The Right to Party

Picture a college party designed by women, chaperoned by women and monitored by women. Perhaps it would just be another one of those claustrophobic parties with all the guests dancing closely together over a sticky linoleum floor in somebody’s basement. Or, perhaps it would be clean, well-decorated and pleasantly aromatic. It’s hard to say, but the Greek community intends to find out. Sorority women across the nation are advocating for permission to host their own house parties instead of passively depending on the fraternity houses, as is common across college campuses. Sexual assault is a constant issue on college campuses, and Greek life is directly correlated with a number of scandalous affairs.

As reported by the National Institute of Justice, about a quarter of sexual assault victims were members of sororities, and over half the assaults against college women occurred at off-campus parties. Since women have grown aware of their increased risk as members of sororities, they are trying to change the system for the better. Allowing women to have more control over the social scene seems like a simple idea, but it has the potential to be incredibly effective. Sorority house parties will ideally create a safer, more female-friendly social scene for the Greek community at various universities.

Previously, sororities avoided hosting events involving alcoholic beverages in an effort to keep insurance fees low, as mandated by the National Panhellenic Conference. At a glance, it may seem chivalrous of fraternities to cover the party costs, but they are actually causing women to pay the price in less transparent ways. A study at the University of Oregon revealed that Greek women on their campus were more likely to have experienced rape or attempted rape, than non-Greek women. Sororities are no longer content to put up with the laid-back safety regimens at frat houses, which have resulted in the sexual violation of so many women. The implementation of policies in California such as the “Yes Means Yes” law are part of the overall movement of women being encouraged to actively and assertively pursue their share of social power.

Some may argue that allowing women to host parties to prevent sexual assault is like trying to solve a drinking problem by adding more alcohol. After all, it is not as though fraternity men are all fiendish booze-swilling monsters, while sorority girls are all responsible models of sobriety. The problem is that the current system shifts the balance of power unfairly in the direction of men. A sociology professor from the University of Connecticut, Matthew Hughey, who studied the history of Greek organizations, suggested that only letting fraternities host the parties has created a structural form of gender inequality. This has limited the opportunities for sororities to gain cultural respect. Facilitating sororities to host their own parties will help to restore a fair balance of power that will make women less vulnerable to systematic abuse.

Since men hold all the authority to choose which guests are valuable enough to gain entrance to their parties, this results in female guests being exclusively selected based on whether their appearance aligns with male preferences. Of course this fosters an intensely competitive, superficial vibe among the female attendees who all want to look hot enough to get in. That in turn may make women less likely to look out for each other. Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology and gender studies from Stony Brook University, argued that you can detect the hierarchies of power based on who has dressed up for whom. The fraternity men often dress very casually compared to the women at frat parties, donning flip-flops while the women wear high heels.

Certain benefits of sorority houses hosting their own parties and being the gatekeepers to social events include establishing their own standard for attendees. Men may be encouraged to dress more formally and maintain a certain gentlemanly standard of conduct to enter and remain at a sorority-hosted party. If a man gains a bad reputation through word-of-mouth or ill treatment of any woman, the sororities may decide to ban him from their events. These sort of precautions build a much safer environment for women.

There will always inevitably be some chaotic events at parties because mistakes are bound to happen. But ultimately, both sexes deserve the opportunity to contribute their strengths and weaknesses to the cultural dynamic. Sororities hosting their own parties is one step in the right direction.

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