Of course, the people who join fraternities are not all the same. Even for those of us who claimed independence from Greek life, its draw was almost unavoidable. And so, belonging comes at the expense of women and people of color and queer bodies. I graduated from Cornell in , and felt alienated by the Greek system there. We were all learning how drugs and sex factored into those desires. Written down and examined in hindsight, the experiences that felt like rites of passage as a freshman are deeply troubling.
Finding allies in a sea of fiercely competitive and socially awkward year-old strangers felt impossible, but trying to survive that same environment without them was even worse. And so, belonging comes at the expense of women and people of color and queer bodies. My classmates and I felt lonely and scared; we were scrambling to find some semblance of belonging. As a woman who existed outside of their narrow idea of beauty, I was not only worthless, but also somehow offensive to them. Of course, the people who join fraternities are not all the same. He was assaulted by frat members who threw cans and bottles at him because his gender expression threatened their fragile notion of what it meant to be a man. As I came out of the bathroom, a group of men started yelling at me that I was too ugly to be there and that I should leave. When institutions like Zeta Beta Tau provide students with brotherhood contingent on the number of women they sleep with, they aid in strengthening a culture that already views women as valuable only for their bodies and what their bodies can offer these young men. Written down and examined in hindsight, the experiences that felt like rites of passage as a freshman are deeply troubling. Their brotherhood is based on exclusion. Why not just expel abusers and send a clear message that sexual violence is not tolerated? We were all learning how drugs and sex factored into those desires. Until college administrations acknowledge just how intricately woven fraternity culture is with rape culture, they are complicit, too. The primary providers of free alcohol, especially for underage women whose bodies were seen as commodities, were frat parties. Another time, my male friend walked across a frat lawn wearing a skirt. I once went to a party at a frat annex wearing sweatpants and glasses. Frats like Zeta Beta Tau have unchecked social power at Cornell and nationwide, a reality marginalized students like me know intimately. The reality was that as a freshman starting college, Cornell was socially terrifying, academically rigorous, and geographically isolated. We all struggled to feel brilliant and charming. And, of course, there have been the countless public incidents, like when the president of Psi Upsilon was accused of sexual misconduct , and members of the same frat were later alleged to have been involved in a racially motivated attack. As the MeToo movement has shown, women and gender nonconforming people of every age and profession face daily sexual harassment. Still, their participation in an oppressive system often leads to the oppression of women and gender nonconforming people. Even for those of us who claimed independence from Greek life, its draw was almost unavoidable. I graduated from Cornell in , and felt alienated by the Greek system there. But for so many young men who feel the need to join fraternities, especially those with social capital based in their whiteness and their class, those vulnerabilities are channeled into violence. The abuse is upheld and encouraged both by our fundamentally and institutionally sexist society and by specific administrators and colleagues who turn a blind eye, teaching men that they face no repercussions when they abuse their power.
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