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Oxford feminists in publicity drive
Throughout 6th week, St Hilda’s College is hosting its annual Gender Equality Festival, during which a wide range of free events will be hosted at the college.
The festival was established soon after the college became mixed in 2008. St Hilda’s Women’s Officer Alice Holohan describes it as “a way to celebrate the college’s inclusive history in a progressive and positive fashion”.
Daytime speakers include Dean Vivienne Faull, Dean of York Minster and the first female dean in the Church of England, who will speak on the position of women in the Church after a measure to allow women to become bishops was rejected in November.The college will also host evening events such as a life drawing class, a stand-up comedy evening and a JCR v MCR debate.
Helen Reid, a St Hilda’s student assisting with the organisation of the festival, commented, “It’s a chance for students to be confronted with questions of gender and sexual politics which we are all, perhaps often subconsciously, confronted with and which affect us on an everyday basis.”
Reid continued, “I hope the festival will spark thought and discussion about gender equality within the student body, through showcasing successful and intelligent men and women who believe in the principle and understand its complexity.”
Another recent student-run feminist campaign to attract media attention is the ‘Who needs feminism?’ campaign, organised by WomCam. Participants completed the slogan, “I need feminism because…” in whiteboards, and were photographed holding their responses outside the Exam Schools, Radcliffe Camera, Radcliffe Science Library and at a Wadham based WomCam meeting.
Following the success of the first event on the fourth of February, a second was held on the seventh, bringing the total number of photographs taken to just under 500. WomCam officer Rebekka Hammelsbeck, who organised the campaign, told Cherwell, “WomCam organised the “Who needs feminism?” campaign because we believe that feminism is still important – and not just in some abstract sense but important for us right here and right now. Feminism is a broad and diverse movement as well as positive and empowering, and that is exactly what the pictures show.”
Hammelsbeck detailed the “huge response” the movement gained online, adding, “On Facebook we “reached” about 200,000 people in the week after our photo-shoots, Mary Beard was tweeting about us and a couple of pictures circulated on Tumblr with over 70,000 notes.”
The ‘Who needs feminism?’ campaign was also staged at Balliol College as part of the JCR Welfare Week; women’s officer Alice Beech estimated the number of participants to be approximately 30-40. She noted, “There was quite a variety of people there - not just students who speak out regularly about feminism or sexism, but also some who might have unfairly been assumed to have no interest in the matter and that was especially encouraging”.
Emily Troup, also a women’s officer at Balliol, commented, “Additionally I think what the campaign exposed was the backlash feminists sometimes experience, particularly from other women. Feminism isn’t a dirty word and the movement itself affects everyone, regardless of gender; I think almost the unwillingness of some students to write a board showed more than those who did.”
During the JCR Welfare Week, Balliol also hosted an all-women’s self defence class titled, “Doughnuts in the Dojo”; Troup explained, “We all celebrated afterwards with a large amount of confectionery.”