Getting our priorities straight: Greek life and sexism

News flash: Greek life is a man’s world.  At least that’s the case according to Samantha Wishman, a Penn grad.  In her recent article for The Daily Beast, “Frat Culture’s Woman Problem,” Wishman argues that a double standard exists between fraternities and sororities on college campuses: while fraternities are often given almost free rein to party and are only subject to disciplinary action when they commit serious criminal offenses, sororities are strictly scrutinized by their national organizations for even holding parties with alcohol.

Wishman also brings up fraternity brothers’ marked acts of misogyny at even the most stereotypically liberal schools (does “no means yes, yes means anal” sound familiar?).  Undoubtedly, this form of sexism and verbal violence is deeply disturbing.  At first glance, Wishman’s complaint regarding equal partying standards seems almost petty in comparison to the feminist issues raised by the chauvinistic rituals practiced by fraternities at other schools (and maybe even Brown…remember a certain fraternity’s Spring Weekend t-shirts from two years ago?).

But, perhaps it is these sorts of double standards which are even more insidious than the more explicit sexism that everyone seems to be talking about.  The moral outrage expressed in reaction to incidents like the Yale pledge chant and, as referenced in Wishman’s Daily Beast article, an email sent by a Kappa Sigma brother at USC calling female students “targets,” surely has spread beyond these scandals’ campus origins.  But why is Wishman the only one to compare these two forms of sexism?  If you’ve taken any public policy/AMCV/any humanities class ever in the world, you may or may not have taken away one important fact from the requisite civil rights lecture: institutional discrimination is far more sinister than the radical prejudice displayed by those on the margins. Perhaps we should be a lot more worried about the fact that sororities can’t have parties with alcohol, as it demonstrates that sexism  has not only penetrated the social aspects of Greek life, but universities’ and national organizations’ systematic treatment of women.  And, let’s be real, no one ever thought that that frat culture was ever really about holding women in the highest esteem.

To read Wishman’s full article and decide for yourself on this issue, click through to the Daily Beast.  Have an opinion?  Leave it in the comments!

Correction: Due to an editing snafu, an older draft of this post was published, falsely indicating that sororities at Brown are dry due to Rhode Island state law.  In reality, the prohibition on alcohol for both on-campus sororities at Brown comes from their national organizations.

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  1. Greek Alumnus

    The rules regarding the sororities use of alcohol are dictated by the sororities’ national organizations, not Brown’s.

    Also, could you please cite your source regarding the Rhode Island law? I hope you are not referring to some sort of “brothel” law or any such other urban legend.

  2. David Winer (Author)

    You’re completely right–we’ve posted a correction. The version of the post that went up earlier was a draft that was changed to reflect what you said, Greek Alumnus, but, somehow the older version still ended up being published. We’ve fixed it, though. Thanks for pointing out the mistake to us!

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