One of the most common criticisms against fraternities is the promotion of criminal activity and indecent behavior among members. Fraternities are exclusive societies that comprise people with similar views, opinions, and ideologies regarding certain critical issues in society such as politics, religion, race, and sexuality (Loh, Gidycz, Lobo, & Luthra, 2005). Misogyny is a term that refers to contempt for or prejudice against women that are manifested in ways that include sexual discrimination, hostility, violence, and sexual objectification, among others.
Recent happenings in colleges and universities support the argument that fraternities promote misogyny, especially through the rituals aimed at recruiting new members. Fraternities promote misogyny because many of them encourage attitudes and beliefs that objectify members of the female gender and embrace the notion that the degradation of women is an effective way of expressing one’s masculinity.
In many universities and colleges, fraternities are exclusive societies that control the social structure of these institutions. They are responsible for arranging parties and other social gatherings that include an unlimited supply of alcoholic beverages. One of the major skills that new members learn is to rank women on a scale of 1 to 10 based on how beautiful they are. Only women with a certain rank are allowed into parties hosted by fraternity members.
This is one of the ways in which fraternities degrade women. As part of the parties, fraternities have rules that their members are required to follow. For example, common rules include no means yes, never leave a party without a girl accompanying you, and never invite a girl who is not a 6 and above to a party. Such rules encourage sexual discrimination of women because fraternity members learn to treat women as objects that can be ranked and used and not as human beings worthy of respect.
Many fraternities allow and promote misogynistic practices because some of the actions that new members are required to complete as part of their integration rituals include acts of sexism and female objectification (Price & Yan, 2015). One of the most common actions that new members of a fraternity are required to complete is making sexual advances toward young women. This is often viewed as an expression of masculinity and male bravado.
Heavy drinking is a common occurrence in parties held by fraternities, and it is common for members to behave indecently toward women while under the influence of alcohol. New members are usually given a limited timeframe to complete assigned actions in order to prove their manliness. Otherwise, they are not allowed to join a fraternity because they are deemed unfit. In their haste to complete the assigned actions, new members sometimes engage in indecent acts that perpetuate the notion that women are objects that are meant to satisfy the sexual needs of men (Price & Yan, 2015).
In certain instances, sexual harassment and assault are the aftermath of parties where attendees engage in risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug use. Such behaviors result in outcomes such as rape, sexual harassment, and physical violence against women. Cases of gang rape involving members of fraternities have been reported in the media. For example, a woman named Jackie form the University of Virginia was raped by 7 members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. The university discouraged the woman from pressing charges for fear that the case would tarnish the image of the university. Many institutions cover cases of sexual harassment and assault so that they can protect their reputation, and in so doing, promote misogyny.
Fraternities support misogyny because many of them teach their members to express their masculinity by degrading women. In the past, fraternities in different colleges and universities have been linked with misogyny. For example, members of a fraternity known as Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) have been named in misogyny cases at Emory University, Loyola Marymount University, Iowa University, and Johns Hopkins (Chemaly, 2015).
Members of the fraternity have been suspended and put on probation for sexual assault and harassment. The SAE fraternity has been so notorious for misogyny that in many colleges, it is colloquially referred to as the “Sexual Assault Expected” fraternity (Chemaly, 2015). The New York Chapter of the National Organization of Women has been vocal about the sexist practices promoted by fraternities. In 2015, it called on the president of SAE to end the sexism and female predatory behavior exhibited by some of its members. The use of vulgar language to describe women is a common practice that is embraced by fraternities (Price & Yan, 2015).
Students use foul language when talking to women or about women because as fraternity members, they are required to adhere to certain values and principles (Chemaly, 2015). It is common for fraternities to confer respect and honor to members based on how aggressive they are with the opposite sex.
Misogyny can be attributed to the complacency of the administrations of colleges and universities that have done little to respond to the increasing number of female degradation cases among members of fraternity groups. Fraternities carry on with their hideous acts because institutions of higher learning shy away from dissolving them or instituting major reforms. Studies have shown that fraternity men are three times more likely to rape women than men who do not belong to fraternities (Loh, et al., 2015). This is largely due to the “within-group attitudes” that are reinforced among members due to strict principles and norms.
Fraternities have been accused of reinforcing societal attitudes and cultural elements that promote gender inequality. A study conducted by Loh et al. (2015) found out that the major risk factors for sexual assault in colleges include peer influence, alcohol use, and biased beliefs and attitudes regarding sexuality that view women as sexual objects. Fraternities socialize members by promoting attitudes and beliefs about sexuality that view women as objects to fulfill their desires (Loh, et al., 2015). This explains the numerous cases of rape and sexual assault perpetrated against women during parties by students belonging to fraternity groups.
Fraternities are founded on a common bond of brotherhood and shared principles and ideologies. In society, women are usually objectified and sexually discriminated because of the stereotype that they are inferior and the weaker sex. Many fraternities usually pick this culture and incorporate it into their ideologies and ways of life. The issue of gender roles and societal expectations of women has been discussed in many platforms for many years. Male-dominated groups usually have skewed discussions regarding the topic because they foster environments that encourage objectification of women (Chemaly, 2015).
Their hardcore ideologies sideline women and promote rituals that degrade the opposite gender. In addition, peer relationships and influence play a key role in the perpetuation of indecent behavior. According to social norms theory, people behave in ways that they consider consistent with certain norms (Loh, et al., 2015). Fraternities have norms that encourage male dominance and brotherhood (Loh, et al., 2015).
Therefore, the use of sexually aggressive behavior is likely to be adopted by fraternity members if their peers justify it. Misogyny is common among fraternities because sleeping with many women is considered an achievement and a bold expression of one’s masculinity (Chemaly, 2015). While this is normal in the world of men, it promotes sexism and degradation of women. Competition and overt expression of masculinity is one of the major themes among fraternity members. One of the best ways to prove one’ masculinity is to sleep with as many girls as possible. The more a fraternity member tries to prove his masculinity, the more likely that he will engage in indecent behavior that promotes misogyny.
In conclusion, it can be argued that fraternities promote misogyny in colleges and universities because they instill into their members attitudes and beliefs that objectify women. They socialize their members to embrace the societal notion that female degradation and objectification is one of the most potent ways for men to express their masculinity. Not all members engage in acts of sexism and female degradation.
However, since they are founded on shared ideologies, values, and principles, it can be argued that the actions of members mirror the general views of the entire group. The actions of fraternities in many universities and colleges across the United States have shown that misogyny is a common occurrence among fraternity members that the media and society do little to address.
Chemaly, S. (2015). Stop Minimizing Fraternity Misogyny. Web.
Loh, C., Gidycz, C. A., Lobo, T. R., & Luthra, R. (2005). A Prospective Analysis of Sexual Assault Perpetration Related to Perpetrator Characteristics. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 20(10), 1325-1348.
Price, C. & Yan, H. (2015). Do Fraternities Make Men Behave Badly?. Web.