Antonia Netzl and Jess Molyneux, MCR Gender Officers 2021/2

What drew you to the role of Gender Officer for the MCR?

Antonia: When I arrived in Trinity Hall I soon realized that the MCR community was quite male dominated. I personally was missing events and conversations about topics that specifically concern women* in academia and society, which would allow us to connect, share experiences to identify structural problems, and empower each other. I thought the most efficient way to address this was by being a part of the MCR committee, and the role of Gender Officer is perfect for that.

Jess: I’ve always been interested and involved in feminist activism, and I was the Women’s and Non-Binary Officer on my JCR and at the Cambridge Union during my undergrad. When I arrived here, the MCR was a really welcoming space and I was keen to join committee and get more involved – it seemed like the perfect opportunity to use my experience to expand provision for women and people of marginalised genders within a great community.

What do you hope to achieve during your time as Gender Officer?

Antonia: My priority is to create spaces for the MCR FLINTA* (female, lesbian, intergender, non-binary, transgender, agender,*) community and raise awareness on issues that these communities have to deal with regularly, but might not be that obvious for people from different gender identities. A key objective of Jess, our MCR’s other Gender Officer, and I was to change the name of Women’s Officer to be more inclusive and represent the entire gender spectrum. In that process, people already read up on the meaning of the asterisk! The asterisk is generally used to refer to a variety of gender identities, which are very diverse but have in common that they are not cisgender, meaning they have a different gender identity than the sex that was assigned to them at birth.

Jess: The main thing that I’m working on at the moment is our period provision, and I’m hoping to be able to extend existing supplies to include sustainable and zero-waste options such as menstrual cups and reusable pads. Toni and I are both eager to strengthen the links between the JCR and MCR officers, for example by collaborating on menstrual cup provision and plastic-free periods workshops, as well as working together to get a big Trinity Hall turnout at this year’s Reclaim the Night march.

What is one thing people can do to educate themselves on International Women’s Day?

Antonia: The most obvious is also the easiest thing: Read up on it, and talk about it to your peers. As adequate female* representation is one of the central aims of IWD, I suggest making it a women*’s day by consuming content produced by people of marginalized gender identities (eg: make an all-female* playlist, listen to podcasts by women*, watch movies and TV series by women*, and read books by female* authors). Another way to raise your own awareness on issues that women* and people of marginalized gender identities have to deal with is the Privilege Checklist.

Jess: I think podcasts are a great way to start absorbing information and theory in an accessible way, and there are two in particular which come to mind as the best introductions to why we still need feminism and the intersectional shape which that feminism needs to take. The first is the Media Storm episode on rape justice, and the second is the Guilty Feminist emergency episode on Afghanistan (if you can’t listen to the whole thing, skip to the second half to hear from amazing Afghan women). The Good Robot is also a great introduction to gender’s critical place in the world of data, AI ethics, and technology.

Why did you choose to study your subject?

Antonia (Biological Sciences): The idea of understanding how living organisms work fascinated me, and almost more the mechanisms by which we could find out. I remember learning about gene expression in school and how amazed I was, firstly by the process itself, and secondly by the fact that researchers were able to describe it. Initially driven by curiosity, over the years the prospect of applying my training to improve human lives, through infectious disease research, became my main motivation.

Jess (Multidisciplinary Gender Studies): I studied English at undergrad and have always been interested in literary feminist theory. I felt that the Gender Studies MPhil would be a great way to deepen my understanding of gender theory and critical approaches before, hopefully, starting a career in the NGO/charity sector working with women and people of marginalised genders. Through my volunteering at the student-run charity SolidariTee, I’ve also become engaged in activism around displacement and asylum, and the gendered aspects of these experiences was something I wanted to work a lot more on. I’m currently writing my thesis on family separation and racialised gender in the UK asylum system.

What’s your favourite thing about Trinity Hall?

Antonia: I love its location, being tucked away in the centre of Cambridge and rather unassuming from the outside. Then, once you enter, you’re struck by it’s beauty; The river terrace is one of the most wonderful spots in all of Cambridge. But what I like just as much is that Trinity Hall has the best vegan food of all Cambridge colleges.

Jess: Definitely the people – I’ve been lucky enough to make a lot of lovely friends in the MCR!

What do you enjoy most about studying/living in Cambridge?

Antonia: The vibrant community and extraordinary opportunities that Cambridge offers, both academically and socially. I catch myself regularly being awestruck by the academics I work with, and am continuously inspired by my peers. Also, the variety of university societies and cultural events, with London just around the corner, make Cambridge an exciting place to live and study.

Jess: As stressful as it can be, I love how jam-packed the weeks are: there are always plenty of fun things happening in and around College to distract from the heavy workload. One thing I’m enjoying with the switch from undergrad to postgrad is the continuation of Cambridge life into the break, so that there’s a bit less pressure within the eight weeks of term and steadier pacing throughout the year, although term still manages to be a bit of a whirlwind!

Photo: Jess Molyneux (left) and Antonia Netzl (right) outside the MCR