Revisiting the controversy behind DUGES name, and the reasons it is still yet to be changed

The self-proclaimed feminist society in Trinity is called FemSoc in every way… except officially recognised by the Central Societies Committee

In 2017, the Dublin University Gender Equality Society (DUGES) attempted to rename themselves as FemSoc. In response, the CSC not only disapproved of the change, but cautioned that such a name could jeopardise the acknowledgement of them as an official society altogether by the Central Societies Committee (CSC). DUGES, the self-proclaimed feminist society of College, were denied the opportunity to revise their name and have it altered to something that they felt was more fitting to what they do. While nothing of their activities and happenings within the society would be changed, the proposed name of FemSoc was enough to threaten their status as an officially organised society. Five years later in 2022, their name stays the same, as does the reason for it in the CSC constitution, and I think it’s about time to revisit why.

Feminism is a word that causes many an interesting conversation in today’s political climate. While the definition of feminism still stands the same as it always has, time and time again it seems to be portrayed as something that it is not, and even as far as a movement with a harmful and dangerous agenda. The definition of feminism is the “belief in and advocacy of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes expressed especially through organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Rather than taking this for what it is, and regarding self-proclaimed feminist actions and opinions that contradict this definition as false feminism, some have taken it to have a completely different meaning and goal to what it first claimed to be and achieve. This misunderstanding has caused deep setbacks by distracting from the important conversations that feminists are trying to have with an argument about linguistics. Each time feminism attempts to start a conversation, it must first fight an uphill battle to prove itself for what it is. In the case of the DUGES name change, this battle took place and was lost. And, even more miserably, it was lost because of a supposed breach of the CSC constitution that was never even explicitly named.

“Is it not sad that we cannot have a conversation that is actively pro-women without it being accused of being anti-men?”

A common misunderstanding of feminism is that feminism is anti-men. Feminism is a movement in favour of equality regardless of gender, arising from a society in which biases negatively affect all genders, especially women, and aims to contest and dismantle these social and political constructs. One of the most recent issues that feminist activists have supported the challenging of is the unfair expectation of men not being able to talk openly about their emotions in the way that women typically feel comfortable to do. The problem of body-shaming towards all individuals, men included, has also been circulating in recent times, and the dismantling of this social issue has been actively campaigned for by feminist activists. Other significant yet sensitive matters that modern feminist discourse tackles include topics of abortion, domestic abuse, the ethics of sex work and rights for sex workers, gendered violence towards women, and the exploitive nature of the porn industry. One reason for the misunderstanding may come from a vast majority of men never having been exposed to or having to deal with a lot of the issues that feminism brings up, and as a result they may be uninterested, unaffected, and unaware. What is harmful is not just the lack of involvement, but the excess of ignorance that leads to uninformed individuals making claims about the anti-men goals of a movement dedicated to gender equality. Is it not sad that we cannot have a conversation that is actively pro-women without it being accused of being anti-men? The Not All Men movement that followed that of Me Too says it all.

“Hatred towards men is, by definition, as much rejected as hatred towards women within feminist circles. If the goal is respect and equality between all genders, then misandry would be a distinct and large step backwards.”

Admittedly, there is misandrist media out there, but it is absolutely not feminist, though it may wrongfully claim to be. Misandry, just like misogyny, contradicts the gender equality of feminism in its entirety. Hatred towards men is, by definition, as much rejected as hatred towards women within feminist circles. If the goal is respect and equality between all genders, then misandry would be a distinct and large step backwards. When harmful and hateful media like this is made and claims itself to be in line with a feminist viewpoint, it strengthens the false idea of feminism being anti-men, and spreads like wildfire due to the depths of its controversary. Misinformation like this can be damaging to a concept, and threaten to skew its meaning toward those who feel it is not in their best interest, decreasing its effectiveness.

The denial of DUGES’ attempted name change to FemSoc was not explicitly stated, but it was reported by Trinity News at the time that the “CSC stated in correspondence between them and DUGES that they objected to the change of name because, they stated, the word ‘feminism’ was a political one.” My question is how is the DU Gender Equality Society less political than the DU Feminist Society? Feminism is simply another name for gender equality, and surely the use of the word would not only more accurately represent the society’s ethos, but help to shake off some of the stigma and misunderstanding of the concept. As well as this, the society itself, what it stands for, and the activities it puts on was to change in no way. It feels ridiculous for there to be no issue with a self-proclaimed feminist society, and yet for it not be permitted to be named as such. DUGES aspires to “foster and encourage social change and student activism,” but entertains no notions of being a politically active body in itself past providing a space for discussion and education to take place around the topic of feminism. Can just the name of the society changing, and to a more accurate synonym of what it was, really be the difference between a political society and a non-political society? 

“Trinity College Dublin society dedicated to the pursuit of gender equality. A feminist society by any other name…” reads the instagram bio of Trinity’s self-proclaimed feminist society, going by FemSoc between themselves and friends and in everyway except officially recognised by the CSC. Their online pamphlet reads DUGES on the cover, and refers to itself as FemSoc in all other places inside of it.

Feminism is the widely known focus of the society to both members and non-members, and the only place it seems to be disallowed in a society at College, is in the name. Official names are important, and being denied permission to change their name in this way speaks not to issues with the ideas and goals of feminism, but to the name itself. Rather than permit the name change, and help to educate and destigmatize the use of the word, the CSC chose to threaten the society’s official standing, and provide insufficient reason for doing so. Continuing to see no name change even years later, it’s time again to face the word head-on, and question again why the misunderstandings of it still exist in college life, and what we can do to fix it.

Abby Cleaver

Abby Cleaver is the current life editor at Trinity News, having previously served as comment editor, and is a final year English literature and philosophy student.