I t’s no t easy being Greek.
Greek life has come under fire at college campuses across the country. In September, Wesleyan ordered its frats to go co-ed; last week, Dartmouth’s student paper, creatively called The Dartmouth, published an editorial entitled, “Abolish the Greek System.” There have been think pieces in The Atlantic, op-eds in The New York Times and enough chatter that my mom sometimes ends phone calls with, “I hope you’re being careful around fraternities.” But for the large part, frats at Penn don’t live up to the negative stereotypes — that is, once you’re actually inside them.
More often than we’d like to admit, my friends and I have been turned away from parties because we didn’t have the right “ratio”: the acceptable proportion of girls to guys in a group attempting to enter a party. My introduction to Greek life was a snapback-wearing frat boy blocking a gate during NSO and telling my newfound friends, “Guys, you need a three-to-one.” We stepped back and tried to figure out what to do while a guy walked by with a horde of girls giggling, “We’ve never even met this guy before.” It was not the best first impression.
The sad part is that, two months later, I’ve gotten used to the ratio . My friends and I have learned to be strategic about it — we’ve broken off into smaller clusters or even had to tell guy friends that we’d meet up with them later. Sometimes our cleverness works — sometimes, we end up at Allegro, failing to think of a game plan. But we’ve been conditioned to blame ourselves, not the frats. We say, “Oh, we should have asked the girl down the hall,” instead of facing the issue itself.
The ratio objectifies women. There’s no way to get around that fact. It reduces girls to commodities, to items that need to be increased. It doesn’t matter that I want to go out with my friends, regardless of their gender, and have a good time — what matters is that I gather the girls and act like we’re entertainment. The ratio takes us down to such a level that we exclude our closest guy friends — two of my friends first met when one told the other he couldn’t come out with us for fear of ruining our ratio. It brings out the worst, most disconcertingly ruthless parts of us.
But the ratio does the most damage to the frats themselves. I’ve been amazed by how Penn frats defy the stereotype. I’ve defended fraternities to my friends at small liberal arts colleges who think they’re the epitome of archetypal, dumb college groups. Actually talk to a frat brother, and you’ll find a different story. I’ve walked in on a few, albeit substance-induced, intellectual conversations at frats. Some of my smartest friends at Penn are rushing. What separates Penn’s social scene is how accessible it is — no matter where you came from or, for the most part, who you know, you can join the sweaty cluster of people belting Ariana Grande on the dance floor. Oftentimes, the worst part of any night is walking around from party to party, wondering if we’re going to get in anywhere.
I understand the basic rationale for the ratio: Most frats are all-male — no one wants a one-gender party — so whoever’s working the door needs to ensure enough girls come in so the party balances out. But parties can even out on their own — very few of us go out with only friends of our same gender. The negative message the ratio sends — not just to girls, but about the frat scene as a whole — outweighs any benefit of a majority female party.
Frats, do yourselves a f avor and nix the numbers game. By enforcing the ratio, you’re only h urting yo urselves.
Dani Blum is a College freshman from Ridgefield, Conn. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. “The Danalyst” appears every Tuesday.Comments powered by Disqus
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