At first I thought this was a joke, but it appears to be real: The Washington Post reports that the national chapters of UVA sororities have ordered the sorority women of UVa not to attend any fraternity events this weekend out of fear for their safety.
At some U-Va. chapters in recent days, students described mandatory emergency meetings with representatives from their national chapter telling them they risked suspension, fines and other penalties if any of them attended bid night parties. Boys’ Bid Night is typically a night when sorority sisters go from house to house sharing drinks with friends.
Mandatory emergency meetings…
Tammie Pinkston, the international president of Alpha Delta Pi, tells the Cavalier Daily that she doesn’t trust the safety of “Bid Night,” which is apparently when fraternities tap their new members and host parties to celebrate the event.
“We believe the activities on Men’s Bid Night present significant safety concerns for all of our members and we are united in our request that the 16 NPC sororities not participate,” Pinkston said.
The move is obviously a reaction to the Rolling Stone story, so let’s try to comprehend the logic here. A Rolling Stone article says that a woman was gang-raped at a fraternity. She was not. Therefore, it is unsafe to go to parties at fraternities.
But wait—there’s more.
At some chapters, women were told not only to avoid going to fraternity parties on Boys’ Bid Night, but to avoid any social gathering with fraternity members, said Ben Gorman, president of the Inter-Fraternity Council at U-Va. That would mean a ban on attending off-campus parties or gatherings at bars that night after a hotly anticipated basketball game on campus, which pits the undefeated No. 2 Cavaliers against No. 4 Duke. “People are very agitated and very upset, and see this as an obstacle to larger cultural change a violation of free rights and student free will.”
Let’s repeat that: “Women were told…to avoid any social gatherings with fraternity members.”
A few thoughts on this:
1) The idea of banning socializing with members of fraternities is a deeply sexist, anti-feminist idea; it suggests that college women are, in fact, girls or infants, incapable of taking care of themselves or displaying any judgment. (I can’t wait to see what Jezebel says about this.)
(Zoe Heller makes much the same point about “affirmative consent” laws in her recent New York Review of Books essay, writing, “special protections to women based on their difference from men have a habit of redounding to women’s disadvantage.”)
2) This move may also have the effect of dividing women on the issue of sexual assault on campus, possibly creating a constituency of women who feel that emotion and irrationality have gone too far in this wave of hysteria.
3) There’s a kind of Big Brother aspect to this dictate that is deeply unpleasant. “We will tell you with whom you can socialize—whether on campus or off—or you risk expulsion from the national chapter.” It’s not going too far to say that there’s something deeply un-American about this.
4) There’s also an ugly element of manipulation in the move—using the college sorority members as pawns in an attempt to force fraternity members to change their alleged behavior. It’s a modern-day Lysistrata! (I mean—this is the Greek system, right?) But somehow I doubt that the people behind this policy have read Lysistrata. In any case, even if that is the strategy, it’s a deeply sexist one. We’ll use these young women in a game of chess…
5) There’s virtually nothing that the national sororities could have done to faster discredit themselves and increase sympathy for the fraternities.
6) Some people said that the damage that comes from a fake allegation of rape is trivial. Imagine being a fraternity member and having a national organization prohibit its members from socializing with you at a bar. Guilt by association is not trivial.
The Post suggests that a backlash on campus is quickly brewing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the national organizations revoke their bank before Friday.
I wonder what Sabrina Rubin Erdely, wherever she is, makes of this…