A few weeks ago, the satirical Greek-life blog Total Frat Move (TFM) launched a new viral campaign titled #WhyWeNeedFrat. The campaign featured a video set to instrumental music that depicts college-aged men holding whiteboards with the words “I need FRAT because” written across the top, and each man’s supposed response written underneath. Predictably, the responses matched the stereotypical messages promoted throughout the TFM culture, celebrating sexism, alcoholism, hazing, elitism and hypermasculinity.
The campaign went viral, gaining traction among undergraduates, and, sadly, among many fraternity men.
As someone who works professionally with college men and women, I often ask myself, what is it that makes this culture attractive to undergraduates? As fraternity men, we take a pledge to live with the values and principles passed down to us from our Founding Fathers. So why would a group of men who have voluntarily pledged to live values-based lives be drawn to a culture that openly contradicts, mocks and tears down everything we’ve chosen to stand for?
The simplest explanation is this: TFM is easy. It offers everything you want and tells you there are no consequences for choosing to live a life focused on self-gratification, bullying and disrespect. The majority of the time, when I confront an undergraduate about their involvement with TFM, they deflect with something like “It’s satire,” or “It’s a joke,” or “It’s not what I really believe…it’s just funny.”
When I think about our fraternity, our history, and everything we stand for, a different phrase comes to mind – “This Fraternity Will Be Different.”
So if SigEp is going to be different, we need to live above the kind of culture TFM is promoting. Here is how I suggest we do so:
First, stop fueling the fire. When we share, like, retweet or comment on content from sites like these, we’re helping spread the negative and extremely damaging stereotypes that plague Greek life. Step one to solving this problem is to simply stop endorsing it. People do notice what we ‘like’ and say.
Second, tell the real story. Following the release of the campaign, the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values encouraged people to use #WhyWeNeedFrat and post positive messages about fraternity and sorority life and take over the hashtag. In addition to a responsive campaign like this, we can constantly share our positive stories using these same tools. Show the world what you and your chapter are really like, and maybe the world will change its mind about Greek life.
On his website dedicated to ending bystander behavior everywhere, writer and speaker Mike Dilbeck recently released his Creed for Courageous Leadership. In it, He says “If we walk away, stay silent or laugh along to something we know is a problem, then we are being a bystander and turning our back on courageous leadership.”
As fraternity men, we have a responsibility to do more than watch as this toxic culture overtakes everything that we stand for. We need to be Courageous. In the end, that’s the only way we win.
David Stetter is a fraternity and sorority life professional who advocates for the preservation of the fraternity movement.