Breaking the rules: The gender groups

By Jan Creaser

From the Journals of Professor Allgood

Tonight, Dr. Brain and I went our separate ways in order to broaden our own personal experiences of university life. Brain was out gallivanting with that young lad we met last week in the Den and I was invited to participate in a going-away party at a local, off-campus bar. Our undercover adventures have slowly allowed us integration into the students’ lives. Tonight was a brilliant example of how well I have managed to blend in. As always, participant observation can sometimes lead to biased data, but it’s a risk we must take in order to understand the individuals in this unique habitat. This is what transpired.

They came at me as though they had the answer to save my eternal soul. Their eyes glittered in the dim bar light; the sheen of sweat they had worked up on the dance floor adding to their zealously earnest auras.

“Jan,” they pleaded, “you have to write about our cause!”

I sucked hard on the straw in my tequila paralyzer-excited. After weeks of observation, I knew the idiosyncrasies of their personalities well. Whatever these two had to say could only be bizarre. Their intensity gave me the willies.


“Alpha Omicron Pi won’t let us join,” they blurted, leaning closer to truly show me how much they were irked by this travesty.

The absurdity of their statement caught me mid-sip. Choking, I retained my calm.

“It’s a sorority. You’re guys. What’s the problem?” My brain screamed at me to run, but my professional side forced me to remain, listen and learn. I knew the road we were about to travel all too well.

“Actually, it’s a women’s fraternity,” they pointed out.

Right. “Why do you want to join a sorority-excuse me, women’s fraternity?” I asked.

The one called Nerd Boy answered first. “Well, deep down we are feminist who are ashamed to show it in front of a group of drunk frat boys. Besides, it’s discrimination. Why shouldn’t we be allowed to join?”

“It’s a club for women?” It seemed simple enough to me. I had to remain impartial.

They thought for a moment, their faces screwed up, trying to formulate an answer that would win me over. I turned my gaze to the dance floor and continued to sip my drink-thankful, for one, that Brain had turned me onto the pleasures of paralyzers.

Rob spoke next. “Well, the Beavers let girls in. Why shouldn’t it go both ways?”

I abandoned my straw to quickly drain my glass in the most efficient way-tilted to the ceiling.

“C’mon, Jan! We know you’ve been volunteering at the Gauntlet. You’ve got to write about our cause! Why should we be kept out because we’re men?”

Damn! I knew I should never have gotten involved with the campus media, but it provided such an interesting perspective of campus life that the anthropologist in me couldn’t resist. I was certainly taking participant observation to the limit.

I flagged down the waitress, indicating my acute need for another drink-make that a double. What could I tell these two?

Sorority, fraternity, women’s fraternity, whatever. They are social clubs formed so that people of the same sex can work and socialize together. They co-exist as an outlet for each gender. Maybe it is an archaic viewpoint and maybe it does perpetuate a rift between the sexes, but according to popular sit-coms, the boys are still doing Friday night poker and girls’ nights out are popular.

These two wanted to challenge the status quo, something university students are well known for. They would probably walk into the deep end of a pool with 100-pound weights strapped to their bodies for their beliefs. They’d gladly take pepper spray in the face in pursuit of justice. But wanting to join a sorority? What twisted logic was defining their need to be in a female-dominated environment? A colleague of mine who specializes in gender differences could run with this one for years.

I chatted with them for a while, trying to discern their motives. Discrimination and wanting to participate in pillow fights seemed to be at the forefront of their plight. I needed another drink.

“I suppose I could write something,” I finally said, attempting to remain neutral.

Relief flooded their faces. “We knew you’d understand. Like we said earlier, if the Beavers have to take girls it should only be reciprocal.”

I decided not to inform them that the Beavers let girls in because the Brownies were still making them get “hostess” patches instead of camping out in the rain and whittling ornaments with a jack-knife. It had to do with socially biased activities based on ancient social norms-like only girls bake cookies and boys hunt for food. Sororities and fraternities may once have embraced these kinds of social biases, but today I think they have evolved to equal levels in their pursuit of academic excellence, community service and leadership skills.

However, sometimes we need to gather as “women only” to discuss the world’s problems and occasionally engage in talk about how we still think Harrison Ford is sexy even though he’s old and well beyond his Han Solo days. It keeps us sane. Having observed Hockey Night in Canada and Monday Night Football, I can only assume this need is mutual.

I did not tell Rob and Nerd Boy what I would write, but only promised to write about their “cause.” I already had a rough draft going in my head. If they are truly passionate, maybe they can found the first unisex fraternity on campus. After all, it would be in the name of brotherhood/sisterhood/peoplehood. And if that doesn’t work for them, maybe the Beavers would take them in.

To the Ladies of Alpha Omicron Pi, I would say only this: Lock your doors and post a watch. The men have gone bonkers again.

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