FIJI’s ‘sweetheart’ application reinforces sexism

With more than a third of Allegheny’s population involved in Greek life, the sororities and fraternities of our campus are extremely influential.

Each of them uphold standards in leadership, scholarship, and philanthropy to best represent Allegheny.

Therefore, they are also responsible for the Allegheny College Statement of Community, which says that, “Allegheny students and employees are committed to creating an inclusive, respectful and safe residential learning community that will actively confront and challenge racism, sexism, heterosexism, religious bigotry, and other forms of harassment and discrimination.”

Any Allegheny organization, such as Greek Life, must work within the statement of community.

Unfortunately, I have found Phi Gamma Delta’s Sweetheart application a form of sexism, which directly violates the statement of community.
I refer to sexism in terms of the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition, which is “prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.”

When I first opened the application on Facebook, I was appalled.

One of the duties of the “sweetheart” position is to “educate the brothers in etiquette and manners.”

The duty of “etiquette and manners” assumes that women are knowledgeable in this field, and thus fosters the stereotypes of patriarchal gender roles.

Patriarchal gender roles are typically considered as men being the natural breadwinners and women having the bread won for them.

“Etiquette and manners” is associated with the stereotypical idea of womanhood and femininity, and that all women have a social responsibility to be educated in this way.

Therefore, FIJI’s application assumes the societal roles of women as the experts in a feminine subject, such as rules of conduct; it subtly perpetuates patriarchal culture.

The application also says that the “sweetheart” is “treated with the utmost dignity and respect.”

This statement implies that this “dignity and respect” is only earned by the “sweetheart” because of her position in the fraternity.

Without this special position as “FIJI sweetheart,” the rest of the women on campus are undeserving of it.

Why would FIJI have to explicitly state this (if there weren’t thoughts otherwise)?

Let’s pretend a sorority had a “sweetheart” counterpart position for a man.

They wouldn’t have to say that the man in this position would be treated with respect because it is already assumed that he has respect.

It’s a classic example of male privilege preserved by institutions on campus.

Male dominance is status quo and society has normalized it to appear legitimate.

Even the name “sweetheart” is condescending.

So, what does this application mean for our campus?

It shows that gender inequality is still prevalent at Allegheny, regardless of our statement of community.

Gender inequality takes shape on campus through systems other than Greek Life as well.

For example, there have been only a handful of ASG presidents who were women in the 77 years of the student government history.

Actually, ASG has never had two women elected as president and vice president ever.

Another example of gender inequality happens within Allegheny’s Board of Trustees, which provides the majority of Trustee scholarships for students throughout their four years and make long term goals for students, faculty, and staff.

Over 70% of the college’s Board of Trustees is made up of men.

In order to have an “inclusive, respectful” community, we need to recognize our faults.

I would hate to see a social institution, such as FIJI, prolong sexism.

In fact, I would hate to see any of the fraternities continue their “sweetheart” positions without considering the implications.
That’s why I ask FIJI to change their “sweetheart” position.

If you want women positively participating in your fraternity, consider focus groups or workshops that discuss gender politics on campus and what you can do as an influential institution to change that.

FIJI, and Greek Life as a whole, has a lot of power that could stop gender inequality at Allegheny.

Theta Chi and Phi Delta Theta also have “sweethearts” but do not have an application process, instead they nominate women.
If keeping the “sweetheart” position means maintaining gender inequality, is it really worth it?

I’m aware that this position is not intended to be sexist or offensive to women, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t caused harm in the grand scheme of gender politics on campus.

Even if the position is meant to be empowering or complimentary for women because of the seemingly positive stereotypes, the application still cultivates patriarchal culture, and in turn, sexism.

Lack of conscious intent is not an excuse.

It’s 2013; let’s wake up.