Some minority frats and some sororities still serve a purpose (Are there gay frats and sororities?). They foster networks that have been traditionally denied to those communities. To that end, those frats are OK.
But those aren’t the frats you’re thinking about, nor are they the frats I’m talking about. Fraternities in the classical sense?
I don’t want there to be any ambiguity in my stance- Fuck. Them.
The college experience is supposed to open you up to new perspectives, new ways of thinking, new experiences, new people. Frats stand in direct opposition to that notion. They are exclusive for the sake of being exclusive.
They seem to aspire to the brotherhood and camaraderie inherent in sports teams, without the shared sacrifice (or talent). Sports teams without the sports.
Even in their earliest American iterations, they were bastions of misogyny and bigotry. Don’t be fooled- at no point in their overlong history did frats ever come close to living up to the noble rhetoric they espouse. One wonders if they ever even tried.
The mission of Sigma Alpha Epsilon is to promote the highest standards of friendship, scholarship, and service for our members based upon the ideals set forth by our Founders and as specifically enunciated in our creed, “The True Gentleman.”
The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.
– John Walter Wayland
SAE is referred to nationally as ‘Sexual Assault Expected.’
The statistics validate everything we are seeing; frat members are far more likely to commit sexual assault (and that’s relative to the already sky-high sexual assault rate across American college campuses). We can’t go a couple months without another story of frat members doing something racist or misogynistic- or accidentally murdering a recruit. Every time- much akin to the gun control debate- there’s initial outrage, everyone writes think pieces about how horrible frats are, everyone agrees they are the worst, then the news cycle turns to something else horrible and everyone forgets about it.
And just like the gun control debate, we ask ourselves- what more has to happen? Where is the line at the crossing of which we say ‘OK, no more frats.”? Where are all the benefits to society against which we are weighing all of these toxic elements? Sure, many of them have community service mandates. But for most of them, it’s window dressing. It’s done so that they can say they do it when people ask why the hell frats are still a thing. Despite how little or less benefit they actually serve to society, the point still remains- there are no amounts of good acts a frat can do to out-weigh their continued criminal behavior. They don’t cancel each other out. There is no algorithm for how many community service hours makes rape OK.
So… Why are frats still a thing?
Money. Duh. Fraternity members donate to their schools. There have been efforts to reign in Greek life, typically following a typically horrible incident. But there has been a (at times, not-so) subtle pivot in the priorities of universities over the past several decades. Coinciding with many colleges appointing board members from the finance industry, colleges have begun shifting towards an emphasis on profit maximization (and away from academic endeavor). Administrative budgets are increasing, as schools seek heads who can ‘bring home the bacon.’ State schools seek out-of-state students for the higher tuition price tags. Schools focus on providing luxury items like state-of-the-art gyms, dorms and cafeterias while denying tenure and slashing the adjunct budget. Donors have more influence than ever. In this climate, university heads are more reticent to rankle Greek donors- let alone push them away entirely.
So what are frats in reality, then?
Frats are the material manifestation of ‘The Club’- the Straight White Men’s Club. The Club is where eligible members gather to avoid interactions with any individual or community that poses a threat to their worldview. In The Club, there are no consequences for your words. No one will question your entitlement. The Club is the last place in society that the principles of racial and gender equality will permeate. Unfortunately, most of our congress people and business leaders come from The Club, and lead from perspectives cultivated within The Club.
Frats attract the most privileged, entitled children of our society, and work to further insulate them from whatever negligible exposure they might have to critical thought.
But what is it actually like to be a frat member?
This is where there’s some space to bring frats to heel. It will probably take generations to purge society of frats, but to do this, we must distill frats down to their essence, and treat frats and frat members for what they really are. Strip away the horseshit noble mission-speak. Disregard their token community service. Ignore the illusory ‘networking’ benefits (members of loosely affiliated white supremacist gangs would probably want to help each other out, too- so what?).
What is left? Just a bunch of entitled, white male misogynists eating candy bars out of each other’s assholes. That’s what they do. They refer to it as ‘hazing’ or ‘initiation,’ but that’s all it is. Just one candy bar after another. Day after day. Assholes just filled with candy bars. Do they ever switch to granola or protein bars? Seems like a lot of sugar. And you don’t even get to choose the kind of candy bar you’ll be eating out of your frat brother’s asshole till you’re an upper classman. That hardly seems fair.
So what to do with this information?
Women- stop dating guys in frats. They are closeted misogynists who’ve definitely eaten several candy bars out of another man’s asshole. Have a friend who’s dating a frat guy? Shame her life decisions mercilessly.
Parents- Don’t let your son join a frat. If you do, you have failed as a parent. Period.
Follow these simple guidelines and frats will be just another chapter in America’s Book of Shame alongside the Indian Genocide, St. Patrick’s Day, and childhood obesity.
I know what you’re thinking; ‘I can’t decide which repulses me more- the misogyny, or the whole candy bar/asshole situation..’ Well, the misogyny is more abstract, but has wider-ranging implications, but the candy bars in the assholes is much more viscerally upsetting. There’s no real need to decide- the world is your oyster (or candy bar).