Stef, 20, ACT

“I wish the government knew how frustrating it is to feel powerless as a product of being a young woman. In everyday encounters – paying the bill at a restaurant, appeasing customers, dealing with businesses or bureaucrats, asking no more or less of someone than that they do their job – there is a clear expectation that we are always smiling, polite, and unimposing. There is also the constant reminder that were we men, we would be treated differently.

In almost all of these interactions, I find myself using phrases like “if it’s not too much trouble”, “I’m sorry, but would you mind…”, or “I’d be grateful if you could…”. Young men in the same position do no more than say thank you, recognising their clear right to expect something be done.

The risk of being considered rude when responding to unprofessionalism, of being disregarded and ignored when speaking up to sexism, of being expected to keep quiet when a male voice cuts in; these become exhausting when they govern so many day-to-day interactions.

I am powerful, even without a male voice to reinforce mine or to speak on my behalf, and I wish the government acted like they already knew that.”