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Post No.: 0524pressures


Fluffystealthkitten says:


We often blame the surrounding present culture for the pressures placed upon us to look or behave in a certain way in order to fit in and be accepted, such as people dyeing their grey hairs, tanning their skin, women shaving their armpits or getting cosmetic surgery done. However, we will logically become a part of the problem itself if we succumb to these pressures to follow the crowd, because we would then be perpetuating these pressures for others who are now in the position we felt we were once in.


We might feel insecure and bemoan the ‘need’ to conform to such societal pressures because we perceive that ‘everybody’s doing it’ and/or we might receive direct criticism from others for not conforming (even from those who otherwise claim to espouse individual liberties). But it becomes hypocritical to use the excuse that ‘everybody’s doing it so I will/must too’ for we’ll be adding to the very societal pressures we’re blaming for making us conform.


And so, if we take a step back from it all, it could possibly be the case that the majority of us who are a part of perpetuating a problem would rather live in a world where these social pressures didn’t exist in the first place. Yet through each of our own individual decisions to conform, we’ve made the problem collectively worse for each other.


Most people acknowledge that it’s nice to look nice but really want to just relax and be themselves most days, and to not have to spend hours every day doing their hair or slapping on makeup without being judged for it. Yet many aren’t courageous enough or don’t feel they’re in a position to be able to relax like this without a critical mass of others also relaxing about their appearance in solidarity.


With pressures to be skinny or ‘size zero’ – if you hate it yet succumb to it anyway then you’ll become a part of perpetuating that kind of culture because we are each a member of that culture too. If you dislike a culture that expects women to quickly lose weight after pregnancy but then follow these expectations of body image nonetheless, then you’ll just be perpetuating these expectations for other people yourself. You’ll have become a contributing part of the problem you’ve complained or worried about.


We may empathise with others who experience similar insecurities but act individualistically to alleviate our own; and in turn, along with everyone else in a similar position, inadvertently contribute towards perpetuating a culture we didn’t really desire. By conforming to what society deems a ‘normal’ person ought to look like, even if doing so makes us feel good – one reinforces that vacuous and narrow cultural ‘ideal’ and can make others feel bad about themselves.


The pressures for people to conform become greater as fewer and fewer people stand against the herd – these ‘stragglers’ might face unjustifiable discrimination if they remain non-conforming (e.g. they might get overlooked for jobs based on their appearance). The insecurities that other people – including possibly children – experience become amplified, and this might even lead to an escalation of what’s expected from people in order to ‘fit in’ with modern society. There’ll naturally be some who are happy and eager to do something regardless of what others think, but at least some will do something but not really want to but feel they ‘have to’ in order to fit in, be accepted and be considered ‘normal’.


Data suggests that women are more prejudiced against than men if they try to negotiate their salaries. Both male and female employers are less willing to hire a woman who tries to negotiate compared to a man who tries. But if female employees continue to forgo negotiating their salaries or bonuses so that they can more likely secure their own employments then it’ll only reinforce this norm of ‘women shouldn’t negotiate’, and this works against females collectively. Women should demand and expect to be paid as much as men for producing the same results. Discrimination is only fair when based on performance grounds (so no one’s saying allow a blind person to pilot a plane!) Meow.


When demand for jobs outstrips supply within a certain sector, employers hold the power to dictate terms to prospective employees, including offering unpaid internships or even stipulating a certain facial look or dress code for those not in customer-facing roles. But accepting unpaid internships collectively sets up an employment culture that increasingly exploits free labour. If enough applicants grouped together to agree not to take jobs that don’t pay then this power can be rebalanced – although that’d allow those who defect from this group to take the job opportunities for themselves. So this might be just considered competition? However, it’s the poorest who are disadvantaged for not being able to afford doing unpaid work. Laws can therefore help.


Panic buying, even when not necessary, prompts other customers to do the same. Nobody fundamentally wants to do it but feels they ‘must’ because they assume others will, and so others feel they ‘must’ once others do, etc..


If every decent family abandons an area with rising crime levels then it’ll never become a safe place to live, even though from each individual homeowner’s interests it seems better to leave. Gun sales tend to rise after mass-shooting incidents because some people think they need guns to protect themselves from others with guns – but this only increases the number of people with guns and therefore the community threat! Some nations that don’t possess nuclear weapons similarly feel a pressure to develop them because of those nations that currently have them. But if they do develop them then they’ll add to the global threat themselves. (Well really, each ‘ambitious’ nation would like to be the only nation with them!)


