The gravest threat to Greek life
Addressing toxic aspects of MIT culture
I am an MIT student, self-declared feminist, and proud sorority woman. I have been given so much as a student, leader, and woman from my sorority. But I’m tired of the inherent sexism present in the Greek system that overarches my sisterhood.
On September 23, Bill Frezza, an MIT alumni and chapter alumni president, published an article on Forbes’ website about the threat that “drunk females” pose to fraternities. Frezza brings up some relevant, understandable points: the drinking culture in American colleges has become one of binge-drinking hard alcohol; we live in a hyper-litigious world and everyone should be cognizant of that; personal responsibility has largely been forgotten.
Yet at the core of his argument appears to lie a disdain and disrespect for women. It is apparently women’s fault that MIT’s fraternities are currently under a Boston-, and subsequently MIT-, required party ban, that pre-gaming is a problem, and that rapes are reported and prosecuted on college campuses. He seems to shout, “How dare they?” while pointing fingers at women across college campuses.
Public leaders are realizing that universities have been failing the 1 in 5 women who are sexually assaulted during their collegiate years. After a slew of horror stories, senators, campus administrators, and students alike are standing up and saying that sexual assault needs to be addressed.
Yet Frezza appears to disagree. Women, in his opinion, are not friends, significant others, or siblings of fraternity members. They’re something to “protect against.” They’re something that fraternity men “have very little control over.” While the public may cast women as “sympathetic victims,” “all it takes is one [woman] to bring an entire fraternity system down.”
His reasons to believe that women are graver threats to fraternities than men? Women are more likely to pregame. They drink, fall, get hurt and litigate. If you have sex with them while they’re intoxicated, they will accuse you of rape and prosecute you.
All of these statements are untrue, rooted in a culture of sexism and victim-blaming. And yet I have had MIT men and women tell me that they don’t disagree with him and his viewpoints.
I question the culture that the college environment, and subsequently Greek life, has created when young women believe that other women are intentionally falsely accusing fraternity men of rape. I question a culture in which men feel a need to protect their organization against people of one specific gender, rather than all drunk college students. I question the culture when students are accepting and agreeing with fingers pointed against people hurt in rapes, falls, and accidents.
Rather than blaming women or fraternity men, we need to open the dialogue about the culture of binge-drinking, sexual violence, and misogyny that has arisen around Greek life on campus.
The problems Frezza and the national media are discussing are not isolated incidents.
I’ve had Everclear and Nyquil slipped into my drinks at parties.
I have at least 10 friends who have been sexually assaulted at or after a party.
I’ve had female friends forced to drink at parties until they blacked out.
I’m tired of these issues being swept under the rug as “risk” or “women’s issues.” I’m tired of being told that they’re not important. I’m fed up of having to think about protecting myself from my classmates if I choose to go to a party and have a drink.
Let’s begin a campus-wide dialogue that forgets about blame and focuses on solutions; that questions, like Frezza did, why college students binge drink at higher levels now than ever before; that really asks whether the Greek system is increasing rapes and sexual assaults. The growing activism about campus drinking, sexual assault, and Greek organizations isn’t something that should incite fear or anger. It’s an opportunity for college students to stand up and say that this is not okay — and that they won’t stand for it anymore.
Taylor Rose is a member of the Class of 2016.