Girls you have to be thin, hot and sexy and have the ‘perfect’ body…and Boys you have to be big, ’manly’ and certainly talking or expressing your feelings is a big no, no. The list goes on and on for both gender stereotypes, but how did we get here? Why do we allow these messages to dictated to us, what our ‘normal’ is.
What IS normal? The word ‘normal’ is defined as the standard that is set around us. To be normal is to conform to that common standard. But what if conforming to the standard set around us is harming us more than helping us?
In response to this question, I started an organisation called ‘What’s Normal?’. We travel around Australia, speaking in schools and community groups unpacking tricky topics like pornography, sex, relationships, success, and other messages young people consume from culture. We empower them to know themselves, know Culture, know they can change it. Since spending time with young people across the country, I have heard the same message again and again. One being, kids as young as eleven are being exposed to pornography that distorts their view of what normal is, and re enforces these gender stereotypes. Whether its from snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, tinder, pornography, magazines, tv shows, or movies…we start to believe that we are not enough—not good enough, hot enough, rich enough, sexy enough… you name it. We are being fed this lie, and it’s coming at us from all angles. We also, allow certain behaviour to be inflicted on us, because we think it’s just normal.
My past experience in Hospitality showed me that our ‘norms’ about gender roles in the workplace are very prevalent. My experience working in bars, cafes, and restaurants in my younger years revealed to me that there is enormous pressure on women to be ‘put on display’ and we have to just smile and please no matter that the situation. Our male co workers are invited to affirm this message. Cat Calling, inappropriate touching and comments about our body unfortunately have become the norm for so many female hospitality workers. It’s not on. And we need to start making a noise about it. I have experienced both sides of the spectrum where males have been a strong and stood up for girls in these situations, but also been subject to males being the enabler of this behaviour. Once again we have to ask ourselves, why have we allowed this to be ‘normal’. We need to smash the stereotypes that girls are objects, and males are our mirrors.
We have given ear to the voices that mean us harm. Amidst this culture, we must use the voices that have been given to us to challenge what the world believes to be normal. It’s 2017…and it’s time we stand up to gender stereotypes and empower men to be, men of respect and honour and women to be seen for more than just their body - allowing both genders the permission to be kinder to themselves and to each other. That’s what’s normal. Let’s be creators of a new norm and set a new standard in the hospitality industry.
MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura is one of our favourite regulars, Commonfolk is like her office and we aren't complaining. Always has a massive smile and lots of time for everyone. Next time you see her give her a wave and tell her she is the best.
In 2016, Laura co-founded ‘What’s Normal?’ a youth run advocacy movement that engages and educates young people. Through developing a schools based education program and online platform she challenges and empowers young people both here in Australia and overseas, to think critically about the culture around them.