Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Exclusivity
Like 90% of y’all, I learned about the deep campus need and subsequent proposed revival of sororities via The Phoenix (this isn’t product placement; I’m 110% Team Gazette). Like everyone I’ve talked to, which includes my shift partners at McCabe, friends, people who were holding The Phoenix and snorting violently — and a couple of interested squirrels — I hold a deep distrust of allowing more Greek life on campus.
My reaction, which involved a lot of hand gestures and hair-tugging, jolted both from the institution itself and its formulation re: this intrepid trio spearheading the proposal. We were assured, multiple times, that the interest of the pro-sorority camp is solidarity and equal rights. So let’s talk about (their conception of) solidarity and equal rights.
Here is the equation that is the current status quo: fraternity + (-sorority) = unfair.
Here is the only equation offered as a solution: fraternity + sorority = fair.
Here is the equation purposefully swept under the rug into a trash chute which leads to a black hole in the beta quadron of a parallel universe: (-fraternity) + (-sorority) = fair.
Here is why the status quo equation is some bullshit: there are more than two genders.
I mean, solidarity and equal rights, right? Where’s the trans*ity? And trans* isn’t necessarily a gender, just a convenient label to denote everyone whose lives bust up hetero- and cissexist ideas about gender. So, where’s the proposed femmernity? The proposed bigenderority? How about the proposed agendernority? Where’s the proposed genderfuckdaddyslittleboifairyities?
There’s no such thing as solidarity and equal rights when you’re working within a transphobic framework.* Greek life was transphobic historically and continues to be so today, as my friends from other schools tell me: you can bet your sweet ass trans womyn weren’t allowed into sororities and still aren’t on most campuses (and vice versa for trans men). The very system, which is structured around gender binaries, clearly falls apart under some pressure.
But viva la solidarity, baby.
If we can all step past the shimmery cloak of illusory good intentions draped around this proposal — in other words, I call bullshit — we can talk about the institution itself, the idea of Fraternities and Sororities.
What’s the investment in the -ities? Is it, as seemed implied by the proposers’ logic, about having another (non-dry) party space? Is it about a desire to interact with or embody a certain kind of man or woman? What kind of man or woman is that? Does that man or woman look a certain way, a way dictated by White and cissexist standards? Is that man or woman’s success rooted in classist, capitalist ideas?** Maybe, for some men or women, they don’t see a Man or Woman but the beer-soaked aura of Fraternities and Sororities. So, is the investment in the -ities about the name, the idea, the histories? Who can afford to lay claim to those things? Why repeat history when we could form many small communities, some not even predicated on gender, which would suit many more Swatties’ needs?
(If we’re gonna go a little conspiracy theory here, an important piece of this puzzle, I think, is the growing valorization and accommodations made for the culture of varsity athletics on this campus by administrators. It’s no surprise, to me, that we’re seeing this proposal as we prep Garnet Weekend’s timing for — possibly — a far-future return of homecoming and football, athletes’ ability to miss mandatory Orientation Week workshops for scrimmages, and the creation of special athletics-centered tours.)
tl;dr: Let’s ease our collective cultural death grip on antiquity (which is sadly not dead but fled after serious plastic surgery to a small island off the coast of Florida). Let’s move on from what doesn’t work, doesn’t need to work. Let’s try something new. Scrap sororities, scrap fraternities and open up our way of engaging with others and imagining community beyond the traditional and the limiting.
*Or a racist, classist, capitalist et al. framework.
**There are fraternities and sororities that are explicitly set up for both religious and racial “minorities.” There are also brothers and sisters of many different backgrounds and identities in all fraternities and sororities. I’m not talking about individuals here — I’m talking about the system of thought and its consequent workings.
MC is a member of the class of 2012.