Erin Dyer, a sorority sister and a junior at the University of Virginia, wrote this (very lightly edited) piece after she was told that she and other sorority members on campus would not be allowed to attend fraternity parties on Saturday night. It reminded her of the lyrics to a Beyoncé song:
If I were A Boy
“If I were a boy even just for a day…I’d kick it with who I wanted ”
In the past, lyrics like “pretty hurts” and “cigars on ice, cigars on ice” have found little relevance in my fairly average 21-year-old life. Maybe that makes me a loser or maybe it just means I’m not Beyoncé. I am not quite sure. I am sure, however, that when it comes to examining the roles men and women play in our current collegiate society, Queen B has provided the ultimate inspiration.
Leaders from the National Panhellenic Conference, basically the United Nations of sororities, recently sent a letter to every University of Virginia sorority chapter president stating, “We believe the activities on Men’s Bid Night present significant safety concerns for all of our members and we are united in our request that the 16 NPC sororities not participate.”
Because I am a woman and a member of the Greek system at the University of Virginia, I am not allowed to enter into a fraternity house for a celebration of any sort on January 31st, also known as “Boys’ Bid Night”.
If I were a boy, I would have the privilege of existing in whichever space I please on Saturday, January 31st.
Both the national sorority leaders and my own chapter at U-Va. have promised consequences for any individual woman who attends a Fraternity event on Saturday, January 31st. I’m assuming the ‘consequence’ will be something along the lines of you can not attend sorority sponsored parties this spring and you must pay a large fine that will disappear forever into XYZ’s national sorority trove.
As written by my own Greek chapter, “due to national scrutiny, if you attend, you will be put on social probation.”
However, the consequences of banning all Greek women from attending these events stretch far beyond having to miss out on my next date function or paying a large fine to nationals. Endorsed by all sorority chapters at U-Va., this policy promotes a culture that reduces women to objects of sexual pleasure, only useful as subjects of the male gaze and desire.
It is a policy that portrays University of Virginia Greek women as defenseless and all Greek men as dangerous. It is a policy I do not stand by.
As a member of the Greek system, it is difficult to change or even question a policy once it is mandated.
This is not because all members of my own chapter unanimously agree on a policy. This is because if anyone does not enforce a policy, she will face consequences. That’s especially true for officers, who could lose their leadership positions.
For better or for worse, this is how sororities ensure policy adherence and enforcement. They tell us what to do, how to behave, how to best represent XYZ sorority, how to keep XYZ sorority from being held liable for our actions, and we, as Greek women, take notes.
This time I am not taking notes.
University of Virginia Greek women and men will not take notes.
If I were a boy, or better yet, if I were a non-Greek woman, neither my actions nor my words would be silenced by an organization that promotes a policy that disregards gender equality.
I did not join the Greek system to be told I am helpless in the face of ‘boys being boys’.
I did not join the Greek system to be demeaned and penalized for my sex.
I did not join the Greek system to be used as leverage to change a fraternal culture that is now falsely labeled as entirely threatening. I did not join a system that is more concerned about its national reputation in affiliation with U-Va. rather than ensuring all women, Greek and non-Greek, feel safe and supported on university grounds.
If I were a boy, I would not face discrimination against my sex directly from an organization of which I am a member in the year 2015.
My sorority claims it offers “a lifelong opportunity for social, intellectual, and moral growth as [women] meet the higher and broader demands of mature life”.
There is nothing progressive or mature or moral about encouraging women to stay inside of their homes and hide from men.
There is nothing intellectually virtuous about encouraging women to cower and retreat in the face of uncertainty.
Rather, the NPC should use its concern and resources to educate both college men and women about rape culture and how we can all take a stand against it, uniting as one Greek system.
I am not a boy. I am a woman, and today I find myself demeaned.
This post has been updated.