Monday, May 9, 2011

Guest post: Fraternities and Gender Equality

Today's guest post comes courtesy of Justin, who writes for the Education Database Online blog at If you're interested in writing a guest post for Spare Candy or cross-posting something, check out the guidelines or send an e-mail to rosiered23 (at) sparecandy (dot) com.

"No means yes!" This and other misogynist phrases were chanted by a group of fraternity members, walking through the residential section of none other than Yale University. Some of the boys were blindfolded, chanting rhyming sexual slurs. Though the fraternity was immediately condemned by the Yale Women's Center for "hate speech" and was reprimanded by the university's administration, no further action was taken. In fact, fraternities on campus later retaliated by taking picture of each other in front of the Women's Center with signs that read "We Love Yale Sluts."

You don’t need an education to see that fraternities promote gender inequality. Their very existence excludes women. Incidents of sexual violence toward women and men during hazing rituals are only the tip of the iceberg. Drug busts, cases of alcohol poisoning and even deaths continue to occur under the auspices of Greek life and the noses of university administrations.

Why are these male bastions that permit gender inequality and sexual violence still a part of modern university life? The answers are not easy. Fraternities are descended from Freemason societies, and some date back to the American Revolution. Originated to promote and sustain culture, music and philosophy through their organizations, fraternities morphed along with society through world wars and decades of cultural and political upheaval. Relationships formed in fraternities became lifelong networks among the nation's elite, reaching the very top of society in both business and politics.

Today, fraternities are primarily social organizations and do little to promote academic excellence. Frequently, their abuses are overlooked, ignored or lightly punished. College administrators who are also fraternity members are reluctant to believe the worst of these young men. They may also be loath to punish fraternities for their actions due to the influence of affluent families. As a result, it takes a death from alcohol poisoning, beating or rape for action to be taken.

Though fraternities are not alone in promoting gender inequality and the objectification that leads to sexual violence, they are a critical social link between boyhood and manhood for all who join them. Yet, it's worth noting that the roots of the problem grow well before a person goes to college.

Consider the cultural influences on a potential fraternity pledge. By the time he's a teenager, he's likely gained access to Internet pornography, learning to see women as objects, not people. He's been saturated with violence toward women on television and in movies, video games and on the daily news. Perhaps he's witnessed or suffered domestic abuse. All of these experiences are carried into college life, where the boy encounters fraternities.

In 2008, pornography use was surveyed among 62 percent of fraternity men attending a popular Midwestern college. The survey concluded that these young men were significantly less likely to intervene when confronted with a rape situation and were much more likely to participate in rape themselves.

Date rape is a far-too-common occurrence on college campuses throughout the United States. From the first moment a freshman girl arrives at school, eager to make friends and in an unfamiliar and exciting world, she is a target. Fraternities don't exist to exploit her, but they can place her in a position of emotional and physical vulnerability. Statistics show that between 15 and 30 percent of college women have been victims of date rape. The very idea that college fraternities should need to enact a pledge against violence toward women indicates how deep the problem runs on today's college campuses.

Forced alcohol consumption and drinking games are common in fraternities, sometimes with lethal consequences. When young women are invited into that mix, inhibitions are lowered and sexual violence or unwanted sexual contact is far more likely to occur. A memory-erasing drug like rohypnol, slipped into a drink virtually assures crime, with lifelong consequences for the victim and the perpetrator.

Hazing also encourages sexual abuse. The very nature of hazing is demeaning, a method of breaking an individual in order to bring them into the fold of a "brotherhood." Bonding is achieved through abasement. Rituals that include sexual abuse, humiliation, nudity, piercings and substance abuse are protected by arcane codes of silence. A boy that completes a hazing ritual is initiated into an atmosphere of loyalty, permissiveness and protection that would be unavailable anywhere else. The competition for entry into these fraternities is fierce because the benefits of loyalty and protection extend well beyond graduation, into business relationships and other aspects of life after college.

