St John's College Oxford

40 Years of Women: Feminism at Oxford

Date 5 December 2019

Our third event marking 40 years of women at St John's took the form of a fascinating panel discussion on the subject of 'feminism at Oxford'.

Held on Wednesday 27 November, the event was chaired by Professor Gillian Rose (Professorial Fellow in Geography at St John's) and the panel was made up of Dr Sabina Lovibond (Emeritus Fellow in Philosophy at Worcester College, Oxford), Professor Amia Srinivasan (Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy at St John's), and Neha Shah (DPhil candidate in History). 

Covering the history of feminism in teaching and scholarship at Oxford, as well as the extent to which this has changed in the present, the wide-ranging discussion began with the question of what feminism is, with the panel considering it a movement with many different forms, but which ultimately involves the coordination of women for the rights of all women. The conversation continued by examining the beginnings of Women's Studies as a course at Oxford, followed by comments on the high demand for the study of feminism, and wider radical political thought, among students today. 

Elements of the Oxford teaching style, particularly tutorials and small group teaching, were brought up in a discussion of power and privilege, while the ongoing UCU strikes were used as an example of the structural issues that can affect women in positions across the University. 

There were a wide variety of interesting questions posed by members of the audience, covering areas including the progress there has been for current undergraduates, the challenges and opportunities posed by the collegiate system, and what students can do to change things for themselves. 

To close the discussion, Professor Rose asked the audience and panel members to reflect on the changes that might be coming over the next forty years. Neha Shah suggested that we are living through an exciting time, with movements such as the school climate strikes showing the desire for change amongst younger members of society especially, while Professor Srinivasan said that she also feels optimistic about this articulate and empowered younger generation. 

We are grateful to all of our speakers for their insightful comments as part of our discussion of feminism at Oxford, and are also grateful to our audience for providing such thought-provoking areas for further conversation.

Feminism at Oxford