Do fraternities help control the problems or do they create them?
One researcher found that fraternities were embracing “a more inclusive form of masculinity,” based on equality for gay men, respect for women, racial parity and emotional intimacy... Americans demonize fraternities as bastions of toxic masculinity where young men go to indulge their worst impulses. Universities have cracked down: Since November 2017, more than a dozen have suspended all fraternity events. But I spent more than two years interviewing fraternity members nationwide for a book about what college students think it means to “be a man,” and what I learned was often heartening. Contrary to negative headlines and popular opinion, many fraternities are encouraging brothers to defy stereotypical hypermasculine standards and to simply be good people... “Because masculinity is a status that men prove to other men, simply being in an all-male group may exacerbate pressure to uphold masculinity,” the study said. An East Coast junior put it this way to me last year: “We want the high-fives.”
But it’s wrong to assume that every all-male group is toxic.
.. Boys still face pressure to be “traditionally masculine.” In a 2018 survey of more than 1,000 10-to-19-year-olds, two-thirds of boys reported either that society expects them to “hide or suppress their feelings when they feel sad or scared” or that they’re supposed to “be strong, tough, ‘be a man’ and ‘suck it up.’” As boys reach late adolescence, they tend to disconnect from their emotions and their peers. Yet they long for the close male friendships of childhood, said Niobe Way, a psychology professor at New York University. They increasingly worry that opening up, seeking intimate friendships and showing affection are perceived to be feminine behaviors.
.. Eric Anderson found “a more inclusive form of masculinity institutionalized in the fraternal system: one based on social equality for gay men, respect for women and racial parity, and one in which fraternity men bond over emotional intimacy.” A member told him: “We expect our brothers not to partake in that macho jock mentality. We want to stand out as being intellectual and athletic, but also as being kind and respectful.”
.. they interviewed 50 young men who had challenged stereotypically male norms. These students, who came from 44 campus chapters, “consciously acted in ways that sought to disrupt sexism, racism and homophobia.” They confronted brothers who exhibited those attitudes and developed strong platonic friendships with women, as did many of the brothers I interviewed.
.. Professors Harris and Harper called these behaviors “productive masculinities” because they have been linked to better health and school engagement for college men. “Moreover,” they wrote, they “contribute to a safe and affirming campus community for all students.” The study participants said they behaved this way partly because they wanted to live up to the values of their fraternity.
.. Brothers in several fraternities described to me a weekly ritual called, “Good of the Order,” “Good of the Fraternity,” “Good and Welfare” or “Gavel Sessions,” during which brothers are encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings. An Iowa junior told me that in his chapter, which requires each brother to say “Love and respect” after his turn, a member confided to the group in 2017 that he was depressed and feeling suicidal. During the ensuing conversation, an older brother told the group: “It’s O.K. to cry. It’s O.K. to open up. You don’t have to ‘be a man.’ That’s just a societal thing that shifts people’s views and promotes harmful stress.”
.. Fraternities that demonstrate a pattern of bad behavior should absolutely be shuttered. But what about the good actors? Few universities — or media accounts — distinguish between what academics refer to as high-risk and low-risk fraternities. Both exist. In a 2015 Sociology Compass article, Kaitlin Boyle, a professor at Virginia Tech, noted that on measures of sexual aggression, hostility toward women, and drinking frequency and intensity, members of low-risk fraternities did not differ significantly from non-Greek students. She concluded, “It is only the groups easily named as ‘high risk’ by students that contain the values, norms and practices that increase women’s risk of sexual victimization.”
Those are the chapters we see in the news, though they do not represent most fraternity members, many of whom told me they were sick of the stigma of being associated with what they called “rapey” students.
Colleges’ push to eliminate all-male groups is indicative of higher education’s overall dismissal of the needs of boys and men. Universities glorify the masculinity embodied in men’s athletics, largely ignore the emotional needs of their male students and then denounce “toxic masculinity.” But most aren’t providing the spaces or resources to encourage boys to learn about healthy ways to be men.
In a 2010 study, Professors Harris and Harper wrote that “student activities, resources, and courses offered on ‘gender’ are almost always about rape and sexual assault, empowering and protecting the rights of women.” You can’t prevent rape and sexual assault, however, without talking to, and about, men. Jason Laker, an education professor at San Jose State University, called “college masculinity” a “linchpin issue,” but said that student-affairs professionals are not “trained in this aspect of student psychological development, which is where the trouble is.”
In a 2011 call to action, the education experts Jim O’Neil and Bryce Crapser pointed out the fundamental problem: “The real challenge of the profession is to fully accept vulnerable college men are a special group that need our help and support.”
Today’s young men are coming of age at a time when we are renegotiating what it means to be a man, which presents new challenges, reopens old wounds and creates additional reasons for students to seek out brotherhood.
.. To promote a healthier campus culture, colleges could stipulate that all-male groups make their membership more racially and socioeconomically diverse, perhaps by offering scholarships to cover dues, which can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars a year. Schools could require fraternity members to attend a several-week course about healthy masculinities led by an outside party and workshops on violence and sexual assault prevention, which studies have found are more effective in male-only groups.
..Rather than assume that every all-male group promotes misogyny, schools could support those that don’t. Examples abound. Christian Milano, a junior and member of Alpha Sigma Phi at Seton Hall, is working with a sorority sister at his school to create a sexual-consent education program for Greeks nationwide. Mr. Milano said he has “spoken with brothers numerous times on how to be active bystanders, how drinking culture plays a critical part in fostering an environment that encourages assault and how to be empathetic to victims of assault.”
