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Alexander Koch

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Is it possible to alleviate the cultures of chauvinism and sexism within college fraternities? If so, how, and what will come of it?

Katz does a thorough job of discussing the cultures of "victim-blaming," chauvinism, and sexism that pervade many traditionally all-male organizations and groups, using the example of sports teams as (traditionally) a breeding ground for male hegemony. How does this idea relate to college fraternities in America, which many feel share a good amount of the characteristics that Katz bemoans as conducive to such bigoted attitudes? Finally, would it be possible to alleviate or mitigate the cultures of chauvinism within fraternity life, or are they completely endemic of the structure of college fraternity life? Considering the statistics regarding economic and ivory-tower social success of elite college fraternities versus their classmates, what changes might we expect to see in the upper, more established, and often less-permeable classes of gender construction if such a change were possible?

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  • Jun 5 2013: At our college we had a fraternity that started in the 1980s (the system's a little different in Australia), as a reaction to the rise of feminism. As you can imagine this made it a wee bit sexist. However, these days it is very much the opposite. We run many activities ranging from a month long competition of manliness (push up competitions, running races, etc), to partner dance classes. The tone is of the frat is about being a chivalrous, respectful man.

    The culture change occurred quite rapidly. Since, college students are only around for 3-4 years significant change can occur with 2 years and complete change within 4. The key is to have a leadership group that instils the correct values in the incoming students. Ultimately, it is about creating an image that is a) positive and that people aspire to and b) includes respect for women as a core part of this image. In my experience a chivalrous image works really well here. It evokes images of handsome knights, and better yet James Bond (who doesn't want to be James Bond?).

    As to what will come of it. I would argue a more positive experience for many students. Women will have less people trying to get them excessively drunk, coercing them into sex, treating them like object, etc. Meanwhile, fraternities get better press and men get to be more like James Bond.

    In summary, fraternities certainly can develop into less chauvinistic and sexist organisations. They can do this quite rapidly with the correct leadership and marketing. The result: women don't get treated like objects; fraternities get better press; men become James Bond.

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