Racist and Sexist Duke University Fraternity Parties Offend Absolutely Everyone, Incite Protest
On January 23, the brothers of Sigma Nu invited the sisters of Pi Beta Phi for a mixer under the theme “Juveniles and Pedophiles” as a means to pregame for a night at Shooters. Now, the fraternity brothers of Kappa Sigma at Duke University face push-back on Wednesday from the Duke community over offensive fraternity party themes — this time for an insensitive and inflammatory "Asian-themed" party.
While many may focus on who would attend such parties, I want to focus on the audacity of fraternities who would hold parties like this in the first pace.
Are we so prone to forget that not even a year ago, former assistant coach of Penn State Jerry Sandusky was charged and sentenced to more than 30 years in jail for sexually abusing young boys? According to a USA Today article from 2002, 61% of rape victims are under the age of 18, and 29% of those victims are younger than 11. Furthermore, the majority of academic studies on the topic support the statistic that 1 in 4 women and 1 out of every 10 men are sexually assaulted before turning 18. Only 1 out of 10 such cases ever get reported to law enforcement.
In other words, given these statistics, there is a very high probability that some of these girls and boys who attended this party were sexually assaulted when they were, alas, “juveniles.” And dare I say that there is also a high probability that some of these juveniles were molested by pedophiles?
I so desperately wish that such a party as this could be taken as a parody, as a joke, satire, because clearly child sexual assault doesn’t exist! Heck! Sexual assault never happens in our own backyard.
Let’s rewind just a few months ago when student leaders at Duke University led a campaign to raise awareness around sexual assault because the administration reduced the statute of limitations from two years to one. One of these posters from the campaign was about child sexual assault.
While it is easy to place the blame solely on the fraternity brothers who plan events such as this one, bystanders who let these behaviors slide are just as culpable as the ones who exhibit these behaviors. We shouldn't need evidence, photos, and copies of e-mails and bring this to the press in order to talk about how wrong sexist and racist behaviors are, every single time. These types of behaviors should be caught and rectified the moment they are conceived, by the fraternity leaders who oversee the decisions of the social chair, to the sorority girls who question why their sisters are dressing in such provocative fashion.
On Tuesday morning, Duke students woke up to see these flyers plastered around campus among others:
A year ago, a Duke student wrote an open letter to all fraternities which called attention to their penchant for bad press. She lists 11 parties within the last 10 years (except one from 1994, though the historical connection is not lost on me) that caused a public outcry at the university. I mean, who can forget the time when Sigma Nu ended up in the Huffington Post, Jezebel and BroBible for sending out sexist invitations to its Halloween party?
The issue is not even Duke-specific anymore. In 2012, Jezebel brought our attention to these Harvard tanks:
In 2010, the all-male a capella group from Columbia got in trouble for this flyer:
And in 2009, Yale fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon made a grand debut as the fraternity that yelled out “No means yes, yes means anal!” while walking across campus.
According to a USA Today article from 2002, 61% of rape victims are under the age of 18, and 29% of those victims are younger than 11. The majority of academic studies on the topic support the statistic that 1-in-4 women and 1-in-10 men are sexually assaulted before turning 18. Only 1 out of every 10 such cases ever get reported to law enforcement.
Let’s rewind to just a few months ago, when student leaders at Duke led a campaign to raise awareness around sexual assault because the administration reduced the statute of limitations from two years to one. One of these posters from the campaign was about child sexual assault. Clearly, something else is going on here that’s not just about ignorant boys and girls wanting to have fun.
Where is the moral panic surrounding our young men's absolute disregard for women and minorities (as opposed to the moral panic surrounding women’s sexuality)? Where is the, “Men are sexually assaulting women everywhere! They are shooting up our schools! It’s an epidemic of epic proportions! They must be controlled!"
It appears to me, that we simply don’t care what social transgressions young men in our culture undertake.
All these scandals have to do with groups of men pushing the limits of what is socially acceptable, testing how far they can go, because they are used to getting away with it. Even if they are caught, the sanctions are never nearly commensurable to the damage and pain they have caused. Rarely do rapists receive due justice.
So tell me, who’s more responsible? The law and policy makers? (Granted, this question assumes that these misbehaving men are not also the law and policy makers of America.) The police and judges who intervene in and rule on such cases? The administrators parents, bystanders, and our fellow peers who let such behaviors slide? Or those who exhibit the very behaviors that harm us?
As of Wednesday, more than 100 students currently stand on the Duke grounds protesting the KSig party, a protest that began with the chant: "Racist parties don't make sense, no parties at our expense."
With cameras from various news sources on full display, it's good to see that students are finally stepping up and holding their peers accountable for their actions.