Attending frat parties ranks very low on my List Of Awesome Things About College. Admittedly, they can be fun. There is dancing. There is free alcohol. There are sometimes cute boys. There are my friends, whom I love being with and who make every gross thing about frat parties tolerable.
But there are plenty of downsides. I’m not a big fan of crowded spaces, especially tiny hallways in which hot bodies are pressed against each other and the air is thick with the scent of sweat mixed with beer. The music choice is typically rap — usually songs I’ve never heard before yet to which everyone else seems to already know all the words. The floor is always sticky. The bathroom is always disgusting.
But perhaps the biggest downside is the stereotypical “Frat Boy” himself. He’s from a rich, predominantly white suburb. He may have gone to private school. He wears Vineyard Vines or Lululemon and probably has a pair of Yeezy 350 Boosts. His Facebook profile picture is either him with a girl who is definitely not his girlfriend, or him playing a sport in high school, his face not visible. He loves websites like Total Frat Move and Old Row, drinks an entire case of beer on college football game days, and somehow still gets a GPA above 3.0. Oh, and he’s a Republican, and he’s voting for Donald Trump.
This is a sweeping generalization. Not all fraternity guys are like this, of course. But their culture — frat culture — is very real on college campuses. Frat culture has long been viewed as lighthearted, funny — an easy joke that has been commercialized through films like Animal House and Neighbors. The partying, camaraderie, and even the hazing is a lot easier to stomach when it’s accompanied by Zac Efron’s abs.
But while much of the “Frat Boy” persona is relatively harmless, there is still something very problematic about its existence. And that problem is emblematized by the widespread support of Trump. It’s the Trump flags hanging in bedroom windows, Trump yard signs on lawns, Trump bumper stickers on cars. It’s wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat around a party, or wearing a Trump/Pence sticker to a tailgate. It’s sharing Facebook posts that promote Trump, and posts that tear down Hillary because of her looks and outfits.
I don’t care if you’re a Republican. It’s understandable to have differing political opinions and ideologies, and everyone has their reasons for leaning one way or the other. It’s natural.
But this election is different. Given Trump’s blatant racism, xenophobia, mockery of people with disabilities, and other forms of discrimination, the prospect of his presidency is scary. This is an individual who is truly only concerned with power and money. This is a white, wealthy man who has built his platform on taking down marginalized cultures.
This toxicity at the heart of Trump’s campaign has been abundantly evident in frat culture on campus in many ways, but what personally horrifies me is the complicity in Trump’s particularly unforgiving and unending sexism evidenced by fraternities’ support of him. Trump’s harsh, unsolicited commentary on women’s bodies, as well as his cavalier attitude toward sexual assault, is deeply troubling. I’m not the only woman who feels this way: According to a recent Time article, women have been seeking therapy during this election, combating a spike in anxiety and fear of a Trump presidency. Women were especially triggered by Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” audio recording, a clip that seemingly cements Trump as a sexual offender.
The Trump paraphernalia in frat houses on college campuses, therefore, makes me feel unsafe. It makes me worry that these men are angry at women. It makes me wonder if they are OK with sexual assault. Sexual violence is already a point of contention in Greek life, and this support of Trump wrongfully confirms the “party culture” stereotype that exists on college campuses in general. It makes me scared that other, more vulnerable girls won’t recognize the correlation between Trump support and misogyny, and will potentially miss this red flag. It makes me sad for the young women who have been sexually assaulted, who have been traumatized by Trump’s campaign, and who now must walk through campus and see support for this monster.
I am lucky. I have friends who run through fraternity houses looking for missing girls, stop each other from wandering off with strangers, refuse to leave a party if we aren’t all together, and always, without fail, text me at the end of the night to make sure I’ve gotten home safely. I have disappeared and been found, I have been pulled away from boys who wouldn’t let me go. Some women aren’t as lucky. Some will get left behind.
I worry that if Trump becomes president, these relaxed attitudes toward sexual assault will be manifested in legislation. While the Obama administration launched an entire campaign to combat sexual assault, how would political initiatives — let alone cultural rhetoric — surrounding sexual assault change under a candidate who has essentially admitted to committing this act? Will reporting sexual assaults become even more complicated? Will rape kits become more expensive and will the already sizable backlog of untested kits grow? Will court rulings favor offenders over victims even more so than they currently do?
And what about women’s health and rights more generally? Trump wants to defund Planned Parenthood, and in doing so cut off an important resource to women’s health, making it harder for young women to access contraception, STI treatment, and cancer screenings — care that’s already expensive and difficult to obtain for many. Trump also seeks to ban abortions, and punish the women who attempt to receive them — as if the procedure isn’t already challenging for many to choose and obtain.
I often think about why support for Trump has been so widely popularized by frat boys. Perhaps it's rooted in the misogyny that has already long been evident in frat culture, but I also can’t help but wonder if it’s somehow just built on the joke of Trump’s campaign — of the sheer ridiculousness and pageantry of what has essentially been a giant, absurd spectacle from which we can’t seem to turn away. In some ways, isn’t that kind of how a frat party is? Disgusting, messy, loud, but for some reason, kind of fun to witness?
Turn the lights up, turn the music off, and end the party. Young women deserve better. We, as a nation, deserve better.
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