I love Greek life. I’ve now been a member of a sorority for almost two years, and I can confidently say going through recruitment was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I met my best friends who provide unwavering support through my struggles. I’m encouraged, challenged and strengthened by a group of strong women who hold me accountable to be my best self. I took part in traditions that — over the course of 150 years — have remained unchanged. I live in a beautiful house from the 1800s with 30 women and enjoy (almost) every minute of it. I feel grateful for my positive experience, and I’m proud to be in a sorority at UO.
However, Greek life at UO, as well as at most universities, has some serious problems. To begin, it’s sexist.
The blatant sexism shines through in the different rules fraternities and sororities have to follow. For example, women living in some sorority chapter facilities are forbidden to have a male guest sleep over. In some cases, men are only allowed in the common rooms on the first floor. They are then confined to time limits that the sorority sets in order to prevent a man from staying too late into the night, though rules vary from chapter to chapter.
Fraternity members, on the other hand, are able to bring female guests in any part of the house and are not confined to any sort of time limit. It seems a bit ridiculous to dictate when and where adult women can bring men into their own homes, especially when the rules are drastically different for the fraternities. Even freshman dorms at the UO are far less regulated than sorority chapter facilities.
In addition to being outdated, these rules are hetero-normative and assume that a sorority member’s sexual or romantic partner would be male, effectively ignoring the possibility of a member being a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Sorority and fraternity written bylaws also inherently enforce a double standard for women. For example, national Pi Beta Phi policy states that social events may be hosted or co-hosted only at off-campus venues, men’s fraternities or private party rooms, but not at their own chapter house. It is forbidden to bring any alcohol on Pi Beta Phi property even though many of its members are 21 years old. This rule is also true of many other sorority chapters represented on the UO campus. Not allowing of age members to drink in their own home is not only sexist but puts women in danger by not providing a safe space for them to drink responsibly.
On the contrary, fraternity chapters on the UO campus are often allowed to have social events at their own houses with or without alcohol. For example, Lambda Chi Alpha’s national policy permits the “possession, consumption and distribution” of alcohol at a chapter home as long as it doesn’t violate state or local laws.
I acknowledge that these examples of sexism may not be the biggest crimes against women. They are nothing compared to pay discrimination, sexual harassment and assault, which women experience at a higher rate than men. They are nothing compared to the racism that people of color face daily in the Eugene community, and within the Greek system as well. However, it is still important to acknowledge and call out sexism in all aspects of our life. The rules set for sororities are a part of a larger issue of having pervasive control and scrutiny applied to women.
Things need to change on a local and national level. Individual sorority chapters must acknowledge the overt sexism that exists in the Greek system and update their outdated rules. Chapters should use their voices to call out their headquarters and demand change to their sexist policies. UO fraternities must be allies and demand change on behalf of the women across Greek life.
Greek life has come under fire a lot this year because of the historic and deeply ingrained racism in fraternities and sororities, and my fellow Emerald columnist Parsa Aghel recently penned a piece on this. Many chapters have also faced heat for their disregard of the COVID-19 pandemic, which the Emerald has also covered in the past. Many students at various universities have called for Greek life to be dismantled; Vanderbilt University is one of the strongest voices among the movement. It is clear that sexism and racism are rampant within Greek life and although these organizations claim to empower diverse voices, the system itself is designed to perpetuate sexist, racist and homophobic ideas. If we don’t deeply examine and work to fix the issues in the Greek system, it won’t be here for much longer.