I’m a ‘stereotyping, ignorant outsider’ who is still pledging to never rush
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 09:04
I’ve spent the last few days sitting back analyzing reactions to my first op-ed, and I began to realize that the severe backlash I was experiencing was often due to people inadvertently expanding upon my ideas or misinterpreting them altogether. Though I still agree with the analysis of my original article, I do apologize that my words may have caused anger. I ask that you read the following with an open mind to gain a better understanding of my original intentions, which was to create a space for intellectual discussion and ideological debate about the principles of Greek life.
First, many people have called me a “hypocrite” for enjoying the social scene at Tufts, but spending nights at these institutions with members of my community whom I like and respect is more important to me than the weak message single-handedly boycotting fraternities would send. I hope we can continue to debate general concepts behind Greek life on campus without feeling I am making “malicious accusations against [Greek members] personally,” as one Facebook status suggested.
I feel disheartened that my choice of words made people feel defensive, as many sincerely believed I used generalities in my op-ed to show how I think members of Greek life are homogenous. This was not at all my intention. Feminism, in itself, is the movement to deconstruct stereotypes and expected societal roles. Many outraged responses were written under the mistaken assumption that I myself believed the stereotypes of the “dumb sorority girl” or “beer chugging frat dude.”
My point here is not that all people in Greek life act a certain way but that being labeled and stereotyped are often unfair side effects to conforming to a collective identity that is based upon biological sex. I wanted to show that members of Greek life are often subjected to unwarranted labels. Did your organization come to mind when I used the provocative words “hot b---h” sorority or “date rape” fraternity? If so, you’ve already been subjected to false stereotyping. I think the backlash against my mere mention of the stereotyping that occurs shows just how sensitive members of Greek life can be to this issue, because they may have already faced being unjustly labeled.
Another criticism that was voiced that grew out of misinterpretation of this same idea specifically concerned the philanthropic aspect of Greek organizations. Unlike one op-ed stated, I did not suggest that “it should be obvious that Tufts’ Greek houses don’t do real philanthropy.” With my line, “Some say they’re known for philanthropy, and, well, really?” the key words here are “known for,” as I was speaking solely about the reputations these organizations have on campus. It was never my intention to undermine the great work that many Greek organizations have done on and off campus. I simply wished to suggest how the social scene at Tufts might not depict them in this light.
Another criticism I faced was that it was “disgusting” that as an “uninformed outsider” I “think [I] know about something [I’m] not a part of.” I never claimed to have the same lived experience as a member of a sorority/fraternity. But I still do actively experience the effects of Greek life, and I openly expressed my opinions from an outsider’s point of view. Whether or not people agree with my particular perspective, the outsider perspective, statistically speaking, is also the majority perspective at our school. To say that we can’t criticize a system because we aren’t a part of it is dangerous. I urge you to think of where we would be as a society if people were to abide by this logic.
I never once claimed to have knowledge that every organization at Tufts hazes, and I know that this is definitely not the case. I had wrongfully assumed that those organizations that are open about their non-hazing policy would realize that my criticisms do not apply to them. My argument on gendered hazing was intentionally vague as to allow the counter-argument that I had “no concrete stories/evidence”; I did not, and still do not, feel the need to “out” specific organizations or betray people who shared their stories with me in confidence.
What it really comes down to is that I did not join Greek life because of the way I believe it upholds the gender binary and gender roles and can be harmful to both men and women. And the fact that hazing exists in the general system is enough of a black mark for me to pledge to never rush. You may not share the same priorities that I do and feel differently because of it, and that’s fine: We all have the right to express our opinions in a civilized discussion, as were my intentions in publishing my op-ed.
I do not wish to demolish the Greek system at Tufts. I wrote an article to the Daily to reach out to my peers on an issue I feel strongly about, because I believe the potential for the most social change begins with the student body. I imagine a Greek system with an effective zero-tolerance policy on hazing. I see a co-ed system that allows men and women to form strong relationships through the same organization, and one that effectively balances its values and philanthropy with its sociability. We have the power to change the system; I simply urge us to try.
Lauren Border is a junior majoring in Spanish.