Opinion

Beloit College Fraternities and the Subjugation of Women

IMAGE BY MACKENZIE KURTZ

By Abby Burnham
CONTRIBUTOR

The Greek system and Greek life at Beloit College reinforce negative stereotypes of gender and perpetuate the continued subjugation of women. A few disclaimers: There are exceptions to every rule. When I generalize and say that fraternities support the patriarchy, I’m sure I’ll hear a lot of “well, my friend [blank] is in the frat [blank] and he isn’t sexist!” That’s similar to a white person saying “I have a black friend, so I can’t be racist!” Try again. When I talk about sexual assault I use the pronouns “he” for the perpetrator and “she” for the victim. I understand that this is not always the case, but the majority of victims are female and the majority of perpetrators are male (though let’s remember that most males are not perpetrators).

Many of you may not agree with some of these statements: I had someone tell me recently, when talking about gender roles and societal expectations of women and men within the gender binary, that he “didn’t see any problem” with the way society views gender and gender roles. If you share his opinion, you will not like this article.

As a general institution, the Greek system in the United States condones, if not outright supports, some forms of hazing and other prove-you-are-good-enough types of initiation rituals. Fraternities and sororities also enable exclusion and the potential for isolation from surrounding communities.

Except I keep hearing: “Beloit frats and sororities aren’t like the typical fraternities and sororities! Beloit is different!” True, maybe Beloit Greeks don’t have explicitly dangerous hazing rituals. And maybe they support good causes and contribute volunteer hours. I understand the need to try and convince yourself that you aren’t a part of something that is racist/sexist/classist/heterosexist/younameit. But rationalization doesn’t do much to change the system.

At Beloit College, fraternities are the most misogynistic of our campus groups. There’s a reason we don’t have a White Students United group—the society we live in already supports the white, heterosexual men in power, hence the need for groups such as BSU, GOGA, Alliance, etc. Fraternities foster an environment that advocates the objectification of women.

Let’s talk about how Beloit College fraternities fit right in with the stereotypes of misogynistic frats. I’ve had people tell me that men are just going to get together and rag on women the same way fraternity brothers do when they’re in male-dominated groups like that anyway. That may be true, but that doesn’t make it okay. When you take this sort of ritual degrading of women and put it in an institutionally recognized and respected setting, such as within a fraternity, it only makes it worse. It then condones other situations where the group mentality allows for misogyny and the objectification of women.

Regardless of intentions, Greek life, and fraternities in particular, promote a privileged environment for men where misogyny and sexism can be ignored. A friend told me recently about how he helped a drunk girl back to her room after his frat’s party one night. He concluded the story with “I could have taken advantage of her, but I didn’t!” I’ve also heard the flip side, where women express relieved surprise when they find out a man hasn’t taken advantage of her vulnerable state. This expectation of violation is hurtful not only to women, but also to the many men who respect women and do not engage in those sorts of behaviors.

But we go to a school where a goal for many collective fraternity members continues to be to “bang as many chicks” as they can, and the language those men use when talking about women or to women is exceedingly vulgar. Some frat members on this campus pride themselves on how they’re not the ones being accused of assaulting women, yet they still talk about women like they deserve to be assaulted.

Please, Beloit College, prove me wrong.

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Discussion

One thought on “Beloit College Fraternities and the Subjugation of Women

  1. As a feminist, non-gendered male considering Beloit College as my transfer-to school for undergraduate work in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies, I am just as troubled (outraged) at this aspect of our culture as your are. In speaking of misogyny, the trouble is that the problem isn’t isolated or pinpointable. It’s about American values; the patriarchal nature of our world. As we well know. The specific issue here is the effect of having fraternities (and sororities) at all: do they themselves promote misogynistic behavior on [our] campus? Or are fraternities simply a place for “these kinds of guys to collect”? What would the actual effect be of not having Greek Life on campus? How do we change people’s collective mindset? Too often I find myself deciding that the male sex drive is the problem — I say that “God overdid it.”

    Posted by Ivy | August 11, 2011, 4:59 am

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