To be honest, I am a feminist dating a frat boy. I know, it sounds contradictory, but take a deep breath and relax. They aren’t as mutually exclusive as you would think. Fraternities and feminism have a sometimes unfair connotation surrounding them; to some, these words are dirty and represent only a small population’s perspective. And those same people think that these are words you embrace in your twenties, but when you think about them in the context of the very distant future, you may cringe.
The most obvious connection between them for me? I’ve had a not-so-positive experience trying to make them coexist.
I’ve been dating a fraternity member for a year now. We’ve attended two of his formals and one of mine. We’ve gone to his house’s parties and cringed at some of the behavior together. And more notably, we’ve argued and argued and argued some more about his fraternity. As much as I’ve loved the free t-shirts and weekend excursions, that doesn’t blind me to the sexism that has yet to leave the Greek system on our campus. From the minor competitions for the spot as the “girl who brings the boys baked goods,” to the chasing after drunk friends walking out of a party with frat boys, to antiquated “Mad Men” themed formals, sexism is promoted and thought to be simply a joke that women should lay down and take because, well, it’s harmless, right?
My struggles with feminism were highlighted as I juggled the challenge of being liked by my frat boyfriend’s brothers and the necessity I feel to stand up for myself and others. If I joke about how I feel like a dog when fraternity members whistle at me, maybe I won’t come off as an asshole and still be the cute girl everyone is anticipating. If I say that I’m only a little uncomfortable with the formal theme, maybe I can still have fun. Not surprisingly, being quiet doesn’t work for me.
Feminism has encouraged me to stand up. But wanting to make my boyfriend happy has made me pause. I’m betting I know what some of you are thinking: “Sarah, just break up with him if he’s so terrible and sexist.” That’s the beauty of the problem. The men of the Greek system as individuals are not inherently awful people. They are dedicated to each other and the success of the house, which is something I can respect; but, as a group, some invisible force found only in the dark basements of fraternity houses encourages them to ignore blatantly sexist acts for the sake of a joke or a fun weekend.
They aren’t completely against changing. Eventually, the formal theme was changed and maybe one day women won’t have to sprint after their drunk friends walking out of frat houses. I hope that instead of pissing off a solid third of this campus, I will be encouraging them to reevaluate how much they actually value their girlfriends, dates and fellow Greeks. I’m not asking for all girlfriends to throw down like I have with my boyfriend for the sake of stopping sexism. It’s not fun, it’s not helpful, and if you’re like me, you will cry pretty intensely. But I’m asking that you stand with me, even silently. I don’t think that I’ve asked a lot. I’m asking for you, Greek men of William Jewell College, to remember that we are more than just “secretaries” in your “Execs and Secs” formal theme. We are more than just your Crescent Queen. We are more than just a body covered in foam at your party.