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We all deserve to be respected for who we are. But growing up, many of us are told we should have certain skills, likes and dislikes, and ways we should look based on our gender – rather than who we are as a person.
Assumptions about gender limit us. They create expectations about who carries the parenting load and does most of the housework. Whose role it is to earn money, and the kinds of jobs we should have. Who gets to make decisions – at home, work, and in our communities. Who is allowed to be emotional, and who is allowed to be assertive. What we can wear and how we should look.
These ideas keep us from being ourselves and filter through our relationships, workplaces, and communities. They limit opportunities and choices and can lead to discrimination and violence. It's important to challenge assumptions about gender to help create a society where everyone is free to be themselves.
What could a world look like where we are all free and supported to be ourselves?
It all starts with a conversation.
What does starting the conversation mean?
It means challenging and changing the ways we think, speak and act to create a world where we are all safe, equal and respected for who we are – not who we’re told to be.
Videos: Meaghan and Ed from Gippsland, Kobe and Mufaro from Melbourne and James and Thomas from the Mallee region tell us how they started the conversation.
Start the conversation in your home
We all deserve to feel safe and respected in our homes. But assumptions about gender roles hold us all back.
Starting the conversation at home is your chance to challenge these assumptions. It’s a way to create partnerships based on mutual respect, and model healthy, respectful relationships for children and younger family members.
It can look like:
- talking to your partner about how you share the housework in a way that works for everyone
- dividing parenting responsibilities in a way that allows everyone to work, study or volunteer fairly
- teaching children it’s okay to express their emotions, regardless of their gender.
Start the conversation with your friends
Being a ‘good man’ is really just about being a good person. But men and boys can face pressures to live up to certain stereotypes – like being tough, aggressive and not showing emotions. Like having harmful attitudes about women, including feeling entitled to sex or being in control of a relationship. They’re told to suppress the parts of themselves that don’t fit this assumption of who or what a ‘man’ should be.
Starting the conversation with your friends is a way to help free people from these harmful ideas. It’s about making sure you’re there for your friends, but also knowing when to call out dangerous, disrespectful attitudes and actions from your mates.
It can look like:
- talking about what’s really going on in your life, including the things that worry or sadden you – challenging the expectation that talking about feelings is a weakness
- choosing to call out a sexist or homophobic joke – these jokes aren’t harmless. They can support attitudes that lead to violence
- chatting to your mate about their relationship, if you notice they’re controlling to their partner, talk down to them, these are red flags and you can call them out.
Start the conversation at your sports club
That feeling of community and belonging is one of the best parts of being involved in local sport. Access to it – and everything else we love about it – shouldn't be determined or limited by your gender. But sexist attitudes, both conscious and unconscious, still exist at all levels of sport.
Starting the conversation at your sports club can have a wide-reaching positive effect across your greater community – everywhere we live, work, study, pray and play.
It can look like:
- treating teams or players of all genders equally – including access to equipment and opportunities
- paying attention to safe and welcoming facilities – like accessible and sufficient changing rooms for everyone
- modelling a community culture of respect, safety and inclusion – for example, having a clear stance against “locker room talk” or “boys will be boys” attitudes
- making sure club activities like coaching, canteen duty and grounds maintenance are equal opportunities, regardless of gender.
If you are experiencing family violence, concerned for your safety, or in an emergency situation please call 000 for urgent police assistance.
If you need support or advice, please reach out to a recommended specialist support service.