February 8, 2018

HAGOPIAN | Don’t Decry the Greek System if you Use it for Your Own Gain

Print More

I’ve been critical of the Greek system in the past . I must admit to feeling somewhat vindicated when I heard about the “pig roast” competition, but I don’t want to rail against that in this column. I’d like to perform the unpleasant but oft-necessary task of criticizing people who agree with me.

I know a fraternity brother who is thoughtful, intelligent, friendly and well-liked. A thoroughly capital fellow. A real mensch. This fraternity brother told me he liked my articles about the Greek system (Greek Life should not Exist and Greek Life should not Exist, pt. II. Again, see my published works). He even went so far as to say that he admired me for speaking out on such an important issue. I appreciated the praise, but I thought to myself, “If you liked it so much, why didn’t you drop out of your fraternity?”

And it’s not just the frat brothers or the srat sisters. It’s the Trudeaus, as it were; the “woke” people who speak up against harmful systems while supporting them with their actions. The word woke needs to disappear from every white person’s vocabulary. I’m glad you woke up; now get off your ass, make your bed, and do something.

And by “do something,” I don’t mean that you have to become a social justice warrior. You don’t have to become an activist, go to a protest, or join a philanthropy club on campus. We’re millennials attending an Ivy League school. We want resume-ready action, and we want to be leaders. I get it. But as any leader worth their salt will tell you, leaders are overrated. Their value is in their ability to convince people to do what they should have been doing anyway. All due respect to the people working on the task force, but I don’t think some sort of Justice League is gonna swoop in and save the day. It’s humbling when you realize that your most powerful capacity to make a difference lies in your ability to align your everyday actions with your morals. And like many things in life, this realization is both humbling and necessary.

I’m reminded of a story that sheds a great deal of light on the subject. Back in the days of Yik Yak, I read an anonymous post that was presumably written by a female undergraduate. I’m paraphrasing here, but it was something to the effect of “I can be woke and still go to a frat party. We get the sexist, misogynistic, heteronormative culture of fraternities. We’re ivy league women.” Certainly this woman and all women have the right to attend frat parties at their own possible detriment. When she mentions the heteronormative culture of fraternities, however, her statement takes a much darker turn. It becomes “I know another group of people is being discriminated against and I don’t care.”

I’m not saying you shouldn’t befriend someone if they’re in Greek life. I’m definitely not saying you shouldn’t sleep with someone if they’re in Greek life (if liberalism ever starts telling people who to sleep with, it will be fully and truly doomed). But if you attend a party or a formal or a rush event, just know that you’re supporting the Greek system in a very real and important way. If you’re a woman and you’re planning to go to a frat party, maybe consider not going. If not for the sake of your own community, then for the sake of your gay friends. If you’re gay and you want to go on a wine tour with your in-the-closet frat boyfriend, consider not going. If not for the sake of your own community, then for the sake of your female friends. If you’re in a frat, consider dropping out for the sake of your gay friends or your female friends or your gay female friends or even your mother. Whatever floats your empathy boat. Everyone has the right to be complicit in their own oppression, but nobody has the right to be complicit in the oppression of others.

Maybe you understand the problems inherent in the Greek system, but you still want to attend Greek-sanctioned events. Your closest companions are all in Greek life, after all. Or maybe your significant other is in a sorority, I don’t know. Honestly, I can respect prioritizing personal relationships. There should be more love and friendship in this world, not less. Just do me one favor. Please spare me from having to hear about how woke you are.

Ara Hagopian is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at ahagopian@cornellsun.com. The Whiny Liberal appears alternate Fridays this semester.