Greek life is intended to provide a home away from home for students and make a large campus community feel smaller. However, high expectations force women to conform to social norms. For Greek women who identify as feminists, this expectation can be especially challenging.
Misogyny is ingrained in the Greek system on an institutional level. Not many people outwardly admit to opposing feminism, but many components of the Greek system are accused of objectifying women.
A prime example of this objectification is party themes, including “CEOs and Office Hoes” or “Golf Bros and Yoga Hoes,” in which women are encouraged to dress provocatively. According to Interfraternity Council President Lee Lueder, business and Plan II senior, these themes are not allowed and violate the organization’s code of conduct, despite many of these themes occurring every year.
Some women do not express issue with these themes because they say they believe it frees them from the social constraints of other women.
“You always save a choice to dress how you want,” said Katie Settos, communications freshman and member of Alpha Chi Omega. “I think a theme party like that is one of the few opportunities girls have to dress provocatively without being judged by other girls.”
Some fraternity men agree these themes are not an issue. However, the expectations the themes set cause more of a problem.
“I think that having events that put girls in situations where they are supposed to be slutty, from experience, people seem to participate pretty willingly,” said Lucas Markman, radio-television-film senior and Alpha Epsilon Pi member. “This is a manifestation of the high sex drive in college. I think it can be very damaging to set the expectation there.”
The pressure to conform to a standard of promiscuity can have a negative impact on body image and encourage objectification. Within sororities, women who identify as feminists often feel supported but also feel the pressure to conform.
UT attempts to address this problem by offering frequent classes in which students can discuss candidly what Greek life means to them and the values they have gained from it, according to Marilyn Russell, UT director of Sorority and Fraternity Life.
But in order to allow all women to feel comfortable and valued in this system, change must occur from the top down. Sororities and fraternities should encourage a discussion of feminism and how misogyny affects women.
“It really comes down to mutual respect between organizations,” Markman said. “People can wear whatever they want to. But it is hard because [these themes] are such an ingrained part of the social culture.”
Men must work to combat these systems from within their institutions, and women must set an example by presenting themselves and their views on feminism with confidence. The Greek structure is a hierarchy, and change must come from the top. Ultimately, Greek life’s purpose of providing a home for its members will only be accomplished when all of them feel comfortable being themselves.
Kashar is a English freshman from Scarsdale, New York.