I have never been a fan of the fraternity and sorority systems at colleges, so I am as surprised as anyone to find myself defending some immature fraternity dopes at Old Dominion. It seems that some frat-tastic Sigma Nu boys put up signs, off campus, that said “Rowdy and fun, hope your baby girl is ready for a good time” “Freshman daughter drop off” and “Go ahead and drop off mom too.” Certainly these are not original or creative banners, I remember similar flags waving back when I was in college in the early 1980’s. Actually, I thought the mom one was a bit amusing.
The Sigma Nu fraternity has been suspended from campus, with Sigma Nu Executive Director Brad Beacham stating “Any fraternity member found to be responsible for this reprehensible display will be held accountable by the fraternity.”
Old Dominion seconded the witch hunt, publishing statements including “Messages like the ones displayed yesterday by a few students on the balcony of their private residence are not and will not be tolerated.”
Wow. My First Amendment mindset is reeling. No student free speech allowed, not even off campus, by our institutions of higher learning. Let’s be honest, free speech, even radical free speech, is encouraged on campuses nationwide, as long as the message is agreeable to the general governing bodies of the university. If the boys had placed a sign “Kill All Republicans, Socialism Rules” for example, I do not think the University or the fraternity would have expressed any dismay. So what we have is a judgment call on free speech. My call, yes it was juvenile, bad taste, a bit sexist, but reprehensible? I truly am more offended that the sign makers didn’t put a comma before “too” on their mom banner. Certainly this signage could possibly be interpreted to violate the intentionally nebulous wording of most student codes of conduct, but I think it’s a stretch that it falls into the category of sexual harassment or that the signs encourage rape culture. You know what I think encourages rape culture? Having a society that places value on women based on their looks and body mass index. Oh, and having state legislators suggest that sexual harassment of young interns could be mitigated by having an intern dress code. As my friend Adam so eloquently stated, everyone knows the cause of pedophilia: sexy children!
Let’s dig deeper into the whole “Greek” system. I only have personal experience with Mizzou’s organization, but I am sure it is similar to most universities. No one can deny that sorority girls are chosen based on looks, grades, and perceived family wealth/status. In most cases you could eliminate two and three. Fraternity boys must pass high bars, as well, such as “Do you want to join the frat?” “Okay.” After crushing the hearts of many girls hoping they are “pretty enough” to get into a sorority, (welcome to college!) the genetically chosen are celebrated as they walk to their new houses, cheered on by frat boys lining Greek row and shouting out ratings 1-10 to girls as they walk by. To me, that practice is much more reprehensible than the aforementioned signs.
The girls (they have not, in my opinion, earned the title “women” as yet) are responsible, as well. The jiggly, giggly recruitment video produced by University of Alabama’s Alpha Phi sorority is a perfect microcosm of all that is wrong with the system. Why bikinis? Why Daisy Dukes? The argument for the Greek system often includes touting of Greek organizations as first and foremost philanthropic endeavors. Unless these Alabama girls are all lifeguards at swimming pools for underprivileged youth, I don’t get it. Why display yourselves as objects if you don’t want others to treat you in this fashion? No, it’s not the old “they were asking for it.” I believe you could be passed out naked on the street and still not be “asking for it.” It is more along the lines of you are more than your body parts, respect yourself.
This is what I would say to this generation, my children. First, boys: Knock it off! Girls are not objects, their worth is not their looks. Simple test, don’t say or write anything about someone that you would not want someone to say about your sister or mother. Girls: we won the sexual revolution for you, you are welcome. You now have the same rights and choices as boys. This does not mean your sexuality and your looks are your worth. It is only a part of you. Your true value is how you act, not how you look. To all: Remember most people, with good hygiene and basic grooming, are passably attractive. Beauty and ugliness come from within. Be kind, have fun, watch out for one another, life is short.