HeForShe Durham: ‘…Because Gender Equality is Your Issue Too’

HeForShe Durham was ratified by the DSU in June this year, and was officially launched in Durham in October 2017. I chatted to President, Eugénie Colonna d’Istria, about how the idea for ‘HeForShe Durham’ came about, what the movement means, and what the group hope to achieve…

Eugénie, a third year PPE student at St. Mary’s College, had the idea of starting ‘HeForShe Durham’ whilst watching Emma Watson’s speech at the UN in 2014… “I had already watched (the speech) two years ago, but this time I thought ‘She is so damn right!’ at every word she was saying. I wanted to learn more about it, and to get involved somehow. I checked their website and the HeForShe Facebook page and I came across the Sciences Po HeForShe Facebook page and I thought: ‘Wait, why don’t we have a HeForShe society at Durham?’”.

She added: “I had noticed that most men around me were strongly for gender equality, but refused to employ the word ‘feminism’ because they felt excluded from it, and believed that their opinions were not recognised by traditional feminism. But, as Emma Watson so eloquently explained, gender equality is their issue too; men and women should, and need to be partners in this fight. I believed that creating a HeForShe community in Durham had the potential to enable students to have access to a forum where they can express themselves, ask questions, and support HeForShe values regardless of their gender.”

Despite being a young society, HeForShe Durham is already an active community, organising weekly discussions on Sunday afternoons, for example, on various topics surrounding gender equality issues. They’ve worked alongside other Durham societies, such as the Sexpression Society, to approach larger communities and widen forums and discussions, creating interesting debates.

A HeForShe campaign is also currently being organised by members, college ambassadors, and the executive committee, which is planned for the end of November, to promote the movement’s values and ideals to the rest of the University. Later on in the year, joint events with other Durham societies are planned, and the group hope to invite speakers and run more campaigns.

Although a small group of students, the team behind HeForShe Durham hope to expand, and Eugénie is keen to make it clear that all are welcome. “People can get involved by participating in our campaigns, following our social media, and by becoming members of the society, which will allow us to organise bigger and better campaigns in the future. We have been recruiting college ambassadors in the past few weeks and the colleges that remain without an ambassador are: Hatfield, St Aidan’s, St Chad’s and St John’s.”

It was really lovely spending time with Eugénie and for me personally, really inspiring.  So much so, that I’ve been appointed as the HeForShe Ambassador for Josephine Butler College, and I’m so excited to be involved in the campaign to raise the profile of the movement and the society simultaneously.

I believe that HeForShe is a movement which has realised that feminism needs to adapt. Men are victims of gender inequality too. Toxic masculinity is a real issue, which men and women need to face up to. Young boys are growing up being surrounded by phrases like 'man up’ and ‘grow a pair’. It’s suffocating, and it’s not okay. Men and women need to work together to tackle these societal norms. HeForShe Durham is doing a fantastic service, and we at HerCampus Durham support their efforts.

So guys, please don’t be shy. We need you to get involved. Gender equality is not yet a reality anywhere, but it can be. It’s possible.  Societies and groups like these are absolutely essential in the fight to achieve true gender equality.

Check out the HeForShe Durham Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/HeforSheDurham/

Any questions about the society? Interested in becoming a member/ambassador? Email Eugénie: eugenie.colonna-d'[email protected]

Want to find out more about HeForShe in general? http://www.heforshe.org/en/our-mission

Read Emma Watson’s full speech here: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/9/emma-watson-gender-equality-is-your-issue-too