On Feb. 14, the Collegian published an op-ed entitled “Women are not responsible for the failing of fraternity culture,” which was written in response to an argument made by Andrew Moisey, the photographer of the Gund Gallery’s “The American Fraternity” exhibit. The photographer claimed that fraternities could not exist without women going to their parties and that if women stopped going to fraternity parties, the organizations would cease to exist.
While the op-ed’s argument that women should not be blamed for sexual assault was spot-on, its general characterization of fraternities and fraternity culture as “spaces that thrive on objectifying women and serve as the pinnacle of heteronormative masculinity” is limiting, narrow and frankly insulting. And if the domination and presence of women is necessary for fraternities to survive, how do five of the six fraternities on campus predate Kenyon’s admittance of women in 1969? According to the op-ed, it appears to be a miracle that fraternities could survive over 100 years without women on campus.
While the photos in the Gund Gallery obviously show a dark side of masculinity and fraternity culture, I’d be hesitant to call these images the norm among college fraternities. In fact I struggle to find a single Kenyon fraternity that embodies the toxic imagery. Some local chapters clearly need to be held more accountable for their actions, but the overarching ideals of national fraternities include engaging in the community, cultivating leaders through organizational roles and bonding brothers of different classes to ensure that younger members have student role models. If asked whether parties or brotherhood ranked higher in their priorities, I’m sure all Kenyon fraternities would answer unanimously with brotherhood.
Modern fraternity culture is not based on dominating women to show off heterosexuality. Fraternities nationwide and at Kenyon make active attempts to end heteronormativity and curb the causes and effects of toxic masculinity.
I do agree with the larger points presented in the op-ed: that hypermasculinity is a large problem and that victim-blaming is never the proper response. I understand that there have been Greek-letter fraternities who have acted terribly, particularly towards women and minorities, and this history leaves a indecent mark on the rest of the fraternal community. But to extrapolate and declare that that all fraternities are centered on heterosexuality, hypermasculinity, domination of women and misogyny is a dramatic leap. I’ve witnessed — and I’m sure others have too — fraternities at Kenyon and nationwide make extended efforts to fight the deplorable actions above.
Adam Schwager ’20 is a political science major from Kensington, Md. He is also vice president of Delta Tau Delta. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.