Why Fraternity Culture is Problematic
Thu, April 22, 2021

Why Fraternity Culture is Problematic

Fraternities are popular for their brotherhood that exists for many decades. / Photo by: pogonici via Shutterstock

 

Since the 1820s, fraternities have been a part of university traditions not only in the US but around the world. They operate inside schools with a huge degree of autonomy and lower levels of supervision from the school authorities. While frats are popular for their brotherhood that exists for many decades, they are also infamously known for being perpetrators of violence, toxic masculinity, and patriarchy. 

In 2017, a report from Bloomberg showed that more than 133 fraternity and sorority chapters at 55 US colleges have been punished for hazing, sexual assault, and other incidents. For instance, one chapter of a certain frat was caught sharing nude photos of unconscious women. Another one was suspended indefinitely after members sent inappropriate text messages to each other, including one that read, “Remember, women are objects.”

During the same year, a Netflix film titled “Burning Sands” was released, showing the ugly truth about fraternity hazing. According to Whyy, the leading public media organization in the Philadelphia Region, the movie focused on the brutality of a frat, whose pledges (those people who have joined but not yet initiated) suffer injuries from hazing-related assaults. One pledge was even beaten to death. Worse, these kinds of behavior and issues have become a norm to frats across the world. 

While it’s only fair to recognize the fact that frats, in general, have helped in socio-civic activities, their long history of violence shouldn’t be disregarded. Still, a lot of men are still willing to join these organizations despite countless cases of frat-related violence and death and their toxic culture.

A Breeding Ground for Toxic Masculinity

In 2018, American photographer Andrew Moisey explored the rituals, texts, and initiations of American fraternities through a book he discovered titled “The American Fraternity.” According to Huck Mag, a bi-monthly magazine, website, and video platform exploring subcultures as entry points for articles about music, politics, and places all over the world, the book focused on a common frat culture exclusively within the US. It explored the two-century-old world of frat culture, depicting the rituals, initiations, and texts in striking, shocking detail.

Moisey learned how secrecy and toxic masculinity that exist within frats have grown, posing important questions about identity, power, and privilege. The problematic culture of frats is rooted in outdated values and encourages thinking that has no place in modern culture and society. Their deeply misogynistic attitudes have harmed not only women but also their fellow men. Frats perpetuate a culture believing that men have rights to women’s bodies and that they should be in control all the time.

Toxic masculinity is the culprit, which, unfortunately, reaches far beyond frats to all aspects of society. Frat men learned that in order for them to become a “real” man, they should be tough, masculine, and arrogant. Sage Carson, project manager for “Know Your IX,” stated that these organizations have been perpetuating rape culture. Frats have been supporting behaviors of toxic masculinity for as long as we remember. 

A great example of this is when frat houses host parties or have alcohol mainly to target girls. “Young women are being brought into a space that is controlled by this fraternity, where the alcohol they’re consuming is being controlled by this fraternity, and their whereabouts are confined to this house,” Carson said. These “institutional setups” make them extremely dangerous. Previous studies showed that one in five women in college is sexually assaulted. Frat boys are also reported three times more likely to rape than other college students. 

Vice, an award-winning international network of digital content, quoted Lisa Wade, an associate professor of sociology at Occidental College and author of “American Hookup,” as stating that frats have been known to exclude not only other genders but also identities in their groups. “...when you encourage men to identify first and foremost as men and against women, then you’re going to see behavior that is reflecting and reinforcing that idea. When we have gender-segregated institutions based on privileging an identity—privileging maleness—I don’t know what else we can expect,” she added.

Also, members of fraternities are honed to believe that their loyalty to their brotherhood is far more important than their moral integrity. This is why no matter how evil they get, they will still choose the side of their “brothers.”

 

Fraternities are also infamously known for being perpetrators of violence, toxic masculinity, and patriarchy. / Photo by: Igor Stevanovic via 123rf

 

Frat-Related Violence

Hazing has become one of the major issues involving fraternities. According to BusinessWorld, the Philippines' leading business newspaper, it is a practice of imposing humiliating and even dangerous tasks on an individual as part of their initiation into an organization. This involves subjecting them to physical violence and verbal abuse, causing temporary or permanent injury and even death.

Unfortunately, frats have this belief that hazing is a necessary step to make sure that a new member learns the value of loyalty to the brotherhood. While most of these cases are consensual, the fact remains that this practice is physically and psychologically stressful. It is humiliating, demeaning, intimidating, and exhausting, which is not the right way to “teach” loyalty. The University of Maryland reported that more than half of college students are involved in some form of hazing in fraternities and sororities. 

Violence not only happens within the frats but also outside. Most of the time, frat men gain the courage to exert their power and dominance on other people because they know that their brothers would back them up. This patriarchal society has provided no options for them than to resort to violence, as anger is the only emotion they can express, which they believe is something to be proud of. 

Unfortunately, frats are difficult to abolish despite their long history of violence and problematic culture. Still, this is a great opportunity for people to discuss frats and challenge their norms and toxic masculinity.