“Greek life often reinforces gender stereotypes, but it doesn’t have to”
Greek life is an institution that has long existed in colleges across America.
Fundamentally, sororities and fraternities are meant to bring students of similar values
and interests together.
However, an idea that once was considered to be revolutionary, is now being criticized
for its rigid standards and outdated attitudes surrounding gender and college life.
For students at Syracuse University, being a part of a sorority or fraternity can
mean finding a community and contributing to social movements. But for some, these
institutions can negatively affect students’ most sincere morals, reinforcing damaging
gender stereotypes and behaviors.
Sara Burke, an assistant professor of psychology at SU’s College of Arts and Sciences
said that the way Greek life is organized could have implications for how its members
“Setting up a structural system that positions male to male friendships and female to
female friendships as a result of proximity through living together might have consequences
for how people think about gender in their day-to-day lives,” Burke said. [...]
The pressure to conform to social standards can be dangerous. It can result in
insecurities, toxic masculinity and, at its worst, cases of sexual assault and serious injuries
or death from excessive drinking.
An example of this is the story that came out in April 2018 about the now expelled
Theta Tau fraternity. It’s hard to forget the obscene language in this video — the racism,
sexism, ableism, homophobia and xenophobia.
However, when reconsidering this story in the context of broader gender expectations,
it’s interesting to think about how the events portrayed in that video could be
manifestations of a certain kind of culturally accepted masculine behavior.
“If you strongly think of yourself as a member of that group, like being in a fraternity is
important to you, then there is going to be pressure to behave in a way that is consistent
with the expectations of that group,” Burke said.
Syracuse junior Breyden Ford, a member of Alpha Phi, said Greek life can affect the
minds of young women entering their freshman year.
“I think the younger you are, the easier it is to be influenced,” she said. “Freshman
year, you can be pressured by guys to look hot and also from girls within the Greek
community to fit in and do what everyone else is doing.”
These pressures to “fit in” are not a joke. Hookup culture, binge drinking, drug usage
and eating disorders are all effects of peer pressure that are typically reinforced by Greek
Greek life is undoubtedly problematic. But those problems are fixable if fraternities
and sororities commit to embracing a more encompassing understanding of what makes
“Greek life often reinforces gender stereotypes, but it doesn’t have to”, Emily Cerrito,
The Daily Orange, 2019.