When their national chapters ordered them to stay away from fraternity events this weekend, women at the University of Virginia sororities called the directive sexist and irrational, The Washington Post reported. The National Panhellenic Council, which oversees sorority activities, said the individual sorority chapters issued the order ahead of the annual tradition of the fraternities' bid night, which is Saturday.
The sorority women were, needless to say, angered that the council issued a blanket edict disallowing the women from attending bid night parties or any "social gatherings" with fraternity members, taking the voices of the sorority sisters out of the decision entirely. They drafted a petition urging the NPC to revoke the bid night mandate:
Instead of addressing rape and sexual assault at UVa, this mandate perpetuates the idea that women are inferior, sexual objects. It is degrading to Greek women, as it appears that the NPC views us as defenseless and UVa’s new fraternal policies as invalid. Allowing the NPC to prevent us from celebrating (what used to be) a tight-knit community, sends the message that we are weak.
When explaining her reason for signing the petition, one commenter wrote,"...canceling boys bid night sends the message that the only way for women to be safe on campus is by avoiding all social situations."
Michelle Bower, spokeswoman for the National Panhellenic Council, defended the decision of the sororities, telling The Washington Post:
Of course, NPC supports the safety of their women, so they do support those national presidents making that decision and encouraging sorority women to plan sisterhood events and other ‘safer’ options.The decision to forbid sorority members from attending bid night parties appears to stem from the tumultuous fall semester at UVA, which was rocked by a Rolling Stone story alleging a brutal gang rape at a UVA frat house, allegations which were later called into question. The president of the university abruptly suspended all campus fraternities while it investigated the claims.
As well-intentioned as the order might have been, it's problematic on a number of levels. First, it's an order, taking the women it affects out of the decision. They might not all be of legal drinking age, but most members of college sororities are adults. Second, it's another version of victim-blaming. It presumes that the reason women who are raped at frat parties is because they went to a frat party. Solve the problem by not going to the party! That's just ridiculous, and fails to hold accountable the actual guilty party: the rapist. In addition, if the sororities' national chapters are this alarmed about safety on UVA campus and believes there are legitimate concerns, telling women not to go to one night of parties doesn't come close to addressing those issues. Be proactive, not reactive.
And hey, get those fraternity brothers involved in the conversation.