Washington Square News

The Complicated Intersection of Gender Equality and Greek Life

By Jan Alex, Staff Writer

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I have been thinking about Greek life a lot. I have no interest in joining a fraternity, but many of my new friends here at NYU plan on rushing, and well over half of my high school friends have already begun or plan to begin the rushing process at their respective colleges. Even my girlfriend is planning on rushing at the University of Richmond next semester. I honestly never expected her to — she’s very independent, passionately feminist and has never really been a clique type of person. For all of these reasons, her decision to rush came as a surprise to me, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. There is an intersection between Greek life and gender equality. To an extent, sororities have the potential to encourage and coexist with feminism on college campuses.

I am going to try really hard not to mansplain in this article. I know I can never have the same concept or relationship to feminism that a woman would have, and I won’t pretend that I am some perfect male feminist. However, I do believe myself to be a feminist in that I believe women and men should be treated equally and be given equal opportunities. From this perspective, the idea that a feminist, and feminist values in general, could exist within a sorority seems reasonable. In fact, as feminists and feminist ideas continue to gain strength and influence on campuses across the country, the amount of female undergraduate students rushing sororities continues to grow.

The New York Times profiled members of Columbia University’s Epsilon Upsilon chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta for their feminist activities and values, which the author deemed perplexing due to the fact that these girls who claimed to be feminists were also members of the type of organization that is commonly held responsible for perpetuating sexist and misogynistic ideas. While I agree that the idea of a feminist sorority girl is baffling, I don’t think it should be entirely unexpected.

Despite the fact that sororities are exclusionary and classist by nature, they also represent the manifestation of many feminist ideals. On-campus sororities have the power to influence social life, student government positions and job opportunities through connections members might not otherwise have. As a man who believes women should have equal opportunities to men, I don’t see any reason why feminist women shouldn’t be able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by these organizations. After all, if fraternities are allowed to exist and exercise the type of influence on college campuses that they do, why shouldn’t sororities? Women should have just as much power and influence on college campuses as men, and I think sororities are a valuable tool for women looking to exercise that power.

While I don’t think all sororities are perfectly feminist institutions, they have the potential to use their collective power and influence to advance feminist causes on college campuses. For better or worse, Greek life will remain a major part of collegiate life in the United States, but that doesn’t mean it can’t evolve with society. I doubt that every sorority in the nation is a feminist’s dream organization, but there is no reason they should be ignored as powerful female institutions.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Jan Alex at [email protected]

 

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