University greek life talks feminism and gender roles

Dialogue sparked the importance of feminism within the greek community.

by Isabella Murray

Greek life’s strong systemic adherence to traditional gender roles can make feminism a difficult topic to approach, some University of Minnesota greek students said.
At a Wednesday discussion called, “Feminism is for Everyone,” students explored their definitions of gender equity and dispelled common misconceptions about feminism to help promote it in an academic and social setting, said Jackson Ridl, a men’s engagement student staff member for the Aurora Center
Ridl,  a Beta Theta Pi member who led the discussion, said he sees frequent binary gender stereotypes play out in greek life, leaving little room for equity.
“There are different stories for men and for women, and there isn’t much gender fluidity within that,” Ridl said. “That isn’t an accurate depiction of gender, but it’s definitely a binary role within the greek system.” 
Wednesday’s discussion also touched on how feminists and allies should approach their roles. Women at the discussion said they want to be asked by men about how to approach gendered situations and want people to not make assumptions regarding gender, sex and privilege.
“I think that … the greek system and the Panhellenic Council is based so much on gender roles and gender identification traditionally,” said Emma Mazour, vice president of public relations for the Panhellenic Council and member of Alpha Gamma Delta. “In recent years, the system has taken a lot of strides to embrace what being a woman can mean and identifying as a woman.”
The dialogue brought up personal experiences of gender roles in romantic life as well. 
Despite the newest waves of feminism, women still expect men to act in certain ways, said men’s engagement coordinator for the Aurora Center Jenifer Kolb. 
Both women and male peers can help police masculinity in order to lessen the pressure of these societal and greek system expectations in romantic relationships and power structures, Kolb said.
Male allies serve an important role of furthering feminism’s mainstream acceptance and presenting it as a universal discussion instead of a campaign against men, said Zack Gill, a graduate student in school counseling.
“Gender inequality is a man’s problem to change,” he said. 
Aurora Center volunteer and violence prevention educator Tipheret Pena said her sister is the president of Delta Gamma at the University of North Dakota. From discussions with her sister, she’s developed an understanding about the importance of promoting feminism in the greek system.
“I’ve given presentations to greek groups, so I know that they care,” she said, “but from within the greek system, feminism could have a bad connotation.”
Mazour noted that in her case, her sorority community has promoted women’s empowerment.
“So much of my support at college has come from my sorority in general, and it has given me more power as a woman and more agency in my life,” Mazour said.