I am a member of a fraternity. I am actually currently a member of the only fraternity on my campus that has not been temporarily shut down by the administration. Fraternities get shut down often, whether it be for something as simple as forgetting to fix a faulty heater or some more serious like a hazing allegation. However, as we saw in the formerly-credible Rolling Stone article about the University of Virginia, fraternities also often get in serious trouble when it comes to sexual assault.
A fraternity on my campus got in such trouble. Someone at a party was accused of sexual assault, and the entire fraternity has since been forbidden to throw parties–a completely understandable and necessary punishment. The fraternity abided by the restrictions placed on its activities with no resistance, until earlier this month when they displayed a banner on their house with a controversial phrase: “Fight rape, not frat.”
Unsurprisingly, the banner ignited a heated debate among the student body. The picture made the rounds on Facebook and Twitter, with angry comments coming from both sides of the argument. Basically, it was a big deal, and the opponents of the sign made their disgust clear. The arguments against the validity of the sign went something like this: “The norms that are perpetuated by an institution are not separate from that institution. Since fraternity culture consistently perpetuates rape culture, it is the fraternal institution and the men that make it up that are to blame. Fraternities need to stop pointing fingers and admit they are contributing to the problem. The problem can only be fixed if those within the institution take a stand against those that perpetuate these terrible norms.”
I left out a lot of cursing and holier-than-thou phrasing, but I think the point is made. So, what exactly is wrong with this argument? I do not believe there to be anything inherently liberal or conservative in this debate. Both sides of the political aisle can agree that rape is bad, and the frequency with which it occurs on college campuses is alarming at worst and an epidemic at best. University administrations should, without hesitation, divvy out punishments to fraternities that perpetuate this idea of a rape culture. Rather, the argument I am making is one of philosophical consistency. The idea of holding an institution liable for the actions of its members is only credible if it is applied to all relevant entities. Perhaps the sign had read, “fight terrorism, not Islam,” and was hanging in the cafeteria rather than a fraternity house. Would I have witnessed a similar outrage, with disgust swung at Muslim students’ attempt to alleviate themselves of blame from norms perpetuated by their institution? I doubt it. If the actions of a fraternity member (when inside his fraternity house or at a party) become the responsibility of the fraternal institution as a whole, should the actions of an Islamic extremist (when committing acts of terror in the name of Islam) not become the responsibility of the Islamic religion as a whole? I ask this question because the type of students that are so abhorrently against this fraternity banner, which in my experience has been made up of mostly self-described feminists, are often also very much in defense of the Islamic religion when bigots such as myself argue for its responsibility in combating Islamic extremism.
A prevalent argument against the banner was that it represented the classic “not every man” argument. From what I understand, the problem with this argument is that simply because not every man (or fraternity brother, in this case) is a sexual predator, it does not mean that fraternities as a whole are exempt from responsibility for this epidemic of rape. In other words, if we got rid of all fraternities on college campuses, accusations of rape on a national level would decline substantially. Again, there is nothing inherently political in these ideas, and the conclusions would probably prove to be true. I’m sure there are centers or institutions that have published statistics showing the higher level of probability that a fraternity man has committed sexual assault than other male students. I am not denying that this is a problem that needs fixing. But it seems as though this ideal of holding institutions liable when its members behave poorly while proudly bearing the name of said institution on their chest is forgotten when applied to Islamic extremism. The far-left feminists who were outraged by this sign had every right to be. As weird as it feels to agree with these clamorous ideologues, I do believe that as a fraternity man I have the responsibility to uphold the dignity of the institution into which I pledged my loyalty. It angers me that so many others have chosen to forgo this dignity and commit criminal acts, yet rather than fighting the result of their choices I must fight the choices themselves. Slave owners in the American South used Christianity to justify slavery, yet those who knew true Christian morality fought back against their grossly distorted interpretations. True Christians realized the injustices being done in the name of their “institution” and worked hard to combat them.
This ideal, great as it is, is consistently ignored when applied to the touchy subject of radical Islam. According to The National Counterterrorism Center’s 2011 Report on Terrorism, “about 70 precent of fatalities” due to terrorism have been at the hands of Sunni extremism. Contrary to popular belief, Christian terrorism has not reigned supreme in the years since 9/11, as there have been over 25,000 Islamic terrorist acts since that day. The logic used in making the case against fraternity culture is ignored, and the reason for this ignorance is clear: political correctness. It’s simply not politically correct to criticize a religion… Erhmm, let me rephrase that: it’s simply not politically correct to criticize Islam.
In fact, the college fraternity can be juxtaposed with Islam in terms of what they represent to the left-leaning world. In a country that is in a love affair with the perks of victimization, Islam is the ultimate victim of American and Western colonialism and imperialism. Those that commit acts of terror against us do so because, well, we pissed ’em off by taking their oil, or land, or something. We deserve it. The American college fraternity, however, represents the remnants of the oppressive white patriarchy that use to reign supreme on college campuses. To strike a blow to a fraternity is equivalent to telling those spoiled white dudes to #checkyourprivilege. The fraternity is therefore responsible for the horrible acts of its members, while the religion of Islam is not.
As I’ve explained, the generalizations made when looking at fraternity culture are completely warranted. There will always be more innocents that guilty within a group, but that does not mean we should ignore the trends among them both. The majority of Germans were not Nazis. The act of generalizing is important and actually necessary to any study because, unlike universalization which overlooks differences within a group, generalizations look for patterns among those differences. Just as rape culture is a generalization of (or pattern within) fraternity culture, violent extremism is a generalization of Islamic culture. They are both patterns that must be stopped, yet according to the center-left community, only one is directly identifiable with a larger organization.
A lack of consistency is directly correlated with a lack of credibility (i.e. “flip flopping”). If those who wish to eradicate the patterned culture of sexual assault from college fraternities want to succeed, they should remain consistent in their philosophical arguments and spit out the liberal soup being fed to them by academia and the media. All institutions, fraternities and religions alike, are responsible for the actions of their members.