Guest Column by Dylan Hewitt, Rishi Simha, Joanna Kamhi, Nicole Grabowski and Dawn Androphy | A request for respect
February 4, 2014, 6:05 pm · Updated February 5, 2014, 12:54 am·
As leaders of organizations that strive to increase violence prevention education and enhance campus dialogue on identity, we would like to express our concern about offensive advertising used by fraternities during this year’s rush process. Specifically, we refer to an open rush flyer created and dispersed by the brothers of Delta Kappa Epsilon. It features a woman’s butt, clothed minimally with lacy thong underwear, and the words “RUSH DKE” written across her in black marker.
We are not writing this to indict the men of DKE or because we think that Greek life is bad. In fact, one of us served as his fraternity’s rush chair this year, and many of our organizations’ members are Greek. Rather, we believe the implications of this flyer are part of a much larger issue and wish to take this opportunity to address them.
The use of women’s body parts as promotion is objectifying. It sends a message to the freshmen hoping to be a part of such an organization that women are nothing more than their physique. As we know both from history and present times, it is one small leap from dehumanization to violence. That this flyer essentially depicts a woman’s butt as a prize for successful pledges only proves this point.
These actions also appeal to the worst stereotypes of masculinity and fraternities. First, they promote the idea that men hold power over women and may treat them any way they choose. When fraternity rush should be about forming lifelong friendships, they additionally send the message that men who don’t fit an alpha-male and heterosexual mold aren’t welcome.
We must ask: Does this flyer truly reflect your views? This isn’t a question isolated to the brothers of DKE, but for all men currently in and pledging fraternities. If not, why align yourself with its message?
We can write as many editorials as we want, but until action is taken at a grassroots level, our campus and society will not overcome a culture in which women are treated as objects.
To current brothers: Know your power and speak up against harmful and offensive norms. When a disembodied woman becomes your go-to form of advertising, question why. To new members: You are the next generation of Greek life at Penn. We challenge you to go through the education process thinking about how your respective organizations treat others. And to the Penn community: Continue to hold each other accountable; be bold, be daring, be human. Above all, be stewards of change and demand that every person on this campus is treated with respect.
Dylan Hewitt is a senior in the College and first-year at the Fels Institute of Government and the Producer of Penn Monologues. Rishi Simha is a junior in Wharton and the President of One in Four. Joanna Kamhi is a junior in the College and the Chair of Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention. Nicole Grabowski is a senior in the College and the Advocacy and Education Chair of the Vagina Monologues. Dawn Androphy is a junior in the College and the Chair of Lambda Alliance. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.