It can seem a bit daunting applying to an institution that is often portrayed in the press with stories of all-male drinking societies and old, white men dominating. Whilst there is some truth in the claim that many groups remain underrepresented at Oxford (including women and BME students), there is a diverse community of people here who work tirelessly to change this.
There are numerous programmes you can sign up to if you want to boost your own skills and confidence. OUSU’s term-long Women’s Leadership Development Programme offers women the chance to learn various leadership skills such as public speaking and assertiveness. Other leadership and mentoring schemes are being developed for women students wishing to pursue more focussed, short-term goals, whether academic, extracurricular or more personal.
Almost every college elects student women’s officers, who put on events in college and who can provide free or cost-price sanitary products, contraception, and emergency contraception. Some colleges have a tutor for women and a BME tutor, and there are countless forums and conferences held throughout the year at various colleges, such as the "Feminism in Theory and Action" conference.
There are plenty of feminist campaigns and societies to get involved with if you’re interested. OUSU has two campaigns – the Women’s Campaign, which puts on weekly events ranging from discussions to panels and self-care events, and It Happens Here, a campaign which specifically raises awareness of sexual violence. OUSU also has a full-time Vice President for Women (one of only six in the country) and a part-time women’s campaign officer, and many colleges also have their own feminist societies and discussion groups. Zines are also a prominent feature of feminist and anti-racist campaigning here in Oxford.
These campaigns are not only highly visible and easy to get involved with – they are continuously growing and expanding – OUSU’s Women’s Campaign now has working groups, such as the Women of Colour Working Group, and the Women with Disabilities Working Group, targeted at addressing specific intersecting issues and oppressions, and liberation campaigns frequently collaborate on intersecting issues.
I’ve been supported by other women in Oxford through OUSU’s Women’s Campaign, OWSC (Oxford Women Self Care Facebook group), Balliol STEM SISTERS (college society for women in science), and through the amazing friendships I’ve made here. WomCam has been an incredible source of support and inspiration for the three years I’ve been on committee. I’m so proud of the huge number of things we’ve achieved – updating the harassment policy, campaigning on a variety of issues, and running self-care events for the women of Oxford.