Winner 2016: Bethan Rainey, WA

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photo-bethanName: Bethan Rainey

Community, State: Bunbury, WA

School: Manea Senior College

Age: 17, Grade: 12

Bio: Click here 

Why is gender equality important to you and your community?

It is irrefutable fact that women are underrepresented across a majority of industries in Australia. However, it is not realistic to assume that by enforcing quotas to balance the representation of males with females, gender discrimination will cease to exist in this country.

Fundamentally, gender inequality is as much of a social issue as it is political. Although more obvious in past generations, young Australians are still being indoctrinated by heteronormative media that foregrounds the importance of ‘lady-like’ behaviour from girls, and naturalises the idea that ‘boys will be boys’ until they are old enough to marry and provide for said girls. By encouraging children to recognise and identify with such binary notions of gender, the out-dated ideology, which feminist movements fought to have removed from government policies, maintains its’ grip on Australia through the accepted norms of the population.

However, this aspect of gender discussion is startlingly absent from rural Australian schools. Last year, I was shocked to find that media students from my school filmed a documentary about feminism, which argued that modern feminism is a movement for “female supremacy” and featured a student opining “modern day feminist arguments aren’t as relevant”. Ironically, despite the financial incentive for women to pursue careers outside traditionally domestic ones, the proportion of girls studying cosmetic retail remains one of the highest in my community, due to the patriarchal stereotype which portrays women as less suited to intellectual studies.

Unfortunately, most people patch together an interpretation of gender equality through the limited view of their own experiences, focusing on the misguided arguments currently dominating social media and personal contentment with their socially assigned gender. This can misconstrue gender equality as a trivial issue and evoke passivity in Australian communities. However, I believe that by having a united population of Australians who acknowledge the importance of eradicating gender roles, individuals will be free to pursue careers that are best suited to themselves, and not experience discrimination based on gender. Hence, not all industries will necessarily have exactly equal proportions of men and women, but will have work forces comprised of individuals best suited to their respective jobs.

Ultimately, gender equality is about having the right to choose. Particularly, it is important for me, and all other Australians, to have the right to deviate from traditional gender roles, embrace burgeoning gender queer movements, and experience a life free from the limitations of stereotypes.