The seven sorority presidents on campus have all agreed that women in their organizations will not attend functions at fraternities that have themes that are derogatory or demeaning towards women. The situation can be clarified with a simple example: the “Office Lives and Trophy Wives” mixer, where fraternity men in suits and sorority women in cocktail dresses drink together, may have finally met its end. Fraternities will have to start getting more creative with their party themes in a respectful manner if they wish to continue partying with sororities on a weekly basis.
Is this a superficial name change or the first step towards a much broader cultural shift in which misogyny is eliminated from our campus? If nothing else, this declaration from the sorority presidents has sparked a discussion. Apparently the days where “mixers” between fraternities and sororities were a taboo topic with administrators and student leaders have passed.
For our readers who are not living on campus, it may be hard to understand just how big of a deal even suggesting a change in party names is. Greek life is incredibly pervasive in the University’s social scene, and this will affect a significant portion of students on campus.
It is common for students at the University to find themselves in a situation where past precedents are used to justify current behaviors without evaluating them first. Underage drinking is an easy example. In different situations, this mindset has been used to justify traditions that could qualify as hazing.
This is the mindset that must be overcome in order to reduce or eliminate misogyny on campus, and it will be much more difficult to do than simply changing the name of a party.
The theme of a mixer could be something as innocuous as “St. Patrick’s Day” and the atmosphere of the party will still be problematic, with men demeaning women and women objectifying themselves through the way they dress and dance. Although many themes are clearly offensive and should obviously be eliminated, the themes are not the root of the problem; the way we party needs to change in order for campus climate to improve. We need to create a culture where people do not feel the need to behave in such degrading ways to gain approval from peers or the opposite sex. Changing the party names is an important first step, but it will be merely superficial unless we find a way to change the underlying culture. Both men and women are a part of the problem, and both groups, rather than blaming each other, need to work together in search of a solution.
We applaud sorority women for speaking up and challenging the norms on campus, which is a difficult thing for anyone to do. We sincerely hope that they are successful and that derogatory mixer themes, and more importantly, disrespectful behaviors towards women at these events, are eliminated. At the same time, we remain skeptical that the further steps necessary for a broader cultural change will be taken. This is not a time for celebration just yet.
As a final and related thought, we would like to encourage all students and guests to be safe and respectful of one another during House Party Weekend. The time to start making changes to campus culture is today–-literally.