In response to the article Annie just posted about fighting derby days at William and Mary, I would like to make a few points.
The link for those who haven’t read the article yet: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/02/i-fought-back-against-my-colleges-sexist-fraternity/284040/
Thank you, Annie, for bringing it to our attention.
While we don’t have a strip tease (or “lip sync”) as part of our derby days, our events are still degrading towards women. It is well known that when the “hot” sororities are competing in the athletic events, the men crowd around the field in order to watch (read: objectify) them. I do not see why that would be any different now that the women play volleyball instead of football.
The men also throw water balloons from their balcony, sometimes filled with questionable contents, at the women competing. And the women are judged based on their cooking merits as if we have travelled back to the 1950s. The entire event is bizarre. The men attempting to fundraise do almost nothing while the sorority women cook, perform, and compete with one another while giving the fraternity their money. Usually the people running a fundraiser provide a service or a good to be purchased by others rather than having someone else provide the goods, services, and money. Also, if they wanted to make the most money possible, then wouldn’t it make more sense to allow anyone to create a team to compete rather than excluding every man on campus, every unaffiliated woman, and every upper-division sorority woman? They are losing more than half of our school’s population. But I suppose allowing more people to compete would ruin the point of making all of the sorority women vie for that fraternity’s attention. It might even result in co-ed teams, or teams with participants from different classes or organizations.
Not that the entire onus is even on the fraternity in question; the sororities certainly also play their part. The new members generally happily compete and the upper division women heavily encourage them to. All for the glory of… winning Derby Days? I personally love competition, and when I was a first-year member of a sorority our team ‘won’ Derby Days, and I was thrilled. But stepping back from it, and having time to consider the event, what does it really mean? It has no bearing even on our social lives at this University, which is basically the only thing it could affect. Sororities are not avoided if they lose Derby Days, nor are the rewarded socially if they win. The sororities also basically demonstrate the definition of hazing at Derby Days. Only one pledge class competes, they all wear the same shirt that the upper-division women do not wear, and in many sororities, the upper-division women get all of the first-years drunk before sending them out to compete in front of upper-division men and women. So why do we so heartily support it? I have yet to figure this out, but if you have any thoughts please send them my way.
It is encouraging to hear that the majority of students polled at William and Mary at least acknowledged that the events there were “degrading to women” and encouraged “inappropriate behavior.” Unfortunately, I do not think that would be the case on Washington and Lee’s campus. Thus far, everyone I have spoken to about Derby Days do not find anything wrong with the event and is confused that I might. Perhaps we can change that by getting the word out early in the year what potential issues with Derby Days are and how they can be corrected. If nothing else, I think it should at least be more like Lip Sync in that it should be open to men and women at our school and in a public place, like Cannan Green. However, I know that this will be a battle that will take much longer than just my time at Washington and Lee and will face a lot of indifference and opposition from students, sorority advisors, and perhaps the administration before it is resolved.