Winner 2016: Isabella Hall, SA
Name: Isabella Hall
Community, State: Whyalla, SA
School: Samaritan College Saint John’s Campus
Age: 17, Grade: 12
Bio: Click here
Why is gender equality important to you and your community?
“You must love your job, because you’re a woman.”
The statement had caught me off guard. I had cocked my head ever so slightly and piped my inquirer with a look of confusion. My hands had frozen above the sandwich I was making and then it hit me. I didn’t have to clarify though, because the customer before me did so instead.
“You know, making sandwiches is a women’s job… You belong in the kitchen.”
I could only smile and continue on with my work, my aspirations of becoming a novelist or a successful politician fizzling to the back of my mind. Why all of a sudden, had my part time employment at Subway suddenly prompted the labelling of such a demeaning, sexist stereotype?
Was it because gender inequality still existed, even within my own community?
The thought was ludicrous, yet it stirred something within me.
As a young woman, I had never questioned my ability to receive the same rights or opportunities as my male counterparts. Despite growing up in a rural community I found my life had been full of opportunities. My parents had worked hard for me to receive a good education, to teach me good values and raise me well. Never had I believed that I would be reduced to a mere stereotype within seconds and feel like all those opportunities given to me were suddenly redundant. Yet here I was, facing gender inequality right in the face and the experience left me reeling with a bitter taste in my mouth.
That’s the thing about gender equality. If it truly existed within my own community and the wider world, these type of negative stereotypes would not exist.
Absolutely there are bigger issues within the fight for gender equality, such as equal pay. Challenging gender stereotypes, however, is a fight within itself that would support all women and men in finally achieving equality.
Gender stereotypes control my community. Men are the ones ‘hard at work’, whilst the women ‘make the sandwiches’. Men are supposed to ‘suck it up’ and women be ‘emotional’. Repeatedly I see men and women within my community excluded from sports or career opportunities merely because of the barriers caused by gender stereotypes.
Gender equality is important to me because I don’t want future generations to grow up in a community ruled by these stereotypes. If we can challenge these embedded standards of gender roles, perhaps one-day gender equality won’t be such an elusive ideal and I won’t be making sandwiches simply because I ‘belong in the kitchen’.