The festival, organised by JCR Women’s officer Alice Holohan, includes a JCR v. MCR debate, on the motion ‘This house believes that if you’re not feminist, you’re sexist’. Female alumnae will also speak in talks for students, alongside other prominent male and female speakers.
‘Hildalarity’, a comedy night, will feature in the programme along with a life drawing class, a film night, and a brunch for the ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign flagging up violence against women.
Holohan said: “There are some incredible individuals giving talks, and whilst a very wide range of subjects will be covered throughout the week, all talks have a fundamental link to ideas of gender, aspiration, and success.”
The “broad” line-up includes trans activist Jess Pumphrey, who succeeded in getting the amendment passed which allows women to wear trousers as part of sub fusc. Other trailblazing speakers include Professor Judith Okely, the first female member of the Oxford Union, the Very Reverend Dean Vivienne Faull, the first female Dean of the Church of England, and Professor Hermione Lee, now head of Wolfson College.
St Hilda’s was founded in 1893 as a women’s college, and only began accepting men in 2008. Holohan said: “St Hilda’s began hosting a Gender Equality Festival soon after it became mixed, as a way to celebrate the college’s inclusive history in a progressive and positive fashion. It now happens every year, and marks a forward thinking heritage and open minded future.”
Students are proud of the college’s progressive history. A St Hilda’s undergraduate said: “The St Hilda’s gender equality festival is an annual event that proudly celebrates the inclusive history of our college that was one of the first colleges to admit women at a time when the vast majority did not.”
She emphasised the anticipation prevalent in the college: “We’re all really excited for the festival – we have lots of great speakers coming and fun social events planned too. I’m looking forward to going along to lots of the events.
“It’s only been five years since men were admitted to the college so feminism and equality are still a big part of our college’s identity.”
Holohan echoed this view, saying: “There’s been a really enthusiastic response from a wide range of people to the Festival so far, and I’m anticipating very good attendance of both the daytime talks and evening activities.”
Aaron Payne, another St Hilda’s student, commented: “I’ll try and get to as many events as possible. I think it’s really important as the last college to go co-ed that St Hilda’s carries a torch for gender equality in Oxford, a battle that as we all know still has a long way to go.
“The programme looks fantastic, so props to the organiser, and people around college are very excited. There’s been interest from outside college as well.”
Holohan laid out her aims for the event: “I hope that the Festival will encourage conversation, discussion, and – above all – thought around this often under represented and considered topic, whilst giving people the chance to enjoy lots of activities and some very interesting talks from fantastic speakers.”
She added: “I think it’s very important that Oxford as a University and we as its members continue to move forward and progress with these ideas of equality.”