Opening the Door

Staff Commentary

Kyle Patterson, Director of Web & Multimedia

Last week, The Observer published an unsolicited submission entitled “Manifesto of a girl interrupted by the Greeks.” The manifesto, a 1,113-word piece that was penned by not one but six women from Case Western Reserve University, ended up being one of our most (un)popular printings so far; in fact, it captured more online views in one week than any other article in The Observer’s recent history.

Whether the interest is rooted in disagreement or support, as The Observer’s director of web and multimedia I’m proud to see the purpose of this section take form. The Opinion section has always been, and strives to continue being, an open platform for student voices and opinions that have merit in our society. I am proud to support a forum central to constructive, if not outright provocative, discussion. However, this is where I’m afraid my pride ends, and my disappointment begins.

A majority of what reached my ears this week has not been the discussion we at The Observer strive for, where arguments are raised and supported and fair resolutions are reached; rather, I’ve noticed a lot of outright anger at the opinions presented. When a group of students came forward to present their concerns—concerns regarding peer pressure, sexism and college life—I’m upset to see the community’s response is to quiet the dissenters. What’s more, these concerns are not unique to Greek Life, as the authors made special note to point out in their conclusion; to see anger at questioning the status quo just adds additional turmoil to my worries.

As someone who decided early on not to go Greek, I know that I made the correct decision for myself. I’m not one for large families, in any form, and the effort required to continuously interact with such a large body is well beyond my interest. When I was facing the question to go Greek or not, I decided I didn’t want to be part of the “frat guy” stereotype; wild house parties, movie-quality antics and conforming to the house persona. While I’m glad that my impression of Greek has changed since I made my decision (the parties actually aren’t dangerous, and several of my Greek friends are the hardest workers I know), I’m upset to see that my fears of not conforming might have been true.

I congratulate these six women who had the courage to express their concerns. Speaking against the grain is never an easy thing to do, and you can expect to anger people in the process. I admit, in interest of fairness, that I personally, not as a member of The Observer, support the message they wanted to say. Those of you who followed my Family Matters column last semester should not be surprised by this statement, as I’m known to support the voices of the minority.

This brings me to my final topic: Some of the anger I heard this past week regarded the accusations of sexism amongst Greek life. Without speaking for the authors, I do not believe they were calling Greek Life sexist, problematic or evil. I am concerned, however, that the cries of sexism have merit. Much bigger than its existence in Greek Life, sexism is undeniably ingrained in today’s society. If you deny this, I ask you to watch throughout the next week for everyday sexism. Listen for when a woman is referred to as a girl, despite their presence as an adult in a well-respected college community, and listen for how many times a man is called a boy. Watch for the male boss who silences the female employee, and compare that to how many female supervisors interrupt their male employees. If you don’t notice any problems, or you disregard when someone questions the status quo, ask yourself: Are you part of the problem?

To bring this back to the topic at hand, I would like to ask the question I have not yet heard. Why did these women have these concerns? To call out sexism within a sorority is no small thing. We cannot deny that fraternities get away with much more than a sorority. A mere picture of a woman holding an alcoholic beverage is incriminating to the point that it calls upon Greek leaders, while fraternities can host house parties complete with bartender. While the sorority leaders are the ones responsible for such restrictions, I cannot believe that they do not stem from the social pressure for such high standards. “Manifesto of a girl interrupted by the Greeks” did an excellent job in opening the door to these higher, further reaching discussions… and I’m concerned that we’ll continue to close that door every time.