Forced Family Gatherings: Often Toxic, Never Fun

Today's women do value family but we also recognise toxicity. However, the majority of Indian parents want their children, especially their daughters, to participate in all family events. So, how do we deal with the situation?

Kalyani Ganesan
Aug 31, 2023 13:14 IST
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Alia Bhatt in Dear Zindagi. Image used for Representational Purpose Only

As a woman who calls a spade a spade, I’ve never felt comfortable participating in family gatherings. However, my parents have literally dragged me to several family gatherings until a few years back. Eisha Chopra's reel on Instagram about parental pressure on children to attend family events took me to the past when I used to unwillingly accompany my parents to family events.

This has been the case not only in my family but also in most of my friends’ families. Women are often told, "What will they think if you, a girl, don’t have the respect to participate in this function? How can you be so disrespectful and refuse to attend family functions despite being a girl?"

Pressure To Attend Family Events

It’s not that today’s women don’t value family bonding. It’s just that we recognise toxic traits in people and prefer to stay away from them for our own sanity and well-being. However, only a handful of parents understand that. The majority of Indian parents want their children, especially their daughters, to participate in all family events.


Even if their daughters are extremely busy with education or work, they are expected to make an appearance and stay at least for an hour before leaving. However, there’s always a catch with Indian families. Women are expected to doll themselves up, attend these events, be polite, courteous, and humble with everyone, and never talk back or have an opinion of their own. Basically, we are required to be respectful (read submissive) to everyone.

The catch is that while women are expected to show their faces at all family events, we aren’t supposed to show what we are thinking or feeling because women in patriarchal societies cannot have a voice of their own! Today’s independent women —millennials and Gen Z—would qualify as "unconventional" according to patriarchal standards because we think and talk for ourselves.

We don’t put up with disrespect, slut shaming, criticism, judgmental remarks, etc. Most of us have at least a handful of relatives who are epitomes of toxicity, and they would probably be the main reason we avoid participating in family gatherings.


But most women, regardless of how independent they are, are forced by to attend family gatherings and socialise. These are people who barely know them but often have unsolicited opinions and venomous comments to spew. Being the self-sufficient women that we are, how can we silently sit through nonsensical discussions that are targeted at us? Of course, many of us tend to react, at least in a subtle way. But that doesn’t go well with society because, again, women aren’t allowed to have a voice.

We are blamed, and sometimes our parents get blamed for allowing us to acquire higher education, pursue a career, and be self-sufficient. To avoid the unnecessary drama that our toxic relatives create our parents expect us to just show our faces and not express anything. But that can't always be done, can it?

So we try to avoid the situation by not attending family gatherings. But that again is a problem! Our presence as a person doesn’t matter but our absence is highly criticised. We are supposed to be there but only as puppets. That’s the kind of stressful situation that we Indian women often face.


September is around the corner, and the festival months have begun in India. As women, we will be invited to several functions. Should we go and be ourselves or stand up for ourselves when something doesn’t feel right? Or should we avoid going at all? Well, that’s a personal choice. However, it’s never wrong to stand up for ourselves because if we don’t, no one else will.

Views expressed by the author are their own

Suggested Reading: I Cut-off Toxic Relatives From My Life By Drawing Boundaries

#Indian women #Family Events