Editor’s Note: Micaela Rodriguez is writing about Greek life at ASU from her perspective as third year sister of the Beta Kappa chapter of Gamma Phi Beta.
The fraternity behind the email, Epsilon Iota, is not chartered by American University but has emerged as an unrecognized organization from the ashes of what was once Alpha Tau Omega. Apparently, since it has no recruitment requirements and possibly no frontal lobes, the members of this “fraternity” have decided to recruit AU’s bottom-feeders to form one giant scumbag club.
Sadly, this email isn’t the first of its kind. Nor is it the second, or even the third. Long story short, many have been sent in the past, and many more will probably crawl into fraternity and sorority member’s emails in the future until the idea of rape being something worth joking about or practicing is completely unacceptable.
As organizations who claim to foster and instill leadership skills, confidence, love or whatever other catchy terms Greeks can mix into their mottos, missions and creeds, there’s a steadily increasing list of practices, or traditions, if you must call them that, gone awry. Hazing, heteronormativity, anti-feminism and irresponsible hookups run rampant. Until these end, rape culture will continue to grow.
Defensively, Greeks will argue until their voices are weak and throats sore that the organizations aren’t at fault, but rather that individual member decisions are the prime troubles of the community. But who recruited these misrepresentative members?
Unfortunately for Greeks, who are the first to throw their brothers or sisters under the bus during times of trouble or strife, the community remembers how brother and sisterhood works — one member loses, every member loses. I’m sure we all remember the ASU Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity’s “MLK Black Party” fiasco and the repercussions that followed.
Members of Greek life rush the organizations for a variety of reasons: Maybe they’re scared freshman who want guaranteed access to a group of friends, people looking for improved social standing after bad standing in high school, people looking to maintain their social standing after good standing in high school, or maybe their parents were Greek and they’re a legacy or they just want to be invited to the “coolest” parties on campus.
Whatever the reason, people rush, pledge (or spend a “new member period,” if the term “pledges” has been banned) and are initiated into their respective organizations.
Following this, in a perfect world, the members would become upstanding members of the community who provide countless hours of community service, raise large amounts of money for their philanthropies, are involved in a variety of on-campus activities and clubs and provide an accepting home away from home for all of their members.
Instead, what happens is eerily similar to the stereotypes and portrayals found in movies and television shows.
For sororities, the new member period is kind of like being a very privileged and reviled teen celebrity, with older members taking you on dates, escorting you to parties or helping you craft the perfect costume for a themed social with a fraternity — the top house on campus, if you’re lucky — and trying to win over your heart so you chose them as your “big.”
For some fraternities, the pledge period can be described as falling somewhere between the fifth and sixth circles of hell. If you know anyone in a fraternity, there’s a large chance he’s been humiliated, physically or mentally abused and quite possibly beaten with a paddle. As much as I would like to say paddling is a sick joke, it’s more of a harsh reality. Hazing is all over the place, despite the fact that it is banned by most fraternity national boards and is illegal in many states.
A major issue that leads to many members feeling uncomfortable, especially in sororities, is the standard of beauty to which they are held.
I would first like to acknowledge that while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to fit into the norms of society’s idea of femininity — sky-high heels, bows, deep tans, Lilly Pulitzer sundresses and MAC cosmetic products — there is alternatively nothing wrong with wanting to stand out in your own way by rejecting the norms for what makes you comfortable and confident.
Most female Greek organizations don’t agree. During recruitment events, there are look books and outfit requirements. In a poor attempt to showcase the differences present in the house, the answer is to toss everyone into outfits creating the idea of uniformity, entirely disregarding showcasing different body types but rather trying to disguise them into an ideal woman who best represents their house.
The idea that women are perfecting themselves to attract other women who will be judged based on their personalities is absurd. It creates an idea of perfection for a PNM (That’s a “potential new member” for you non-Greeks) that could seem unattainable and terrifying.
Misrepresentation doesn’t cease at recruitment, either. Soon sorority women will be attending philanthropies, socials, parties and events where the best foot forward version of a woman representing her house is surrounded by the term “recruitment ready.”
This means hair done, makeup perfected and any types of conversations that wouldn’t be deemed “classy” or “ladylike” should be put away and saved for “another time.” (A term which here means: when there are no fraternity men around, and definitely not on social media.)
It’s not enough that men wouldn’t like a woman who would show up with face and hair au natural, they probably wouldn’t like her true personality, either. Best stick to conversation topics like alcohol, parties and Greek activities, just to be safe.
If women judging other women who are their so-called “sisters” isn’t twisted enough, fraternities step in to provide their own two cents through “Sweetheart Pageants.” These events are a competition between women to be voted the female face of the respective fraternity. While it’s not a requirement to be attractive, or even Greek, because the winner is determined based on fraternity member votes, it’s traditionally the outcome.
Faces are apparently not enough female representation for the popular fraternity website Total Frat Move, because they’ve also compiled a repulsive and continually growing collection of a phenomena called “Rush Boobs.”
Each week, a plethora of women are apparently writing on themselves, or maybe even being written on by a fraternity male, it’s unclear, the word “rush” followed by the name or letters of a fraternity on or around their breasts showcasing the fraternity’s ownership of their bodies.
Still, it doesn’t end there.
Parties where you’re expected to bring a date are looked at as an opportunity for sisters to play matchmaker, pairing you with one of their fraternity friends and hoping he’s just as into you as you are to him and the two of you will look incredible in your matching outfits for pictures.
The shindigs are designed for straight, single and heterosexual members to get ultra-wasted at a bar, who probably won’t be inviting them back again, and hopefully ending the night on a note that will give a juicily satisfying answer to the unavoidable morning after questioning: “Did you two do anything?”
If you’ve stuck with me to the end and you’re thinking, “Wow, this girl is a complete stick in the mud who hates fun and is just trying to get everyone in Greek life in trouble,” or maybe, “She’s probably just bitter that she didn’t get a bid.”
I’d say that you’re wrong on both accounts. I love having fun with my sisters and participating in philanthropies. Late night trips to Sonic and weeknight dinners at Fuzzy’s following chapter meeting are essential parts of my lifestyle and help me keep a firm grasp on my sanity. I’ve been known to unnecessarily abbreviate words and eat more pizza than I probably should have while crafting in Adelphi.
While you’ll no longer find me at socials, I can say that I had a pretty great cowgirl costume at an America-themed social, and I’ve rallied hard for a “Great Fratsby” theme from my fraternity friends.
What I can’t say is that I agree with everything that happens in the community of which I am a part.
I don’t like fearing that a sister might not make it home unscathed from a party, or that my Greek friends will be raped or accosted during a night out on Mill Avenue or even on the short walk home to our Adelphi cluster from the Vine on a Wednesday night. I fight for the day that my sisters and fraternity friends who are too afraid to admit that they are a confident homosexual, because of the possible reactions of their so-called sisters and brothers, will be able to show up to an event with their girlfriend or boyfriend and not feel uncomfortable or targeted in their own house.
So while some are more comfortable turning their heads or pretending they don’t see the problems and masking them in fraternal silence, I stand beside everything I’ve said. It’s time for Greek life to become what we claim to be and move forward, showing tolerance to things that are ruled by human rights and privileges and intolerance for behavior that is toxic.
The rampant insistence of heteronormative behavior, a standard of what is feminine and beautiful or masculine and manly, as the only acceptable form of member conduct chains Greek life to a 1950s “boys will be boys” and “women are the homemakers” mentality. It’s 2014, and it’s time to end these standards and move on to a new chapter of Greek life.
Reach the columnist at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @mikayrodr
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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