Women Are Coming to Join Your Frats, and You Can’t Stop Them

One Yale fraternity has gone co-ed. Should others follow suit?

At a party hosted by the Delta Phi fraternity at Johns Hopkins University, brothers lounge on a sofa in a group, wearing suits next to their girlfriends in dresses and corsages, everyone smiling and drinking beverages from glasses, in a fraternity house right off campus, Baltimore, Maryland, 1947.
JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado/Getty Images

Much of the allure of joining a fraternity is attached to its exclusivity: an elite group of curated and hand-selected hot young men, many of whose grand-daddies and daddies were also in the same elite group when “I was your age,” all destined to climb the corporate ladder and tell less important people what to do, just like they told their little pledge bitches that they needed to guzzle an entire handle of Stoli by the time it got to the end of the line. But what happens to that allure when a frat is — gasp! — infiltrated by the very sorostitutes said frat stars once boasted of banging? 

Dare I say the result is … equality?

That’s sort of what happened when Serena Lin over at The Cut asked this important question: “Can Women Fix Fraternities?” Lin is one of more than a dozen of the inaugural female members of the Yale chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, which disaffiliated from the national SigEp fraternity, rebranded as the Edon Club, and opened rush to Yale students of all genders. 

So Lin is a female pledge who rushed a frat: a real-life sister nestled in the bronze of brotherhood! You’re either shaking with rage or creaming yourself, depending on what kind of man you are. She says she took part in hazing that never harmed her wellbeing (sure, sure, sure), formed tight bonds with her well-connected brethren in the “cultivated atmosphere of camaraderie,” and drank copious amounts of alcohol — responsibly, of course.

Perhaps some of your fathers might admonish those of you who champion or even join co-ed fraternities. And that’s likely because when they joined a fraternity long before the aughts, the social climate looked a little different. Women were undeniably seen as the lesser gender not so many decades ago, and men at the time decided what rights, benefits and opportunities would be available to their wives and daughters. It makes sense, then, that some men might pound their fists on their chest while screaming no girls allowed upon learning of Yale’s experiment in gender-neutral fraternizing. But I’m willing to bet that some of you, like me, might disagree.

One in four college women are sexually assaulted during their four years spent on a university campus, and much of that risk comes from 1) an environment in which young women under the legal drinking age are pressured to throw back concoctions of unknown ingredients and stick their mouths at the end of an ice luge and probably pick up mono (or worse), and 2) entering a gender-divided space that is not their own — a space designed by young men who, by the age of 20 years old, do not necessarily have their morals, egos or sexual appetites in check. There will always be a significant risk for young women (and especially women of color) on college campuses — it’s inherent in the insulated social scene. But by allowing women to join a fraternity, there arises a particular sense of collaboration, awareness and, ultimately, protection. Both male and female members took turns staying sober at parties to keep an eye on shenanigans in dark corners. And by allowing young women into the brotherhood, the conversations were richer and more nuanced — not just booze and debauchery, but a reimagining of what fraternities might stand for in the 21st century.

Besides, according to Lin, the social dynamic — aka the chance to see a pair of big naturals in a corset and the haughty air of old East Coast money — didn’t change at all.

“Greek life is an inherently gendered experience, and fraternities hold the power of invitation and the promise of inebriation,” Lin writes. “Edon’s integration didn’t change the fact that our social power (and, consequently, my own) is derived from our ability to throw parties and offer free alcohol.”

By the way, my sorority Delta Gamma is technically a fraternity because we had one male founding member. So, by your own rules, I, too, am a brother. As Lin says, “I have become the fraternity brother at the door.”

You heard her, fellas. The women are knocking, and they’re whispering, “Let us in.”

Happy Friday. Hope you don’t have nightmares.


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