“Dude, I asked you to leave twice already. Can you just go?”
“But they…uh…they said I could stay?” I fumbled.
“I don’t care who told you that you could stay! Just f—ing leave!”
The consequences of crashing a Sig Ep mixer became rapidly apparent to me. Seeking to avoid any further confrontation, I turned around to leave with my party-crashing friends.
“Not you though. You guys are in Theta. You guys can stay.”
Admittedly, I was not supposed to be there, but neither were my “Theta friends.” We were all crashing a closed mixer — an unforgiving heteronormative environment. A simple principle underlies Greek mixers: an exclusive group of men invites a select group of women to socialize with them in their house. Women are temporarily welcomed into these restricted all-male spaces on the presumption that mixers facilitate hook-ups. Framed this way, it’s a reductive and objectifying experience for invited women.
Integral to this dynamic is also the ban on all men not affiliated with the fraternity, in order to mitigate potential threats to the exclusivity of the mixer. Queer men, who don’t pose competition to heterosexual brothers, are unwelcome as well, since they don’t fit the heteronormative formula of men mixing with women. There is even less of a space for queer women and trans people.
This exclusion not only invalidates friendships between queer men and women, but also eradicates the possibility of queer men seeking each other out at fraternities by posting a screeching “you are not welcome here” sign at the doors of the fraternity. Policing the presence of non-Sig Ep men while welcoming the presence of any woman (not all my friends were in a sorority) exemplifies behavior that discourages queer men from being at fraternities and from joining them.
Having said that, a fraternity brother apologized to me a month after this confrontation. But given Sig Ep’s recent decision to allow women to rush, but not to receive bids, his desire to make Sig Ep a better place seemed half-hearted.
Fraternities will never become better spaces for all Yale students until nonmen are fully accepted into the ranks of their membership, and queer and trans people feel welcome at their events. To allow women to rush while publicly acknowledging that none will be offered bids perpetuates the objectifying culture inherent to Greek life. It is unfair that women are critiqued by an all-male group but eventually rejected regardless of their merit and because of their gender.
Allowing women to rush but not to receive bids will not lead to a more inclusive Yale. In fact, it only serves to highlight and aggravate the power imbalances women, queer and trans people must navigate. Women involved in Greek life must enter male-dominated spaces to participate in Greek life — and now their performance in these spaces may be evaluated if they choose to rush a fraternity.
If we seek to build a more inclusive Yale, why not commit fully to women’s admittance into a fraternity? Why take such a tepid approach? The answer partly relates to their ties to their national organizations, but also to a silent acknowledgement that a fraternity’s activities are intrinsically gendered.
The hegemonic masculinity present in these single-gendered social houses is ultimately premised on the exclusion and subordination of the feminine. Women are welcomed into fraternities as sexual objects — not as equals. Queer and trans people are disdainfully ignored. The values and character of fraternities as they stand rely on the fact that they are single-gender. The inclusion of women would confront a form of masculinity that has given license to an unhealthy sexual climate and discouraged queer and trans people from participating in these spaces.
Women must be able to attain membership in co-ed fraternities if Yale’s social scene is to become more inclusive.
Roger Lopez is a junior in Davenport College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .