Tyga won’t be the only one promoting sexism on Friday. While there has been much furor over Tyga’s lyrics, certain groups at Penn will be propagating a more ubiquitous and insidious form of sexism over Fling: our fraternities.
Fraternities nominally exist to promote “brotherhood.” According to a more cynical observer and Penn sophomore, they exist for “drunken revelry and date rape.” Why do people join? According to one freshman pledge, just to “get some.”
Of course they also provide networks for later and maintain a financial hierarchy by charging up to $10,000 a year in dues. They also foster genuine, lasting friendships between members and organize many charitable and otherwise laudable activities.
But the larger Penn community is mainly exposed to one aspect of fraternity life: parties. To us, frats are social organizations, which promote mingling with the aid of alcohol. Girls are welcome if they are decent-looking and willing to dance. A guy is welcome if he is accompanied by four girls.
What ensues at these parties is grinding, drinking and hook-ups — guys provide the drinks, girls the booty. Are guys so insecure they need girls to be drunk and in their house to approach them?
Frats aren’t inherently sexist, but some of the girls I talked to in writing this column felt that the combination of brotherhood and alcohol promotes sexism and that at parties, many of the guys are creepy.
This misogynistic culture has an even darker side. One Wharton junior, who understandably preferred to remain anonymous, said that while at a frat party, her dance partner was accosted by a fellow brother who told him to “fuck that bitch.” This may not be the norm, but it’s certainly not an exceptional occurrence.
Why then do we accept it?
We do so mainly because frats are so institutionalized and their form of sexism most often banal. Few people question the reality that the center of nightlife is all-male institutions. Despite their recent arrival, sororities aren’t a real counterweight to fraternities because they rarely engage the entire Penn community with parties. Fraternities have the traditions, the well-placed houses and the resources for them to seem a natural — even inevitable — center of social life.
Further, most frat guys are neither misogynistic nor sexist. Outside of parties, they are perfectly average Penn students who, if anything, tend to be a little more social than other students. Thus it’s easy to accept frats and even defend them based on their individuals, who are our friends, boyfriends, etc.
However, just because the individuals can be decent and egalitarian doesn’t mean the institutions are. Just because frats ostentatiously promote all sorts of good causes doesn’t mean they themselves stand for anything admirable.
But since the brothers are indeed our friends, we’re more inured to their form of sexism than Tyga’s lyrics, which are outrageously misogynistic and hard to construe in a positive light.
The sexism of frats, on the other hand, is more insidious because they are less overt and thus more beguiling. Unlike Tyga, no frat boy would openly admit he considers women as mere instruments of his pleasure. The solidarity — often inculcated by hazing — means that incidents of sexism and assault are never reported from within.
The brothers can also argue that no one forces anyone to attend a frat party, but especially freshman year, students don’t know other options. Of the girls I talked to, most said they didn’t even enjoy going to frat parties — maybe this is because their hosts create an environment more conducive to hooking up than just dancing or having fun.
But what makes fraternities most dangerous is that they are a large, powerful and even intimidating voice on campus. It’s not a coincidence that all of my sources preferred anonymity.
As we go into Fling, supposedly an all-inclusive celebration of spring, the university and our friends, let’s be honest about what fraternities represent. Frat parties shouldn’t be the symbol or heart of Spring Fling, and if we don’t think Tyga embodies the values of our university, let’s make it clear that fraternities don’t either.
Xavier Flory is a College sophomore from Nokesville, Va. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @FloryXavier. “The Gadfly” usually appears every other Monday.Comments powered by Disqus
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