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What is gender inequality? I would say that gender inequality is the result of society having different standards for men and women.

As kids we are taught that pink is a girly color and blue is a color for boys. We are taught that girls are supposed to play with dolls and princesses and that boys are supposed to play with trucks and superhero action figures. This is where gender inequality starts. It’s harmless.

When I was a kid and my parents would take me to McDonald’s, every time I ordered a happy meal I would end up asking for the “boy toy." Even as a 7-year-old, something about that didn’t seem right to me. I’d get weird looks from people because I wanted to get the cool new Spiderman toy that shot webs instead of the Barbie compact mirror that was only just a mirror.

Then, in elementary and grade school, teachers would come in the room and say, “I need three strong boys to help me carry stuff," and that would make me so mad. It felt like just because I was a girl, I wasn’t capable of doing things that were shown as “strong."

More recently, as a teenager and being in high school, I feel like the majority of the inequality is either unintentional or it’s just simply what’s conceived to be normal.

Something that really bothered me and caused my interest in the topic of gender inequality was how poorly my mom was treated in her last job. When I was about to go into sixth grade, my family moved from Florida to Indiana because my mom had been given a new position at work, or so we thought. Within five years of living here, she was never actually given the job she was promised. Her male co-workers and superiors treated the company as a boys club, which resulted in humiliating board meetings and rude comments, and it really affected her life at home. My mom has since left that company and is now getting the credit and recognition she deserves. Watching her go through this showed me that situations like this happen a lot, and they aren’t right.

This last semester at school, my friend and I actually made a documentary shedding light on gender inequality and gender bias. We interviewed a bunch of friends, teachers and other influential adults in our lives. What baffled me was the lack of awareness from some of my friends regarding the topic.

In the 21st century, it’s very hard to pinpoint the definition of gender. To me, gender is objective, but it’s also subjective. Gender is objective in the sense that there are two set genders, male and female. I would like to think that gender is self-subjective. Gender is subjective in the sense that anyone can be what they feel that they are. We don’t get to label people based on what we see. We don’t get to tell people who they are; that is for them to figure out and to tell others when they feel necessary. We don’t have to agree with everything, but we have to be kind.

The LGBTQ community is one of, if not the most supportive community out there. Who are we to tell them they are wrong when they are treating everyone with respect and kindness? In fact, 42 percent of people in the LGBTQ community feel they are not accepted by their communities. Gender should be inclusive and safe. It makes us who we are.

In the end, we just need to strive toward the equality of genders. Feminism isn’t saying that women are better; it’s saying that women are equal to men and that women deserve every right and opportunity that men have.

I’ve gone to Christian and Catholic schools my whole life, and every year we always learn about the “golden rule”: Do to others as you would have them do to you. As a society, we need to work on that. We need to start being kind without excluding those we look down on.

Ellie Presnol, 17, is an Andrean High School student and member of the North Township Trustee's Youth Steering Committee. The opinions are the writer's.

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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.