Seven years ago a group of young college men chanted, “no means yes, yes means anal” outside of the women’s center on campus. These were Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity brothers at Yale University.
It’s really easy to judge fraternities, I mean Jesus, they keep giving us reasons to add to the list. But what’s crazier than bad behavior from the glory days, is the impact that fraternity culture brings into the political climate.
Only 8.5% of college men participate in the Greek system, yet that small group garners unimaginable power. Clubs like these preach all the right stuff - character, friendship, legacy, philanthropy. These values breed on college campuses and, apparently, flourish after graduation. These men really do become leaders, undoubtedly in part to frat life and the bro code it supports.
An incredible 85% of U.S. Supreme Court justices are fraternity members. Of the 114 people on the court ever, only 4 have been women. The overwhelming majority of those men, since 1906, are frat stars. This trend reaches into our private sector, too. Of the 95% male dominated Fortune 500 executives, 85% were in fraternities. Our country’s highest authority is a political frat house.
This is not a coincidence, it’s an assembly line. But there is a lot to unpack there. I swear, I’m not just spelling it out to insult you.
In fraternities, you belong to a group so severely that your fellow boys are your brothers, and no one dare challenge that relationship. Even the hazing - excuse me, education - process is a rite of passage. And that crucial element of tradition preserves the boys will be boys conduct, detailing the importance of having each other’s backs.
Let me be crystal clear - frat does not equal rape. But if you do commit a sexual assault to any degree, it doesn’t matter, because your boys have got you. Because within the typical four years of college, one in five women will be sexually assaulted. And men who join fraternities are three times more likely to rape.
When victims do come forward, consequences are very mild, if implemented at all. Students are almost never expelled for sexual assault, but endure a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to academic integrity. Universities continue to fail their students, leaving women with trauma and ignoring men who are likely to commit additional assaults.
So, why am I bringing this up now, when it’s not even rush? Because here come the midterms, one stint in the ongoing political rush. And here’s the kicker. That fraternity that scoffed at consent and celebrated rape around their college campus, Yale’s DKE, that was Brett Kavanaugh’s fraternity.
The talking dicks of DKE didn’t chant that line until 2011, but during Kavanaugh’s direct involvement in the mid-1980s, they did prance around with a flag made of women’s underwear. Several women wrote to the Yale Daily News detesting this behavior and the events that inspired it, and were ignored. Where was the school’s leadership? The president of the university at that time, Bartlett Giamatti, was a former DKE himself. Talk about being untouchable.
“Those who are trying to reform fraternities [experience] big obstacles [with] emphasis on tradition, the attachment of alumni to their past, and the fact that men who once participated in these rituals often become prominent and generous financial donors to their school,” The New York Times reports.
Granted, it’s not just fraternities, I get that. Other clubs also suck. Namely, another group that Kavanaugh was involved with his senior year of college: Truth and Courage, a boys only secret society. The club was nicknamed “Tit and Clit” that year. So, there’s that.
“After Christine Blasey Ford’s wrenching testimony and before Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Donald Trump’s message was clear: ‘It’s a very scary time for young men in America,’” reports Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Founder and CEO of The Representation Project and filmmaker behind Misrepresentation. “Teaching men that they are the true victims here would be laughable - if it wasn’t so dangerous,” she says, “The Republican Party has become perhaps the most elite fraternity in America.”
Frat life’s unified front across college campuses is more than a popularity scheme, it’s a mentality that survives the safety of the Greek system.
This be afraid, very afraid tactic might be the most harmful thing to happen to the movement yet. What more validation do these guys need? This is the 21st century and we’re talking about men taking advantage of women without consequence like it’s a new thing. Like it’s original. Our president is condoning these actions. It’s proven right up to the Supreme Court! It’s cool if it’s consensual, but clearly, men aren’t looking for pious fucks.
Something powerful is at work here. Fraternities and other elitist clubs are indeed producing our nation’s leaders. The men that come before them pave the way, and their brotherhood is enough to ignore any missteps.
I get it, the Kavanaugh ship has sailed. But it doesn’t mean that the storm should blow over. All the next guys are getting ready to pledge, and we need to do better. We put Trump in the White House. We have to own that. We had a choice and we ignored it, knowing he would influence the rest of our political frat house. It makes sense that Kavanaugh was the president's nomination, and it makes sense that he is confirmed. This is the country that we helped build.
You want it to look different? I know you do, so prove it. Vote.
x Dani Pinkus