The wider implications for society after these young men graduate are apparent. What they learn at a fraternity, they carry into boardrooms, courtrooms and marriages. All three are places where gender inequality is entrenched. If these men enjoy the loyalty and continuing privileges of fraternities, are they likely to hire or promote a woman? In the United States, women make only 77 cents compared to a man's dollar for the same work. They remain underrepresented and underpaid in math, technology, engineering and science jobs.

The fraternities of today are but a shadow of the values they once upheld. Some universities have banned fraternities because their nature is exclusive and works against a spirit of inclusion of races, gender and sexual preferences. At other universities, Greek organizations no longer exist in their traditional form, but promote scholarship and service without the trappings of old campus houses, traditions and hazing rituals.

According to the Norman Transcript, in January, 2010 a female student at Oklahoma University was raped at a fraternity party. Yet since she did not file charges within 30 days, she was told the maximum penalty of expulsion could not be enforced. That the university's policy is now being "updated" offers some hope. That it took a student rally and news coverage to bring it about shows the length of the path to change.

Friday, May 6, 2011

In History: Mary Cain

This is the 75th post in a weekly feature here at Spare Candy, called "In History." Some posts might be little more than a photo, others full on features. If you have any suggestions for a person or event that should be featured, or would like to submit a guest post or cross post, e-mail me at rosiered23 (at) sparecandy (dot) com.

Mary D. Cain, born on Aug. 17, 1904, was a Mississippi newspaper editor and Democratic politician. A fiery and outspoken supporter of segregation and other conservative causes, she earned herself the nickname "Hacksaw Mary". Besides editing the Summit Sun, a weekly newspaper of Pike County, Mississippi, she was the first woman to run for governor in the state, though she never won the office. Cain first came to national attention in 1952 when she refused to pay $42.87 in social security taxes, calling the program "unconstitutional, immoral and un-American." She considered the federal government in general a "bloated abomination.: Cain died on May 6, 1984, at the age of 79.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Suggested Sunday reading (5/1/11)

Just a quick reminder, you can submit links for this column via e-mail at rosiered23 (at) sparecandy (dot) com, and you can catch up with Spare Candy on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr as well. Or! Leave a link in the comments! Self-promotion is perfectly acceptable here.
  • Hello Ladies: "Closing the Gender Leadership Gap."
  • The Stranger: "Local Women's Group Receives $300,000 Grant to Educate Men on Domestic Violence."
  • New York Times: "A Lawsuit’s Unusual Question: Who Is a Man?" TW on this one for gender identity discrimination.
  • TBD: "Free girl culture! The royal wedding doesn't make women dumb," by Amanda Hess.
  • The Good Men Project: "Myth-Busting the Gender Wage Gap."
  • CBC: "1 million stillbirths preventable globally: report."
  • MacGuffin and Puffin: "Asshole of the Month- March." (Hint: It's US Rep. Mike Pence.)
  • New York Times: "Indiana Bill Cuts Funds for Clinics for Women."
  • Washington Post: "Tina Fey mixes laughs with serious talk about women’s equality." Has anyone read her book? I'd like to pick it up sometime.

Friday, April 29, 2011

In History: Aurora Quezón

This is the 74th post in a weekly feature here at Spare Candy, called "In History." Some posts might be little more than a photo, others full on features. If you have any suggestions for a person or event that should be featured, or would like to submit a guest post or cross post, e-mail me at rosiered23 (at) sparecandy (dot) com.

Aurora Antonia Aragón de Molina Vd.ª De Quezón (born Aurora Antonia Aragón y de Molina on Feb. 19, 1888), usually known simply as Aurora Quezón, and sometimes as Aurora Aragón-Quezón, was the wife of Philippine President Manuel Luis Quezón and the First Lady of the Philippines from 1935 to 1944. Though she is recognized as the second First Lady of the Philippines, she was actually the first spouse of a Philippine president to be called as such, the honorific being unknown during the presidency of Emilio Aguinaldo, and thus not applied at that time to his wife Hilaria. Much beloved by Filipinos, Quezón was known for involvement with humanitarian activities and served as the first Chairperson of the Philippine National Red Cross.

