February 4, 2018

MORADI | What’s ‘Not Normal’ About Sexism In Fraternities?

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A note to the Interfraternity Council: This was definitely “normal.”

To imply that the commodification and abuse of the female body is anything but ordinary is naive. To suggest that the sort of amplified masculinity inherent in the system of the American fraternity is neither an incubator of nor a conduit for misogyny is deluded. To deny that sexism in Greek life is routine is appalling. To say we should be surprised is an insult.

I won’t rehash all the arguments against Greek life, because I could never explain them as well as Priya Kankanhalli ’19 in the eloquent and chilling “Brotherhood Inverted” or as Ara Hagopian ’18 did bluntly and assertively in “Greek Life Should Not Exist” — and also because they’ve been repeated over and over again in almost every collegiate and national publication. But I have a lot of anger; anger not only at the recurring abhorrent conduct of members of Greek organizations, but anger at the responses from both the University and from the Greek community.

The all-American method of addressing cruelty is to express shock and then to sculpt that shock into an ersatz response. This is explicit in the way our nation’s legislatures respond to mass shootings or corruption, for instance, but the same sentiment exists on a micro scale, and it especially exists in the laughably lazy responses from both Zeta Beta Tau and the University.

Brief educational programs and training that focus on “increasing awareness or changing beliefs and attitudes” don’t work, according to a 2014 CDC review of campus sexual assault research. “These approaches may be useful as one component of a comprehensive strategy,” the report says. “However, they are not likely to have any impact on rates of violence if implemented … as a primary component of a prevention plan.”

So for ZBT to insist it “educates its brothers on the topic of healthy relationships” or for the Fraternity and Sorority Review Board to mandate “75 percent participation in at least two events during Cornell’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week” is insultingly shortsighted. Long-term, multi-year educational programs that start early are the only interventions that have rigorous evidence of success. That means no “75 percent participation” and definitely no fox-guarding-the-henhouse bullshit like a “brotherhood review process.”

It means the University needs to either stop handing out wimpy sanctions and seriously invest in long-term education on gender-based violence or dismantle these single-gender organizations on campus altogether.

The latter, of course, will not happen any time soon as long as institutional (rich alumni network) support (money) continues to stabilize the putrefied masculinity present within American fraternities. The former is possible, but not without pressure from our already exhausted student body.

In the meantime, the University and the IFC need to pull up their pants and acknowledge that the sexism and racism we’ve seen throughout Cornell’s fraternities are pervasive diseases inherent to the system — not exceptions.


Pegah Moradi is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. All Jokes Aside appears alternate Mondays.