FRATERNITIES and sororities on campus, also known collectively as the Greek community, have a reputation for enabling alcohol consumption. It is almost second nature to associate ‘frat parties’ with ‘booze.’
In the midst of stereotyping, however, we often overlook how the Greek community actually creates tiered systems of access to alcohol. Alcohol is not officially permitted in sorority houses or at the events sororities host.
One consequence of this is that Greek Week — a week full of events for both fraternities and sororities — hosts an event that explicitly excludes sorority members. The Facebook page for Greek Week 2014 notes: “Boat races is back for another year… Please note that sororities will not be earning points in this event nor are they allowed to participate… ” For boat races in 2015, the page noted that they would be observing the same rules as previous years.
This is just one example of a larger, more troubling trend in Greek culture. By restricting sorority members’ access to alcohol unfairly targets female students. Underlying this system is the denial of female competency and responsibility regarding the consumption of alcohol. Sanctions for alcohol consumption imposed on women in sororities also reinforce gender roles, in which women were expected to not ‘let loose’ but instead remain ‘classy’ and ‘sophisticated.’
Leah McLaren draws attention to such pervasive gender stereotypes in her review of the CBC’s recently released documentary Girls Night Out. The documentary claims that the apparent rise of binge drinking among teenage girls is linked to instances of sexual assault.
In addition to showing that the consumption of alcohol by women is actually decreasing, McLaren writes, “We are encouraged to judge these girls for their keggers and drinking games, and yet anyone who has ever known a 19-year-old will recognize their experimental behaviour as utterly common… In the end, all they seem to be guilty of is having a good time.”
The shaming of female alcohol consumption reflects a subtle sexism that still exists within the Greek community, which can result in various negative consequences.
The restrictionss on alcohol do not curb sorority members’ desire for it, nor should adult women be expected to abstain from alcohol. Many sorority members will go elsewhere to drink. These restrictions, by indirectly shifting the location of parties and drinking elsewhere, creating potentially unfamiliar and possibly dangerous situations for women.
Alcohol consumption remains a significant part of most students’ university experiences. Women are as capable of drinking responsibly as men are, and it is time that they are treated that way.
Sororities need to allow their members to participate in more events, even those involving alcohol, and at least allow women to keep alcohol within their own rooms. The adoption of such policies would also work towards removing the stigma around women who drink.
I am not advocating for increased alcohol use. I recognize the host of problems that come with binge-drinking; those concerns, however, are not the focus of this piece.
It is true that some sorority members drink alcohol in their rooms or at their events anyway. The official policies, however, do not recognize female autonomy and they create double standards. Sororities should quit imposing paternalistic and patronizing policies. A sorority sister is no less responsible or respectable, if she chooses to have a drink with dinner.
Chantel George is a fourth-year student at Woodsworth College studying neuroscience and physiology.