The Collegian
Thursday, July 16, 2020

RC or WC: Who gets the better deal?

An anonymous University of Richmond student -- who could have been either male or female -- started a posting thread on College ACB with a description of tasks that men pledging a campus fraternity were required to do before being initiated. At 11:42 p.m. on Jan. 18, the person wrote:

"First night you get forced to chug puke and eat dog food till you puke. Then they make you do push ups and scream at you. The pledge brothers shouldn't stand for this awful treatment."

A total of 35 responses taking up two full-screen pages flooded in over the couple of weeks that followed. One of them was this, posted two days later:

"The gender inequality is absurd at this school. Sororities are watched like CRAZY. If Bartel finds out that a new member drank with a sister or even something absurd like paid for her OWN meal when out to dinner with a sister (because it can be mistaken for hazing), the ENTIRE new pledge class risks not being initiated.

"Meanwhile, frats get caught red-handed sending e-mails encouraging new members to find the most 'blacked-out bitches' to take advantage of, and have publicly known dangerous and abusive hazing ... and NOTHING happens."

This was promptly responded to with what I think was an extremely interesting reply by a male student, who wrote:

"Obviously the gender inequality at UR is sickening. The girls have it 1,000,000 percent better. Westhampton College actually gives a shit about your guys' well being and wants you all to be successful, happy and productive people. RC runs like a prison system, benign neglect. Throw dudes on probation when caught drinking or seriously messing up, not really address the issue of becoming an adult, let alone a man, let dudes get awful GPAs and potentially get really traumatized for life by joining a faggy frat, and not encourage beyond the most cursory way possible being a decent person. Seriously, the girls have the awesome deal in the coordinate system, they treat you all like you're worth more. Maybe you are."

I was absolutely astounded by this point of view.

There are clearly a lot of directions that one could take to address this, but the question I find myself asking over and over after reading it is whether it contains a substantial amount of legitimacy.

Assuming the information being discussed as the premise of this man's argument is true in some sense, then is it really the case that when it comes to Richmond Greek life, Richmond College students are metaphorically thrown in the deep end and told to swim while Westhampton College women float along the water in life jackets? Who gets the better deal?

I believe that in many ways, the statement is probably true. There is tangible pressure at this school to involve oneself in Greek life, regardless of whether one is male or female. Sororities and fraternities alike advertise themselves as vital networking mechanisms, as a community within a community, as a support system and as a party radar.

Both sororities and fraternities present themselves to new students as ways of making oneself known, and as ways of helping one to form his or her own identity on campus. No -- students are not forced to join Greek life organizations. Yes -- they are certainly pushed in that direction, by peers, parents, alumni and many other sources of persuasive effort.

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There are definitely discrepancies between the organizations. Sororities, for instance, are not permitted to serve alcohol to their peers for any reason whatsoever. Sorority members are not allowed to drink or to appear drunk.

They are not allowed, therefore, to throw parties, and thus do not have party houses (aka "lodges") as men on this campus do. Girls are often thrown on probation for breaking these rules, and must continue to pay dues without receiving Greek life benefits of any sort, simply because they were caught drinking or serving alcohol, or somehow compromising their respective sororities' reputation.

Likewise, sorority members must keep their GPAs open books, to be tracked by board members within their respective sorority and for which they will receive penalization should it fall below a certain number. Hard times are not excusable times. Probation is inescapable.

These are national-level Panhellenic rules, and technically hold throughout the country for all sororities at every school. Sorority members are required to request fraternity involvement if they would like to serve alcohol at an event. At the state level, sororities are not legally allowed to live together in houses, because to fit seven or more women in a house, without a male resident, is automatically assumed to be a brothel.

Then there are the fraternities. They get to dominate social life on campus and to live together if they choose, but they also must get hazed in order to earn these privileges. This hazing is apparently quite terrifying. Men must subject themselves to what is reported to be indisputably torturous experiences at the mercy of other men, and then turn around and do the same to other men the following year. They are expected to continue going to class and getting on with their everyday activities while going through this hazing, and also to continue being friends -- "brothers" -- of their abusers throughout and following the process.

What we have here is a perfect example of gender inequality. Everyone tends to freak out when they hear that term, but the fact is it tends to be a recognition of lose-lose situations. Women are suffocated with femininity, men are beaten down with masculinity. Women are baby-sat and restricted. The message is that they are incapable of knowing what is best for themselves without getting help from an outside source. Men are neglected and roughed around. The message is men who cannot endure a forceful amount of hardship without being defeated are simply undeserving of respect.

Both messages are negative, both encourage gender stereotypes and both get internalized by those to whom they are sent. Sorority members truly believe that they should be ashamed of themselves for "letting themselves go" in any visible or measurable way (alcohol) and fraternity members truly believe that they have failed if they choose to not be physically, mentally or emotionally abused by their new "friends."

One is ordered to follow a strict code of behavior (one that carries the implicit message that bad things happen to girls who party too hard, and that this is the fault of the party girl), and the other is pressured to do the exact opposite, even when it seems an unfavorable choice.

So -- should authorities be more involved in happenings within the Greek system on Richmond College campus? Yes, they should. It would solve the problem overall, for both men and women on campus. Equal involvement and restriction by authorities within the sorority and fraternity complex would equalize sorority and fraternity statuses, in every area of campus life.

What anyone rooting for new policies should realize, though, is that freedom from fear is usually a loss of freedom. Being protected from hazing means being restricted in many other ways as well, as authorities would be exercising control in ways that would require new behavioral lines to be drawn. Perhaps this consequence makes the vote for increased involvement seem unappealing, although I can't help but think it might just beat the taste of puke.

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