fit into my previous paragraphs, but it does highlight my point on when I speak up and when I ignore.

I don’t think it’s a weakness to be the type of person who cares about the comfort of others. I have always been like this. This is probably the mixture of my own personality and how I’ve been raised. That is why I conform to some things. I know when to speak up and stand up to my family. I don’t always do it, maybe I am a coward or maybe I want to have peace in my family and in my community. In the end, the biggest battle I will have is with myself when I reflect on the times I don’t say or do anything.

*Please share your thoughts. What battles do you fight? Which ones do you hold back on?

P.S. I want to share my new project with you all. I started a podcast for those of us who are turning 30 and/or are in our 30s. It’s called The 30 Question, check it out here.

And a short story of mine has been published! So excited! Check it out here. 

 

8 thoughts on “The Battles We Fight

  1. Hi Richa – not sure if this is how to reach you but just a couple of quick notes.

    You have to write a novel! Your “published” piece screams of Barbara Kingslover. Please! Can’t wait to read your book. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Kingsolver

    Barbara Kingsolver – Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org Barbara Kingsolver (born April 8, 1955) is an American novelist, essayist and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in the Congo in her early …

    Your blog piece led me to want to read your article, and to listen to your podcast. You are a natural! I thought you two had good energy together. One small thing: I liked your intro music A Lot, but found it distracting as you two were talking. Just a bit too loud as I tried to focus on what you were saying. Just me.

    My 2C. Great writing – and know you will find your 30-something audience.

    Yea Richa!

    Elaine

    Elaine Vaughan http://www.mypaleomarin.blogspot.com

    ________________________________

    • Richa says:

      Hi Elaine! Thanks so much! I LOVE BARBARA KINGSLOVER! The Bean Tree is my favorite book of all time. Thanks for the feedback, we noticed the music was loud too. We tried to fix the audio issues in the second episode. Thank you so much for your support!

  2. I can definitely relate to you. There are hundreds of times when I have bitten my tongue not to make a scene. Now being a daughter in law , those moments comes more often but I have lean to ignore them as much a possible if doesn’t affect me directly as I am living so far that there is no point to start upsetting people.

  3. “You do not beed to win every battle but the ones that matter.” Fight the fight that matters and let go the trivial ones.

    I am not trying to suggest that these issues are trivial. But there are always big impact issuess vs one that have less impact. So pick the fight that is most rewarding.

    Also, please do not make these issues as men vs women. There are men and women on the both sides.

  4. “I can tell my grandma that some of her notions are outdated, but I can’t be mad at her for thinking those things” – wonderful statement. I’ve come to realise recently that some people think the way they do because of their background and the environment they grew up in. I mean, to what extent can we blame them for it?

    Luckily for me, I have to say, I’ve never had been forced to make tea or anything of the sort in my house. I fought for equality between my brother and I, and my mother herself never forced such things on me. I’ve always been someone who confronts when it comes to gender issues. But I do agree, sometimes, we are forced to conform to some things.

    Like in instances of possible physical aggression from males, what can a 5’2 girl do against a much bigger man? And yes, how many times will I have to repeat myself to men and ask them what they’re staring at? I’ve had someone ask me how much I charge per night. Horrible. But I guess taking a step a time is all we can do. One person educated is a whole less problematic.

    Love this post. 🙂

    • So sorry to hear that happened to you. It makes me sad thinking about what kind of false notions that man has about women. However, I am glad that you are a strong woman who confronts things head on and you don’t let fear prevent you from speaking. Also, kudos to your mom for not conforming to silly societal pressures! Thanks for reading! 🙂

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