Sunday, February 25, 2007

An Unfair Generalization of Fraternities

The Frat Boy News Daily College Column

By Max Bryer, Staff Columnist for The Dartmouth

Should we get rid of the fraternity system? According to the harshest detractors, fraternities and the environment they foster are the principle contributors to sexual assault at Dartmouth and removing or reforming them significantly would do away with the problem. However, I would like to suggest that claims of this nature shirk an important problem with a simple panacea. As much as it would be convenient to say that fraternities are the cause of the problem, I am wary of the claim that removing or reforming Greek organizations would eliminate the incidence of sexual assault.

Sexual assault is the truly unfortunate consequence inherent in any large social gathering. A large social event is bound to contain any number of scumbags who will try to take advantage of someone. Fraternities do not cause sexual assault. To single them out them out as providing the forum which allows it to occur effectively indicts social gatherings of all sorts. Rape happens wherever people congregate because schmucks are everywhere.

Fraternities are accused -- and not altogether unjustly -- of being the last vestiges of the "good-ol'-boy" age, male-dominated havens that unfairly place women at risk of objectification and assault. Some fraternities have worse reputations than others, a result of higher concentrations of the aforementioned scumbags among the brotherhood -- maybe Andreadis' idea of "rape zones" was not that far off the mark. This having been said, the charge that all fraternities across the board are either directly responsible or inherently complicit in sexual crimes is simply too broad to command much credence. Such assertions are similar to the criticisms leveled at the video game Doom for causing the Columbine shootings.

Yes, we all have been born and raised in a culture that values aggressiveness and dominance as male characteristics, just the same way we are all exposed to angry music and violent video games. However, most people grow up to be reasonably well-adjusted individuals. I played Doom and somehow managed not to shoot up my school, just the same way I grew up in America, yet do not think rape is an acceptable way to behave. The male domination inherent in our society effects different people in vastly different ways. True, rape's roots may indeed lie in conceptions of male dominance and entitlement, but we all know that it is wrong, nonetheless.

Sexual assault happens when people act inappropriately and others do nothing to help because "it's society's fault." It is certainly easy to throw down the gauntlet and characterize fraternity brothers as white, male, womanizing potential rapists, but I think we should all be mature enough to recognize this as a gross generalization that contributes very little to a genuine solution to this problem. Such a claim assumes that if fraternities were to all-of-a-sudden disappear, sexually-based crimes on campus would be a thing of the past. However, getting rid of fraternities doesn't get rid of potential sex offenders; it merely forces them to hang out somewhere else. If we all went to room parties, sexual assault would occur there too.

Moreover, while assuming the male-dominated fraternity scene is the cause of sexual assault is useful in the academic sense, practically, it removes the onus of responsibility from individuals committing or observing said crimes and places it on larger, more abstract entities. The campaign to rid Dartmouth of the Greek system is an easy way out of a serious issue, and a misallocation of energy that could be better used to solve the problem. Curbing sexual assault requires personal initiative and responsibility on all our parts. It requires us all to be a little more attentive in a fraternity basement, step up and take action if we observe foul play. We are all responsible -- brothers especially, but guests as well -- for promoting a safe environment for people to hang out on a Friday or Saturday night in fraternity basements. The Greek system does not drive people to rape no matter how much some people are convinced that it does. The individuals who commit this horrendous crime and the people who observe and remain silent are the guilty culprits. The power to enact change lies with a concerted effort on all our parts, not a wave of some magic wand.

Max Bryer is a staff columnist for The Dartmouth and a student of the class of 2008.

Pictured above is the all of Dartmouth's fraternity's in 1915, and more recent pictures of Phi Delta and Bones Gate.

No comments:

Template Design | Elque 2007