Response to fratboy feedback

9-8-99: I recently received a brief onslought of emails from fratboys angered by my fratboy page...imagine that. But, in with the insipid and testosterone-poisoned comments (like the one in the guest book), there were a couple intelligent and cogent arguments posed. Because one young man in particular took the time to be both constructive and polite in his rebuttle of my page, I'm taking the time to respond here. (Several others made good points, but not ones that were valid, since they weren't contrary to anything my page says in the first place--for example: "the sun rises in the East" is a true statement, but not really a valid one, since my page never claims that the sun doesn't rise in the East).

I'll start by cutting to the chase, and then back up and explain things a little more...maybe. "Fratboy" is a label, my own personal label. No, I didn't come up with the term, but when I use it, it carries the connotation which I ascribe it. Yes, it is a generalization, and I USE IT AS SUCH. By my definition, not every person in a fraternity is a fratboy, and not every fratboy is in a fraternity. It is a label I've given to the kind of guy who thinks and behaves a certain way (if you want the specifics on just WHAT that behavior is, well, read the fratboy site...I think it's clear). It's just like "Skinhead". If I call someone a skinhead, I'm referring to the stereotypical skinhead who is a violent, racist homophobe...I know that not everyone with a shaved head (I have one) thinks and behaves that way, AND I know that not every violent, racist homophobe shaves his/her head.

So. Yes, I know I'm stereotyping with my disparaging remarks about fratboys and frats. I MEAN to. I'm referring to the large number of boys (no it's not ALL guys in fraternities, it may not even be a majority of them, but it is a LOT of them) in frats who act that way, who make college campuses dangerous places. Rape and alcohol abuse are not incidents unique to fraternities, but fraternities are OFTEN a place where such behavior is glorified or encouraged, whether tacitly or openly. Sure, there are individual men in frats, and even WHOLE frats (and maybe even a whole campus somewhere...but I've never seen it) that frown on destructive behavior and encourage good-sportsmanship, respect of women, academic scholarship, social responsibility, maturity, and service to the communtiy. But many don't. Many claim these things, but actually foster and encourage the opposite. Some fraternities do encourage communtiy service, but in many, it's just something the pledges are made to do...a pennance or punishment. And why must community service be tied to an elitist social group in the first place? If a campus has a good community outreach center, then ANY student should be able to volunteer, not just the ones who pay their dues at a frat.

So, to the guys who wrote me and said I was stereotyping or generalizing: you're right. I clearly said in my piece there about frats that I was referring to the fraternity system "AS A WHOLE", not to any one individual. But, to the guy who said that such generalization was hypocritical considering my stance on homophobia: you're wrong. You point would be valid, IF I judged everyone by and was limited to my stereotype...but I don't. I don't automatically discount any person I meet just because they're in a frat...I don't automatically hate someone either. Sure, I assume things about them, but I don't let that assumption blind me to them as an individual. For example, I worked with several young men who were in fraternities when I was a member of a national rape-prevention group. They were caring and compassionate men who earnestly wanted to prevent and stop rape. So, they were not "fratboys"...they were men in fraternities. I trusted and admired them. But they were NOT the norm that we encountered, and they themselves freely and sadly admitted this themselves. One of them ended up deactivating from his own frat after he found out members were covering up rapes that had occurred there.

To the guy who said he was gay AND in a fraternity: good for you. I'm honestly glad that you found a safe and supportive environment in which you could come out. I've never had to experience that personally, but I know several people well enough to have seen how they struggled with that. As I've already explained, my "little paradigm"--as you put it--does leave room for fraternity men who are NOT fratboys, so your example does not disrupt my whole world. But I seriously doubt that EVEN YOU believe your experience was indicative of most fraternities (if it is, please tell me WHERE you go to school, because it's one of the most gay-friendly campuses I've heard of). I made the mistake of assuming that men who visited my site and DID NOT fit the mold described herein, would realize that the site was NOT REFERRING TO THEM and go on their merry way. You know...if the shoe fits... If you insist that my frat-bashing site bashes you even though you don't act that way, then YOU are limiting yourself by labeling yourself as a frat member.
On a side--though related--note, I see another flaw with your point that my intolerance of fratboys is the same as intolerance of homosexuals. You CHOOSE to be a fratboy; I don't think people choose to be gay (of course, that's up for debate, too...but I know I didn't CHOOSE to be heterosexual, and I don't know anyone who says they did either...but that's a different debate). You made a choice (and probably paid a hefty sum of money) to join a group when you pledged; you didn't choose to be gay...did you? Incidentally...while I'm in hyperclarification mode: just because you're gay doesn't mean you're NOT a fratboy, either. Gay men can be "testosterone-poisoned" (another term I use, which refers to the type who thinks that violence, irresponsible behavior, dishonesty, and hurting others are all cool things to do),mean-spirited, and abusing (of other people and/or drugs), just like heterosexual men can be.

I stand by my warning to young women to avoid frats for their safety as a general rule. There are safe ones out there, ones even safer than regular dorms...but finding out that you're in one that's NOT safe means it's TOO LATE. And I stand by my point that all the positive aspects ascribed to fraternities could be attained WITHOUT necessarily organizing into an elitist club.

I've spent enough time clarifying myself. They're my opinions...if you don't like them, LEAVE. If you think you prove me wrong because you're in a frat but don't act like a fratboy--as I've defined the term--then GOOD FOR YOU! Keep it up, and convert some of your brothers. Maybe someday you'll be the norm instead of the exception.

Note: June 7 2003...Well, I accidentally deleted the original fratboy page that spawned all this, but no matter. It's all old news to anyone who's been to college.
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