Backchat: Individuality vs. Conformity

In response to different thought processes and ideals in diverse cultures which influence people’s way of functioning in daily life.

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It is easy to assume that the way life functions is more or less similar wherever you go, because that assumption is based on the life you grow accustomed to. Think of it this way: individual events aside, all peoples and nations have gone through both horrible and great occurrences, making everyone sort of ‘equal’, yet somehow diversity exists. This is because what really influences diversity, or rather the diversity of life’s functioning, is the pattern of events coupled with chronological and characteristic aspects of peoples. So really, how many ways of living life exists within a given society?

Well, the simplest way to recognize these functions is through two broader categories: individualism and collectivism. Having been raised in Turkey and now living in the UK, I can confidently say that a nation’s profile greatly determines which category it belongs to. It does not matter if you were brought up with Western ideals or lived a privileged life as long as that country you are living in is a developing country. 

In Turkey, people rely on each other with just about anything: there are expectations, manners, and more you need to conform to. You can expect to be taken care of your neighbours if you are in need, even if you do not ask them; you spend every bank holiday with your family; you even hold ‘Gold Days’ to entertain your friends and neighbours at your home. As a token of our love, respect, and gratitude,  we purchase treats and small gifts for those close to us, and make sure to prepare food or drinks for our guests. While this can elicit a sense of comfort and togetherness, it can feel like you live for others just as much as you do for yourself, with worries like ‘what will they think?’ ‘will they tell on me?’  bothering you. Suddenly that piece of cake you were offered feels like a nauseating bite you need to finish,  because God forbid the host thinks you are an ‘ungrateful’ guest.

Explore alternative functions to expand your vision

In the UK, society functions in the opposite way: people are separate, singular entities with no obligation to anyone. It enables room to grow as a person, better know yourself, achieve your ambitions and live the life you think is appropriate for who you are, not ‘others.’ It can be, however, slightly harder to start your life, find help when in need, and at times a little isolating.

Evidently, whether a society operates individualistically or collectivistically is telling of its precepts and ideals – or simply it’s profile. This chain of progression is really a bunch of notions that feed each other. It is a loophole, proving that what we think as a simplistic and ordinary quality is actually much more complex and arguably difficult to alter. I digress, because what really matters is taking a second to truly acknowledge how you operate, why you operate that way, and much more importantly explore alternative functions to expand your vision.

In response to André Spicer’s article ‘Not even bankers wear ties and blazer any more. So why should schoolchildren?’ in The Guardian.

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In an Opinion piece for The Guardian, André Spicer argued that school uniforms are outdated ways of enforcing good behaviour and managing the classroom. If elite occupations like bankers no longer require suits, then surely we shouldn’t make our children wear them at school?

Uniforms have often been associated with creating visual equality because students can’t flaunt their wealth (or be bullied for a lack of it). However, this is a false premise – if we teach children early on to accept their visible differences rather than hiding them under uniforms, perhaps we will create a more tolerant and accepting society for those who don’t, or can’t, visibly display their wealth.

The equality argument also disregards the expense of buying uniforms, which is daunting for any parent, let alone those already struggling during a cost-of-living crisis. The recent episode of a schoolgirl being put in isolation for wearing Asda’s identical version of her school’s official supplier’s skirt, which is much more expensive, illustrates this. Why shame someone for their socio-economic status through where they bought their school uniform? Such policies seem cruel and outdated. 

There is also the question of gender; girls who wear skirts are often subjected to ordeals where teachers reprimand them or measure their skirts’ lengths publicly so they don’t ‘distract the boys’. Surely this just reinforces the misogynist notion that women’s clothing is sexualised regardless of her wishes and she, not a man, has to alter what she wears to accommodate prevalent social norms.

Such policies seem cruel and outdated

Uniforms also stifle people’s individuality and self-expression for such obviously flawed arguments. They can foster identity and community, but at what cost? A change in how they’re enforced, both monetarily and in terms of equality, would serve to make them more viable. Otherwise, they manifestly don’t fulfill the objectives they set out to achieve.

In response to the topic of social class at Durham University and wider British society.

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The ubiquitous Barbour jacket, a customarily British sartorial choice, finds its origins in leftover scraps of sails treated with fish oil to give it a water-resistant shine. Over time, the jacket has become a signifier of class and patrimony, preferably paired with Hunter boots and a shooting séjour in Scotland. The illustrious Instagram account “Durham Rah Spotting” offers a fair share of Barbour jacket and Schoffel gilet-filled photographic delights, which seem to scrutinise what the British would associate with class and privilege, and what others would identify as the remains of a traditional and feudal system of long-standing class distinction.


Social etiquette, language and speech, dress code and educational and cultural capital, seem to have left a lasting imprint on British society and Durham University

It would be wrong to describe Durham University as one which welcomes students of many creeds and cultures; you may find that upon meeting fellow students, you will be faced with a set of socially indicative questions, from which they might seek to gage an immediate socio-economic profile of their fellow students aged 17 to 22. Here, there is a set of reoccurring answers: Eton, Harrow, Radley, Marlborough, or St Paul’s. I am of course being slightly facetious, but I believe this not to be a fallacy or a necessarily exaggerated exposure of Durham’s classism, particularly with headlines detailing events such as a ‘competition for ‘posh lads’ to have sex with ‘poorest girl on campus’, or Durham’s poor ranking for social inclusion. Individuality and conformity is for that reason an interesting angle to consider, particularly in a country stereotypically trammelled by convention- reflecting and reinforcing societal norms including those related to class distinction. Social etiquette, language and speech, dress code and educational and cultural capital, while not absolute, seem to have left a lasting imprint on British society and, in this case, Durham University.

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One thought on “Backchat: Individuality vs. Conformity

  • I would look at creating a corporate uniform completely differently. This is an effective psychological effect of workwear that makes employees feel like the face of the brand. As a result, they become more immersed in their tasks. Plus there are really amazing clothing solutions like this one https://www.wipeoutcreations.com/products/nhs-rainbow-fleece-jacket

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