Parties, Social Control, and Greek Life

Image via Dawniaa on flickr.

I am not an outsider who laughs at Greek life. I’m actually part of the system- and I love being in my sorority. There are, however, some issues I have with the Greek life system overall.

I joined my sorority my second year at school, and through it I met so many new amazing women. I was even elected Philanthropy Chair, and that has given me the opportunity to lead my sisters in service endeavors; with 140 women working together this past spring we raised money for girls to go to summer camp in upstate New York, ran a book drive to raise money for Prevent Child Abuse NY, and more. I’m proud to be a part of my sorority, but at the same time there are aspects of Greek life that bother me.

The social structure that we lock into as a sorority is, for lack of a better word, stupid. Here’s how it works: sororities are dry and fraternities are not. This means there is absolutely NO alcohol allowed in the sorority houses. If the fraternities host all the parties, decide who gets to come, and provide all the alcohol, who holds all the power? Frat parties are fun –my friends and I are even known to take our costumes to the next level. But there is a problem with the structure because it promotes an unbalanced social scene.

I asked my sorority sister what she thought:

“it’s a problem, but you wouldn’t immediately say that because it seemingly benefits everyone. Boys throw parties, supply the alcohol and girls don’t have to clean up the mess or live there.”

So if we don’t have to pay for the party or clean up, what are we complaining about? The fraternity brothers have complete control. You are in his house and have to listen to what he says. This gives them a sense of entitlement, which can be dangerous. I’m not trying to say that at every frat party every guy takes advantage of his power, but it does happen: a Jezebel article once said:

In the 1920s, frat guys started worrying that living together and being all friendly with each other would make them seem gay. Solution: public demonstrations of dominance over women, including rape …

men who are in fraternities are more likely to rape than men who aren’t, and […] frat boys may perpetrate 70 to 90% of college gang rapes.”

My friend thinks sororities shouldn’t take action on this because they “already have a bad rep.” It is not about alcohol though; it is about the unnerving power structure that continues to go unchecked at universities throughout the country. Parties are not places where power should come into play; the idea that sorority sisters cannot host parties in their own houses isn’t preventative action against drinking: instead, it enforces dangerous behavior that encourages male dominance.

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7 Comments on “Parties, Social Control, and Greek Life”

  1. 1 Ronan Conway said at 1:06 pm on July 19th, 2010:

    It’s a pretty terrible situation, and one similar to AU – even though the sororities have the capability of having parties, they generally don’t, and fraternity parties dominate the social scene. (we’re officially a completely dry campus tbh, and all frat parties are against the rules.)

  2. 2 Old Spice Guy ushers in era of post-racial deodorant - The Sexist - Washington City Paper said at 9:02 am on July 20th, 2010:

    […] Liz at THE LINE writes about the problematic social imbalance between fraternities and sororities: The social structure that we lock into as a sorority is, for […]

  3. 3 Madeleine said at 9:43 am on July 20th, 2010:

    I’m not sure if it’s an urban legend or not, but people always say that it’s some old Virginia law that if a certain number of unrelated women are living in a house (as in the case of a sorority), the addition of alcohol legally classifies it as a brothel?
    Seems vague enough to be fake, but given some of the laws Virginia still has on the books about women, it’s hard to say.

  4. 4 Brian said at 11:00 am on July 20th, 2010:

    I agree completely. As someone who lives in a Fraternity house it does give us a lot of power and control and unfortunately as I can see by the stats you’ve provided it does get out of control. I can only speak for myself and my fraternity but the power we have is very often used to control the vast amount of liabilities that are at a party whether its underage drinking, binge drinking, fighting, or one of about 400 other things that can go wrong.

    I find it pretty depressing that there exists a stat like gang rape for fraternities it’s an unfortunate situation when people abuse the power they have and it gives fraternities and what they should be a bad name.

    To answer Madeleine there are laws like that. After a certain number of women, males and alcohol in a female owned house can be considered a brothel and therefore illegal. Pretty ridiculous.

  5. 5 Alicia said at 8:45 pm on July 20th, 2010:

    @Brian: Do you have citations for these laws? I went to school in Walla Walla, and they told precisely the same story there, to explain why the college sororities had to live in on-campus housing, but the fraternities did not. Seems fishy to me.

  6. 6 Liz said at 1:15 pm on July 22nd, 2010:

    Whenever I bring up this issue everyone tells me, “oh yeah well there is that brothel law.” I think it’s an urban legend. How absurd is that anyway?

    I just read this article that was written in the Cornell Daily Sun<> back in ’08 and Cara Sprunk quotes Richard Roeper from the Chicago Sun Times saying that the brothel law myth is “the most widespread piece of university folklore making the round[s].”

  7. 7 Liz said at 1:15 pm on July 22nd, 2010:

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