Many schoolchildren who witness bullying don’t really support the bullies but will appear to side with them so that they don’t become targets of those bullies themselves. But this ‘self-preservation’ strategy only gives these bullies, from their perspective, permission for their behaviours. If safe, children thus need to be brave enough to make a stand to support the victims rather than be passive bystanders because they might find that many more in the crowd hold the same view. This could happen in cults or something as big as a fascist state, where people don’t speak up against a regime in order to stay alive by not standing out as turncoats. There could be a popular uprising if only everybody realised how many others also privately oppose the regime (although there’s understandably a real risk that not enough others privately do). By staying silent (or silenced), it’s possibly perpetuating a regime that many don’t really want to be a part of at all.


The #MeToo movement against sexual harassment gained momentum after several high-profile women began to stand up against their harassers. Many of these harassers held the power to give them lucrative jobs or spots in teams, but rather than (continue to) put up with that deal – they objected to it and spoke out, even to the potential personal cost of their own careers, for the greater good.


Cases that spanned from decades ago only surfaced much too late for some women from later generations to avoid the same harassment because too many believed that they had to accept this treatment to safeguard their own careers, even to the point of some accepting out-of-court settlements in exchange for silence. This unintentionally gave even more power to the harassers who began to see their behaviours as ‘normal’ when it should never have been. In this case, most of these women were truly coerced, frightened, exploited or too young to understand they were being abused. So it’s not about blaming those who kept silent but celebrating those who broke silence for this is about the courage to speak out or stand apart when one anticipates that a behaviour shouldn’t be considered ‘normal’ in society. Systemic sexual (and other forms of) harassment are never the victims’ fault – the problems are massive inequalities where too much power is concentrated in the hands of a few (usually male) gatekeepers, which created a coercive or exploitative situation against new actresses, sportswomen, etc., and not being taken seriously if one did make a claim against a powerful figure anyway.


So although in some contexts it’s less risky or difficult than others – be courageous, feel secure in yourself, and stand by your principles, otherwise your children could be next. We can serve ourselves in the short-term at the expense of perpetuating problems in the bigger-picture and long-term. We need to demonstrate solidarity, even if this means forgoing personal gains in our own lives or careers – enough people saying and supporting others who say, “No” (rather than individuals constantly passing the responsibility onto each other) will eventually change the culture.


Probably the main point is that acting individualistically can sometimes produce an outcome that’s collectively undesired by most, even though many of us didn’t even want something individually but felt we ‘had to’ conform with the perceived crowd or follow those who held the power. Sometimes the coercive pressures are genuine and material – but by conforming, the pressure for others to conform, as well as for one to stay conforming, increases.


Some want it or don’t mind. In some cases it raises social standards. But in other cases, the society or market may not directly force people to do something yet can exert enormous pressures for people to conform otherwise be prejudiced against (e.g. job candidates who have foreign-sounding names might feel pressured to change their names – yet if you change your name because it’s ‘too unusual’ then that name will never have a chance to become ‘usual’, and current norms will continue to be reinforced). Laws can therefore protect against such discrimination, and uphold human rights and the sense of individual liberty.


So overall, there are some things that individuals want to do and then do that collectively make it bad for everyone overall (e.g. buying new clothes constantly), but there are also some things that individuals don’t really want to do but feel they must that collectively make it bad for everyone overall (e.g. paying ransoms to cyber criminals or kidnappers). There are also some things that individuals want to do and then most do that collectively brings benefits for everyone overall (e.g. regularly cleaning oneself), and some things that individuals don’t really want to do but most do anyway that collectively make something work for everyone overall (e.g. obeying traffic laws). This can all be explained via game theory.


Solving a lot of problems or inequities in this world boils down to being willing to make a personal sacrifice, and hoping that enough other people are willing to do the same, for the sake of the greater good. Are you willing to live a more frugal life to reduce your environmental footprint? There’s less of it now but those who were frugal and doing what’s best for the collective planetary good used to get mocked for being ‘tight’. Being less vain will reduce the pressures for others, including children, to feel insecure and vain, but one might become criticised for looking ‘unkempt’ or for wearing self-repaired, un-ironed, old clothes (and the huge cosmetics and clothing industries don’t want us to buy less of their stuff either). Are you willing to pay more for higher welfare or fairer trade goods/labour when you can afford to, even if this’ll reduce your profits? We hope, as we pay our fair share of taxes, others will too, but some want to aggressively dodge them.


There are many cases of ‘I would like others to do something that’s for the collective good but I’m reluctant to myself’ i.e. selfishness, greed, hypocrisy, NIMBYism, and the problems of the tragedy of the commons and protecting/providing public goods.




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