Some chapters are going as far as they can to treat women as equals. In 2018, a Pennsylvania chapter of a Jewish fraternity changed its bylaws to start a “nonmember recognition program” that includes women, though national rules don’t allow them to attend chapter meetings and rituals. “I consider myself a feminist,” said Adin Adler, a senior and brother who championed the program. “We feel like, rather than a fraternity, we are a community of people.”
Men are being held accountable — and it has them mad as hell
This is why, I suspect, these men become so shocked and enraged when they’re asked to answer for their actions: When they say “nothing happened,” it’s not just a denial — it’s that they truly believe the incident was not a big deal.
Yesterday, Kavanaugh was the face of that backlash — an avatar for entitled, white male rage in the U.S. Angry, sputtering, petulant — the judge could barely contain his fury over being expected to answer for himself. As Slate’s Lili Loofbourow put it: “This person does not seem to have a lot of experience coping with not getting what he wants.”
Instead of responding to questions directly, Kavanaugh repeated his professional and academic bonafides as if his elite background was proof of good character. When Senator Sheldon Whitehouse asked the judge about references in his high school yearbook about drinking to the point of vomiting, Kavanaugh responded, “I was at the top of my class academically.”
“Captain of the varsity basketball team,” he continued. “Got in Yale College. When I got into Yale College, got into Yale Law School.”
Don’t you know who I am?
.. When Sen. Amy Klobuchar — who prefaced her questions with anecdote about her own father’s alcoholism — asked Kavanaugh if he had ever blacked out, the judge snapped, “Have you?” Even after she repeated the question, once again Kavanaugh sneered: “I’m curious if you have.”
.. Alexandra Schwartz at the New Yorker called this behavior “a model of American conservative masculinity…directly tied to the loutish, aggressive frat-boy persona that Kavanaugh is purportedly seeking to dissociate himself from.”
.. And, as is often the case with frat boys, Kavanaugh’s brothers had his back. One after another, the male Senators gave emotional apologies to the judge for even having to be there, bemoaning the loss of his life and reputation. Like Kavanaugh, they were appalled that the judge was expected to explain himself.
As if the possibility of him not ascending to the Supreme Court — and just continuing to serve on the second most important court in the country — would be a travesty. As if Kavanaugh was owed a smooth, unquestioned, path to whatever he wanted.
.. he hearing stopped being about Blasey Ford’s experience or even Kavanaugh’s fitness for the job, and instead became a stage for broader and bitter male resentment — furious over the seemingly new expectation of accountability, and raging over not immediately being given what was promised to them.
.. Even as women calmly and expertly explain the ways in which men have hurt us, our pain is immediately drowned out and glossed over by men’s belief that they should not have to answer to us, of all people.
.. My optimistic side would like to think that yesterday was the last loud gasp of a dying patriarchy, an astounded sexist minority trying its best to rebel against an emerging feminist majority. The less hopeful part of me, though — the part that still thinks quite a lot about America’s history of choosing poorly between a measured, informed woman and a belligerent, snapping man
Kavanaugh and our rotten ruling class... Despite Donald Trump’s populist posturing, there are few people more obsessed with Ivy League credentials. Kavanaugh’s nomination shows how sick the cultures that produce those credentials — and thus our ruling class — can be... According to The New Yorker, Judge confided in an ex-girlfriend, Elizabeth Rasor, about an incident where he and other boys took turns having sex with a drunken woman. (Judge denies this.).. From Georgetown Prep, Kavanaugh went to Yale. There he joined the fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon, or DKE, which was, according to The Yale Daily News, “notorious for disrespecting women.” (Long after Kavanaugh graduated, the fraternity, once headed by George W. Bush, was banned from campus after video emerged of pledges chanting, “No Means Yes! Yes Means Anal!”).. Kavanaugh was also a member of an all-male secret society called Truth and Courage, which had an obscene nickname affirming its dedication to womanizing... It may not be fair to judge Kavanaugh by the company he kept. But it’s telling that these were the crucibles in which he and other members of our ostensible meritocracy forged their identities and connections... “Is it believable that she was alone with a wolfy group of guys who thought it was funny to sexually torment a girl like Debbie? Yeah, definitely. Is it believable that Kavanaugh was one of them? Yes.”
.. There’s no equivalent culture in which girls reap social capital for misbehaving. You rarely see women in politics or law who flaunt college reputations as party girls; the women who make it are expected to show steely self-control. In the rarefied social world that produces so many of our putative leaders, a young man who frequently gets blackout drunk, as Kavanaugh reportedly did, is a fun guy. A young woman who does so is a mess.
.. Kavanaugh went on to become a protégé of appeals court judge Alex Kozinski, for whom he clerked in the early 1990s. Last year, Kozinski resigned after multiple accusations of sexual harassment by former female clerks and junior staffers; two said he showed them porn in his office. The judge’s lewd behavior was, by many accounts, an open secret.
.. “All the clerks and former clerks in Kozinski’s ambit knew and understood that you assumed the risk and accepted the responsibilities of secrecy,”
.. both of whom had a reputation as gatekeepers for students who hoped to land coveted clerkships with Kavanaugh. Sources told The Guardian that Chua instructed female applicants to exude a “model-like” femininity, a claim Chua denies. One prospective clerk said Rubenfeld advised her, “You should know that Judge Kavanaugh hires women with a certain look.”
.. As they realize that, their incandescent fury is remaking our politics. We’ll know things have changed when palling around with sexual abusers carries more stigma than being abused does.