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Boycott fraternities

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NOVEMBER 06, 2018

Content warning: Sexual violence

In my first year of college, I was part of a sorority. It was an amazing experience. I loved being surrounded by women and feeling the warmth of feminine kindness and support. The friendships I forged are going strong into my final semesters of college. I admire those who remained in the Greek system — I’m inspired by their willingness to fight for positive change and to imagine a more inclusive community. I left the community for many reasons. Finances and other realities complicated my ability to stay, but one thing in particular assured me that I had to leave: The reality of fraternity rape culture loomed over me with a shocking intensity. And even when I left, I still couldn’t shake the dehumanizing taste left in my mouth.

It felt inescapable and suffocating. I began to feel a deep frustration — hatred even — toward fraternity men. I hated the way they expected sex for hosting a party; I hated the way they judged our bodies. I hate the way so many of my friends went through abuse, sexual violence, and assault at the hands of fraternity men. This common occurrence of so many either having experienced violence in these spaces or knowing, loving or caring about someone who has felt this pain is the basis of #BoycottFrats. It is a boycott of pain, of violence enacted by those who constantly derive privilege from institutional power dynamics.

I want to be clear about the meaning of this movement. Fraternity men: #BoycottFrats isn’t an attack on your lifestyle — it is an attack on your complacency. No one said you are all rapists. No one is infringing on your personal liberties, including, but not limited to, your right to throw parties with obnoxiously loud EDM blasting through your walls or your right to play beer die on your front lawns while you air out your hairy backs. No one is trying to oppress you or make you more of a villain than you already are.

The issue is that fraternities perpetuate toxic masculinity and racism. Members of this system enact an absolute control over social spaces, from closed-door initiation rituals to the notorious fraternity party. Fraternities refuse to hold parties with sororities whose members do not fit their standards of “attractiveness,” with a domineering pride and entitlement. Oftentimes, they passed on having socials with my sorority, claiming that we had “too many” women of color.

Fraternities perpetuate rape culture. Men in fraternities, you facilitate a space that allows men to commit immense cruelties on women’s bodies and never see punishment. From the 11 unreported cases of sexual assault in Sigma Chi to the failure of removing houses from the Interfraternity Council, or IFC, that repeatedly have allegations of sexual violence, fraternities have displayed an inability to hold membership accountable. Because of the melting pot of white, income and male privilege, UC Berkeley and the IFC are unequipped to address these assailants.

This work, this activism isn’t about painting with a broad brush — it is about fostering systematic change — it’s about addressing nuance and considering the narratives that are left out of the spotlight. There are survivors in IFC. And because of the toxic masculinity their own community produces, these individuals experience a unique stigma as survivors. Movements, such as #BoycottFrats, aren’t meant to silence these survivors — if anything, it is a call to center these marginalized voices.

It is important and necessary to hold individuals who are assailants accountable, while also applying this accountability metric to the systems that produce them. Fraternity members, recognize that you are complicit in this cyclical violence.

Maybe, at the individual level, you don’t perceive yourself as someone who disrespects other’s agency or bodies. Maybe you know the four C’s of consent, and you wouldn’t say you are part of the problem. But what about on an interpersonal level? Consider how you talk about the people, specifically the women, you have sex with. Is your conversation body-centric? Do you discuss how drunk she was? Do you talk about never calling her back in a blasé or dehumanizing way? OK, so maybe you don’t — but do you intervene when your friends talk about women like this? Do you tell them that they should respect women and their bodies, regardless of their sexual attraction to them?

What about your fraternity as a whole? When someone is revealed to be an assailant, do you remove them from your fraternity? Do you make public statements asserting that your chapter does not condone this behavior? Do your chapter leaders support the survivor through the reporting process? Maybe, you are in a “good house,” one that hasn’t recently been accused of sexual assault, and you don’t want to be grouped in with unaffiliated houses. But does your fraternity council have a standard procedure for addressing instances of sexual assault? Do you make any attempt to link survivors with necessary resources and support systems? Do you disaffiliate chapters that have allegations of sexual violence?

Fraternity men: You are part of a system that gives you access and permission to commit violence. Dismantle your system that enshrines violence. Stop hazing and conditioning your members to express their masculinity through violence. Stop letting perpetrators go unpunished. Stop rolling your eyes, stop mocking #BoycottFrats protesters. Stop dodging blame. Stop letting sorority women pour their labor into educating you. Stop your complacency.

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Rizza writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact her at [email protected] .

NOVEMBER 06, 2018