Payton Saso: My feminist journey

Payton Saso details her experience of becoming a feminist in college

When I came to ASU, I rushed a sorority and often found myself spending the weekends at frat parties.

On many occasions, I saw men trying to coerce blacked-out girls into returning home to their frat houses or apartments at all hours of the night, and I've had men come up behind me and try to grope me without permission.  

Through all of this, I've been called crazy for expressing how I feel about this culture, but it does not just happen in Greek life, Greek life at ASU is a subset of the culture that feminists are trying to combat. 

My experiences being in a sorority have shaped my feminist ideology and identity, something that I did not see happening as a young adult in college.

I grew up in Orange County, California — a bubble in which attending a four-year university right out of high school was expected, not considered special or a privilege. We spent our summers on the beach, seldom working. There was nothing to push me to expand my identity. 

My senior year of high school, I took an advanced government class and became more educated and involved in politics. With the 2016 presidential election happening that year, I started to realize that all these issues did, in fact, affect me. 

Following the Women's March on Jan. 21, 2017, I was moved by the power of such a large group coming together for the same cause. Yet, I didn’t identify any of my feelings about politics to be synonymous with feminism. 

Now, almost two years later, I constantly see the misogyny that Greek life fuels, and both sororities and fraternities are at fault.

The culture surrounding Greek life is centered around hypocrisy: for men, their sexuality is a trophy, and for women, their sexuality is shameful.

The double standards I see on a daily basis have rooted my feminist identity deeper. 

Rather than brushing sexist comments made by male friends aside, I try to call them out on it. Instead of my friends and I conceding to the misogynistic culture we surround ourselves with, I try to remind them that they should not put up with the slightest act of sexism.

Being told to smile more is a common occurrence at frat parties, and it's a gesture that fraternity men see as flattering. And snapping back with, "women don't owe you anything, especially a smile" is seen as rude by these men. 

Despite all this, many fraternity men wouldn't see themselves as misogynistic or sexist, and even the "good ones" are bystanders to their sexist brothers. Even if they don't treat women badly, they allow other men to and, therefore, they are a part of the problem and not the solution.

Being a feminist is something that both women and men should embrace, and for me, that starts with accountability.

When my sophomore year rolled around, I felt that I needed to educate myself and prevent any preconceived notions that I had about feminism, so I began my minor in women's and gender studies. 

The topics I’ve learned in my minor classes have been invaluable to my feminist identity. I began to understand how feminism is equally a men's issue as it is a women's issue. 

My disdain for the male population has disappeared as I learned more about the impact of gender roles on males' actions. My mindset changed from that of an angry feminist to an understanding and accepting one. 

Instead of constantly being angry at every cat-call, every unwanted message on Twitter and every unsolicited Snapchat, I now take these gestures as an indication of reinforced gender roles.   

Feminism is about breaking these gender roles and stereotypes and challenging them emotionally, intellectually, socially and physically.

I've become aware that college kids find it hard to break certain gender stereotypes, and fraternities seem to further toxic masculinity by encouraging men to be tough and emotionless. 

Once college men join fraternities, they feel pressured to be more aggressive and present themselves as "macho men." In turn, sorority girls take on a more submissive role to compensate for their male counterparts in the Greek community. It's a never-ending cycle, which can hinder any type of feminist movement. 

Many college men and women may not realize that they're carrying on this tradition of falling into gender roles, but college can be a great opportunity to break them.

Being at ASU has given me the opportunity to live in a more diverse community. It has taught me that although I am young, I am still capable of change. My feminist identity has turned me into an independent woman who I never thought I would become, and that has been a very empowering experience. 


Reach the columnist at psaso@asu.edu and follow @paytonsaso on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the authors’ and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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