Op-Ed: A fight for Greek life

The past few weeks at Tufts have been about two things:

  1. Reading: Facebook statuses, Facebook comments, tweets and Instagram posts from friends, fellow students and Greek organizations. I have seen countless posts with people spewing angry, hateful things about various topics — politics and Greek life in particular. Never before have I felt such a presence of anger and rage on the Tufts campus. Never before have I seen such anguish.
  1. Internalizing: I, labelled as complicit in the classist, racist and heteronormative structures perpetuated by Greek life, have never felt more isolated from my campus community. People are fighting and I do not want to take part, yet I feel as if I have been given no other choice. There is a pressure to speak, but a pressure to speak in a way that I do not agree with.

About a month ago, the Panhellenic Council released a statement in light of the Nov. 7 Observer article “Abolish Fraternities.” This statement, written by members of the four sororities on campus, was meant to represent all members of sorority life in response to this article. However, I, along with many others in Tufts sorority life, did not see this statement until it was released. And I, and perhaps others (whom I respect and understand), were not pleased with this statement, which put words in my mouth and made it seem as though I agreed with the abolishment of Greek life. In reality, I was hurt and angry. I would like to point out parts with which I disagreed:

“We, the members of the Panhellenic Council, want to acknowledge the current state of toxic hypermasculinity in our country and in particular within Greek life at our university. We are horrified by the results of the election. We are hurt and afraid. Donald Trump’s presence is a direct result of the misogyny in our country. These misogynistic attitudes exist within our own Greek life system. We are thankful that Ben Kesslen courageously brought this to light in his Nov. 7 Observer article.”

I understand that people are scared with Trump’s newfound presidency. But that does not mean it is right to assume that everyone shares the same political beliefs. American politics had no place in this statement because there was no way to ensure that it reflected the opinions of all members of sorority life. Additionally, there was no need to further intensify the upset that made this campus so toxic throughout the last few weeks.

I do not appreciate Panhel thanking Ben Kesslen for his article entitled, may I remind you, “Abolish Fraternities.” I understand that they were specifically referring to the rape culture that surrounds fraternities, and that they were trying to protect and respect women’s rights. However, this article, although seemingly focused on male Greek life and rape culture, greatly hurt female Greek life as well. By thanking him, we essentially agree to the abolishment of an organization that for many is the entirety of their college career. This organization bonded me to many women I would not have met otherwise and allowed me to forge some of the strongest friendships I have made at Tufts. In this same way, male Greek life is about more than partying. It too is about finding comfort during some of the most difficult years of one’s life. It is a home away from home. For many, Greek life is not just “Greek” life. It is “life.” To rid someone of their “life,” especially during these harsh four years, is unacceptable.

“We want to take this time to speak directly to fraternity members … You betrayed us. You lied to us. We have been in your houses and trusted that we had our safety. Our sense of artificial safety has been shattered.”

The blunt, accusatory tone of these very sentences made me squirm with discomfort. I have many friends in fraternities on campus, and never have I felt this harshly towards any of them. I did not find it appropriate or fair, because regardless of how we try to disassociate ourselves from these boys, we are still part of the system. Greek female and male life counterbalance one another, regardless of how much we try to disassociate ourselves. Conclusively, by thanking this article for trying to abolish fraternities, we abolish ourselves. This is not fair to anyone who has done no wrong in the Greek system, to which we have pledged ourselves. By agreeing to this article, we are going against the very vows we made when joining.

Yes, sororities are meant for forging bonds with women who share similar ideals. But we cannot deny the fact that many women join because of the social horizons it opens up, especially during their freshman years, specifically as they receive invites to social interactions with this “structural misogyny” and “classist, racist, heteronormative structure.” Just as others find fun and relaxation in locations and/or organizations such as the I-House, Rainbow House and Crafts House, fraternity members also find refuge in their brotherhoods, or houses occupied by Zeta or 123.

In addition, I would like to point out the issue with a sentence such as, “Our sense of artificial safety has been shattered.” So from the moment we entered the fraternity house, we knew it was artificial? Why are we openly criticizing when we actively go, every weekend, to these sites of “artificial safety?” We shouldn’t accuse fraternities, but rather ourselves. If we are so aware of this “artificial safety,” then why are we going in the first place? Why are we being hypocritical?

“Until we are ready and until we feel safe, we are suspending organized events with fraternities and sports teams. The environment of sports teams echoes the misogynistic culture of hazing and pledging present in fraternities. We do not condone hazing from any organization.”

So, you feel the same way when you are in the women’s soccer or field hockey house as you do in the male lacrosse or hockey house? Hazing is not limited to fraternities and teams. The abolishment of Greek life does not mean the abolishment of hazing, but a greater battle to find hazing within other Tufts organizations.

All this is not to say that I think fraternity violence and harassment are justified, or that what happened is acceptable. This is not to say that I don’t believe it happened. But this is also not to say that these acts of hazing, violence and misdemeanor are not happening in other parts of the Tufts community, and that they will stop if Greek life is abolished. Greek life is cursed with a historical background of white male supremacy, and is thus an easy target for accusations regarding sexual, physical and radicalized violence.

The voices you label “heteronormative, cisgender, queerphobic/transphobic” deserve to be heard too. This country is built on free speech. Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard because when you graduate, the world expands beyond the Tufts bubble, and you must be prepared to face it. There are going to be many different voices, and more often than not,  you will not be able to drown them out.

The purpose of this article is not to spark an argument, but to promote progressive discussion; it is to bring to light proper communication between the victim and the victimized and the accused and the accuser, instead of paragraph texts, table talks and accusatory social media posts vying for “likes.” In the end, what we lack can unite us: the development not of smooth comebacks and passive aggressive social media posts, but conversation, understanding and common ground for peace, justice and sovereignty.

Thank you for listening. It is okay if this generates negative reactions. If you want to talk, I will listen. I only ask that you do the same, because no opinion is necessarily wrong, just as no opinion is necessarily right.

 

Editor’s note: If you would like to send your response or make an op-ed contribution to the Opinion section, please email us at [email protected] The Opinion section looks forward to hearing from you.

 

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article included the phrase, “heteronormative, cisgender, white female” to describe the writer. Per request of the writer, this line has been clarified to reflect that these characterizations are labels that have been attributed to her, rather than self-characterizations. The article has been updated accordingly.


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