Five years after her husband's death, Quezón and her daughter "Baby" were assassinated, on April 28, 1949, while they were en route to open a hospital dedicated to her husband. The province of Aurora was named in her memory.

Within the first seventeen years of their marriage, Manuel Quezón emerged as a dominant figure in Philippine politics. His career reached its apex in 1935, when he was elected President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. During her husband's political life, Aurora Quezón stayed in the background, involving herself with women's organizations such as the National Federation of Women's Clubs, of which she was the honorary chairperson.

The Quezons were the first presidential couple to reside in Malacañang Palace, but Aurora spent as little time as possible there, preferring to stay in a "nipa house" in Malacañang Park or in her farm, Kaleidan, in Arayat, Pampanga. She nevertheless was an active First Lady, engaging herself in the campaign to give Filipino women the right of suffrage, which was achieved in 1937. She was particularly involved in managing the family's Arayat farm to demonstrate how social justice could be applied to landlord-tenant relationships in an agrarian setting. Quezón was involved in the Girl Scouts of the Philippines and the Associación de Damas Filipinas, a noted orphanage in Manila. She was also the honorary president of another orphanage, the White Cross, located in San Juan.

In 1947, with the active support of Quezón, the Philippine National Red Cross was established as an independent Red Cross organization. She became the first Chairperson of the Philippine National Red Cross, holding the position until her death. She also was named as honorary vice-president of the Philippine Tuberculosis Society. (Her husband died from tuberculosis.)

She continued to be involved in civic work, such as the efforts to rebuild the Antipolo Church. She received honorary doctorates from the University of Santo Tomas, and from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. She was likewise bestowed the Ozanam Award from the Ateneo de Manila University, and the Pro Ecclessia et Pontifice Cross from Pope Pius XII.

On the morning of April 28, 1949, Quezón left her home to travel to her husband's hometown of Baler to open the Quezon Memorial Hospital. She had been cautioned about this trip beforehand due to the frequent insurgency activities in Central Luzon of the Hukbalahap, the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Together with Quezon in her Buick sedan was her daughter "Baby", then a law student at the University of Santo Tomas, her son-in-law Felipe "Philip" Buencamino, Quezon City mayor Ponciano Bernardo, and retired Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Rafael Jalandoni.

They traveled along the Baler-Bongabon Road connecting Baler with Nueva Ecija, which Quezón herself inaugurated in 1940. At Quezón's request, her vehicle led the caravan, and it soon sped away from the military jeep immediately behind it. As Quezón's vehicle traversed the mountain road, it was blocked by a group of armed men. The men ignored the protestations from General Jalandoni and Mayor Bernardo that Quezón was in the vehicle, and machine-gunfire erupted from the side of the road and from the mountain slopes. It was later estimated that between 100 to 200 armed men had participated in the attack. Quezón, her daughter, and Bernardo were killed instantly, while her son-in-law was mortally wounded. In all, twelve members of the Quezon party and ten of the assailants were killed.

There was national and international condemnation of the massacre. United States President Harry Truman was shocked and simply declared, "It was awful." A nine-day national mourning period was declared. Quezón was buried at Manila North Cemetery. While no Philippine President has ever been assassinated, Aurora Quezón is one of three presidential spouses who have been murdered. The other two were Alicia Syquia-Quirino and Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr.

Manuel and Aurora Quezón are the only spouses to have respective provinces in the Philippines named after them. The Concerned Women of the Philippines have named the Aurora Aragon Quezón Peace Awards after Aurora Quezón.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blog update

Hi all, sorry for the lack of posts recently! It's been one of those times when life has trumped all of the internets. For the second week in a row, there will not be a Sunday reading column today, but it will return the following Sunday, and In History will be back on Friday. Also have some guest posts and regular posts in the works, so hopefully those will be up soon, too!

Thanks for patience and understanding and sticking around. :)


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