In light of the recent article in the Gateway, we at the Gender-Based Violence Prevention Project (GBVPP) wish to re-state our interest in working with fraternities on the Accountability Action Project. In the Gateway article, we were asked to speak broadly to the idea of male accountability for gender-based violence and in doing so, unintentionally implied that fraternities live up to a reputation for perpetuating gender-based violence. Our intention was simply to briefly mention this perception of fraternities and explain the AAP as a way of combatting those perceptions, not to reinforce stereotypes. We would like to apologize to the Greek community for this misunderstanding and to state clearly that we believe these stereotypes of fraternities to be widely false. We do not believe fraternity members are significantly more likely than any other group of men to perpetuate sexual violence. On the contrary, we have found through our own personal experience that fraternities tend to be incredibly receptive to conversations about sexual violence and highly committed to ending violence.
What we do believe is that all men have a responsibility to learn about gender-based violence, and actively engage in changing the systems and societal factors that allow it to continue. The GBVPP uses the phrase “gender-based violence” as an umbrella term encompassing sexism and gender discrimination, homophobia/heterosexism and transphobia, sexual violence (sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse), and intimate partner violence. Through the AAP, we want to provide additional knowledge for fraternity members to recognize gender-based violence when they see it in any form, and empower them to have conversations that spread their positive community standards into all parts of campus and other areas of their lives.
The reality is that we live in a culture that places rigid gendered expectations on men, which are reinforced from childhood on. Even in 2013, men are still typically expected to be strong, aggressive, financially successful, and stoic. Such expectations put a lot of pressure on boys and men, and it manifests in many different ways for different people. Some of the consequences of this pressure range from men feeling shamed for expressing emotions, to casual homophobia or sexism, to aggression in conflict situations, to extremes such as perpetration of sexual assault or other physical violence. These are social realities that require an active commitment on the part of men to change.
The AAP wanted to work specifically with fraternities because we have had the opportunity to see them engaging with these issues in the past through their participation in sexual assault awareness presentations. We know that being part of a fraternity is most often a positive experience in which men feel supported by their peers and choose to actively create a culture of inclusion and respect. We believe that this positive, supportive environment lends itself perfectly to having conversations about the implications of the version of masculinity widely accepted and promoted by our society. We see the huge potential for fraternities to create meaningful change around ending gender-based violence, and we hope to collaborate with you in doing so.
I will be attending the next IFC meeting on October 23rd and am happy to answer any questions. If any fraternity members wish to continue this conversation before then, we can absolutely schedule a meeting to do so.
Melanie Alexander - Gender Based Violence Prevention Project Coordinator