Why gender norms?
Boys will be boys. Take it like a man. Mean girls. A woman’s place. Gender norms are the cultural messages we all get about the way men and women are “supposed” to be. Sometimes these messages are indirect, implied, or invisible; others, direct, specific, and overt. These norms affect us all. All of us—consciously or otherwise—have made decisions about how far we’ll go to fit these norms. Sometimes these norms actually give us a leg up. Sometimes, they limit us or lead us to have to survive trauma and violence.
But collectively, they hold us all back.
Gender norms allow us to be only some parts of our best selves. Whether we see it or not, they keep us from exploring a full range of traits, identities, and expressions—of power, sexuality, emotion, and more—along a whole gender spectrum. These norms embody and perpetuate larger systems of inequality and harm. They replicate the valuing of one gender (spoiler: male), while devaluing others. They put us in boxes with labels—and the boxes are too small and too few. They reinforce the acceptability of dominance‚ even violence, by some, and the subordination of others. They stop us from really relating to each other as fully human.
That’s why they hurt.
That’s also why they perpetuate inequality and enable discrimination.
That’s why they can also lead to violence.
That’s why we need to do better.
Collectively, we have the power to change all that.
Gender norms divide us. Stories unite us. Stories help us make sense of our choices and ourselves. Stories make the private public, showing us how our personal challenges are often not just individual, but societal. Stories poke holes in and offer alternatives to accepted wisdom and mainstream messages. Stories inspire us to expand or shift our point of view and see ourselves in others. Stories cause the friction that sparks change. Stories enable us to see one another as fully human.
With THE G WORD, our individual stories combine to tell one big story: the story of gender, norms, and the power we have to break through them—and build a world in which we are all our most authentic selves, valued equally, safe in our relationships, and respected by our communities. Let’s use our stories to forge empathy and compassion: the most powerful antidotes to discrimination and violence. Let’s use our stories to expose and interrupt the status quo: stereotypes and inequalities, discrimination and even violence. Let’s use our stories to envision new norms, and imagine something better for each of us and for us all: a world where we all enjoy our full human rights, and our full humanity.
Stories about what?
Everyone has a story—epic or everyday—about coming up against gender-based norms that perpetuate inequality, discrimination and violence. About the world we live or grew up in, where (though many things have been changing fast) people are often viewed, treated, or told to behave a certain way because of societal norms around gender— the way a man or a woman is “supposed” to be, with little room for anyone in between.
We’re looking for authentic, emotional stories that could be small moments or life-changing situations. They do not have to be epic drama. They could be a decision point, a moment. We’re looking for (1) what happened, (2) what you did or didn’t do about it, and (3) how it changed you. What new actions did you take? What new insights did you have? Did you shift the way you treat others—or yourself? Extra credit: (4) Did this story, or the act of telling it, contribute to your vision for a world less constrained by gender norms? What is your vision?
We are looking for stories that capture:
- facing and/or transforming gender-driven expectations by parents, peers, employers/colleagues, coaches, and cultural messages in general.
- committing, being party to, and intervening in, gender-based discrimination, violence, or micro-violence.
- making choices about conforming, or not, to norms—and the outcomes of those choices.
Your story doesn’t have to be about being a victim, or a hero. We have all played some version of both these roles, —and many others in between. Your story may (and likely will) not be only about gender, since our gender identities intersect with and are inseparable from who we are in terms of race, orientation, class, religion, nationhood, and more. You don’t have to have done the right thing; you don’t have to share with an agenda or end with a moral about doing the right thing—Your story should just share a bit of real life, real complexity, real challenge, real choice—the real you.
*Since this platform deals with difficult subject matter, some of the stories on THE G WORD might be upsetting or triggering.
Why join The G Word?
When we share and read each other’s stories, we find new paths for empathy. And our power to transform culture lies in deploying empathy, community, and imagination. Explore the platform, read stories, and share your own. Join the growing community of people sharing experiences, connecting, healing, and taking bold action to challenge gender-based discrimination and violence.
Add your voice to the G Word and you will help:
- increase conversation, understanding, and analysis about the ways in which gender norms affect our lives;
- paint a full and varied picture of the cultural assumptions, habits, and practices that that sustain those norms;
- connect the dots among gender norms and inequality, discrimination, and cycles of violence—in the U.S. and around the world;
- motivate a critical mass of new people everywhere—even those who may not consider themselves “activists”—to join the movement to make gender-based discrimination and violence unacceptable;
- inspire the imagining of new norms that allow us all to be our best selves, and live with safety, equality and justice;
- sound a collective, creative call to action for the culture change and manifest the world we want to live in; and
- build a critical mass of people who feel that they have something at stake in the issue, who are motivated to take action for change, and do.
Breakthrough is a global human rights organization working to drive the culture change we need to make gender-based discrimination and violence unacceptable. We believe that if we challenge and transform the norms that enable gender-based inequality we can build a world in which all people can achieve their full potential and enjoy their human rights. We believe that this kind of transformation requires not only legal and policy change but also deep cultural shifts driven by individual and collective action. And we believe in the power of storytelling to drive that transformation.