Gender equality organization hosts FemFest 2019 event

When Nicholas Youngblood began his freshman year at Ohio State, he knew he wanted to join a feminist organization. Of the multiple groups he encountered at a campus fair, one welcomed him immediately.

“HeForShe seemed really pumped about having me there,” said Youngblood, now a third-year journalism student serving as the group's co-president. “So that was kind of a big motivating factor.”

Founded in 2014 by UN Women, the United Nations' entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women, HeForShe is a global solidarity movement. Ohio State hosts just one of many university branches. For three years, the local affiliate has organized events and raised money for charities.

And on Thursday, March 7, the group will host FemFest 2019 at Kafe Kerouac — one day before International Women's Day. The gathering — not to be confused with the city's other FemFest, a music, arts and educational event that ran for three years starting in 2014 — will feature a lineup of bands, including Teamonade, the Manatee Room and Wasp Factory, and raise money for the Truckers Against Trafficking organization.

As a college student and resident advisor, Youngblood witnesses his fair share of gender inequality and problematic behavior — but tries to be a positive role model.

“The place that it's most prevalent is the party scene, just the way that women have to be so much more careful in that environment,” Youngblood said. He also referenced the challenges women face in the still male-dominated majors like engineering.

“It's essential that men are involved in conversations about feminism because it's easy to say that the behavior we see in men is something that they just need to fix,” he said. “I think that maybe it's a little deeper than that.”

“The big contributing factor to the really inappropriate, often childish behavior from men is this general inability to express vulnerability,” he continued, crediting his girlfriend with helping him communicate better with his male friends.

“She basically sat us down and was like, ‘Y'all need to actually talk to each other,'” he said. “It's really important that women encourage that and don't expect their man to ‘man up.'”

Youngblood would like to see HeForShe continue to support charities, increase its reach and make a more immediate and impactful mark on campus. He cited efforts to get a women's center built and increase availability of menstrual products as examples.

While it's helpful to have a group like HeForShe to effect change, being more aware in one's everyday interactions is also important, Youngblood said. “Just catch yourself in the gendered mindset that we're all trained to have.”