The Power of DUGES

A conversation with DU Gender Equality Society on raising awareness of matters of feminism and gender-related issues on campus

The main objectives of DU Gender Equality Society (DUGES) are centred in furthering the conversation of feminist issues on campus. The society feels that their purpose is to continue the on-campus conversation on feminism and gender issues. DUGES strives to create a safe and open space for students to talk about their own lived experiences, and it is this that cements intersectionality at the core of the society. In light of the recent pandemic, the society’s aim for the coming academic year is to use in-person events and conversations to their advantage. Theoretical Physics student and chairperson of DUGES, Ana Sainzdm, spoke to Trinity News about the society’s plans for the upcoming academic year, and the ways in which they hope to continue raising awareness on fundamental feminist issues on campus and beyond. 

It’s clear that openness is at the heart of DUGES. They constantly encourage students to participate in society events, or more simply, any of the feminist conversations that they facilitate. There is space for everyone to contribute. “Intersectionality is at the core of the society. We want everyone to know that everyone is welcome,” Sainzdm says. DUGES  understands that members have a unique and personal perspective to offer, which Sainzdm believes enriches the culture and fabric of the society. Already, the society has offered film nights for students; showing movies directed by and centring on empowered women, people of colour and LGBTQ+ individuals. Movies that deviate from the mainstream heterosexual and white perspective are powerful tools used by DUGES. These casual film nights enable all members of the society to feel represented, and Sainzdm says: “I think it’s a conversation that is missing in mainstream white feminism … Opening the society up to be a safe space that can reflect the lived experiences of students at Trinity.”

Last year, the Students’ Union (TCDSU) began providing free period products in bathrooms all over campus. DUGES hopes to add to this initiative combatting period-poverty on campus by working closely alongside the SU President and Welfare Officer. In addition to this, they have begun discussions of charitable events to raise awareness of the period-poverty that exists at a more national level in Ireland. These events are intended to raise much needed funds for organisations, such as Homeless Period Ireland, that provide sanitary products to those who need them. This initiative acts as an incredible way of reducing period stigma more generally among the student population, while also providing practical solutions that will benefit all those who menstruate. 

“DUGES not only enables academic and thought-provoking conversations on feminism, but they also actively support their members’ emotional wellbeing by way of subcommittees and support groups.”

DUGES not only enables academic and thought-provoking conversations on feminism, but they also actively support their members’ emotional wellbeing by way of subcommittees and support groups. These subcommittees strive to create safe spaces for those who have experienced abuse or have struggled with their body image. It is increasingly important to provide these services for students, especially at a time when government funding in this area is constantly lacking and problematic. Nourishes (aiding with issues related to body image) and Nurtures (helping those affected by sexual or domestic abuse) enable discussions among students while simultaneously offering much needed support, and is a huge responsibility for DUGES to undertake. It is an incredibly important focus for the society that, no doubt, has been beneficial to many students.

“We have a subgroup that works on body image, and we also talk about eating disorders. Getting to college and cooking for yourself, for example, is difficult,” Sainzdm mentions. In more recent times, DUGES has turned their attention to providing the relevant support to student sex workers who are connected with online sites, such as OnlyFans. Appealing to incoming first years, the cis-male student population and female students in STEM have found it difficult in past years, Sainzdm explains. She also says: “In particular, male students are less inclined to seek out the Gender Equality Society on campus, even though core feminist issues continue to have a massive impact on their lives.”

“During my first year in Halls, we had consent workshops. The guys didn’t take it seriously,” Sainzdm says. It appears that women and gender non-conforming people are more eager to be educated on issues of consent. To rectify this absence of representation, DUGES aims to collaborate with the Junior Common Room (JCR) committee in Trinity Hall this year to continue providing comprehensive consent and educational workshops. The society wishes to inform students that the conversations on feminist issues include and affect everyone, regardless of gender: “We want to show that there are feminist issues that also affect men.”

“In the case of female STEM students, Sainzdm hopes to use her links with other societies to continue to empower her peers.”

DUGES joins Trinity’s sports clubs during Movember, and provides information on male mental health issues and the services that are available to students college wide. This is an incredibly important collaboration that not only intends to raise much-needed awareness on male mental health but hopes to garner a wider male membership for DUGES itself. The society aims to offer effective peer support to its male members and to break down the harmful stereotypes that still exist to the detriment of men. Again, in the case of female STEM students, Sainzdm hopes to use her links with other societies to continue to empower her peers. 

Throughout the interview, Sainzdm stressed how DUGES is always open to suggestions and criticism. Rather uniquely, the society moulds itself to really fit their members. As a result, many of DUGES’ major events for the coming academic year remain a work-in-progress for now. Their main goals remain educating Trinity’s student body on feminist issues and ensuring information on given resources and helplines are readily available. The ways in which they offer support for and actively listen to their members makes the society a force to be reckoned with on campus. It is one of the few that strive for practical and substantial change among the lives of its members and the student population. DUGES’ continued enabling of open conversations and the providing of safe spaces for students helps to create a campus where feminist issues are rightly always open for discussion.