The Biggest Misconceptions About Fraternity Life

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Frat guys have been pigeonholed into a very distinct stereotype for a long time. We’re not entirely blameless; we definitely promote certain things that are commonly associated with fraternity life. I mean, take a look around on this website. You could call us a lot of things, but subtle isn’t one of them. However, there are some misconceptions about frat guys that are pretty unfair, and when you really think about some of them, they’re just plain ignorant.

We’re rich kids with an entitlement complex.

The basis for this stereotype at least makes sense. College is expensive, so it makes sense that if you’re able to afford fraternity dues on top of tuition, you obviously come from an extremely wealthy family that can afford to just toss money at whatever foolish endeavor you choose. There were certainly plenty of guys I pledged with who came from rich families, but there were even more who, like me, grew up middle class. I never had to worry about whether my parents were going to be able to afford rent every month, but I also wore hand-me-downs and had to save up my own money for luxuries. There were even a few guys who came from extremely poor backgrounds, but had managed to get a good scholarship to go to school. The point is, fraternity men come from all sorts of families and socioeconomic backgrounds. Furthermore, the rich guys I pledged with also happened to be the most humble. I didn’t find out that one of my pledge brothers’ dads was worth $2 billion until six months after initiation. He didn’t telegraph it. Seems pretty humble to me.

We’re all sadomasochistic torturers.

I understand why everyone thinks everything that goes on during pledging looks like a horrifying German porn mashed up with the masquerade scene from “Eyes Wide Shut.” It’s a combination of movie stereotypes and our own rumor mill at work. See, we want pledges to think that they’re in for the most terrifying, physically draining semester of their lives, because it ensures that we only get guys who are committed to the process, and it maintains a constant state of alertness that helps us fuck with their heads. Is that overly intense? Maybe. But we’re not throwing them in an Iron Maiden and flagellating the skin from their backs (or so you think, pledge–get back to studying your history). Pledging is hard and it’s mind-numbing, but it’s not torturous. Also, to everyone who holds up paddling as this terrible form of physical punishment, have you ever taken a paddle? It hurts for, like, half a second and then your ass gets warm. Don’t be such a baby.

We’re assholes all the time.

Most non-fraternity members’ only interaction with Greeks is either in class or at fraternity parties, so their image of Greeks is of guys who are sometimes overly rambunctious, or aloof and reserved. You know who else comes off as an asshole at big ragers? Everyone who goes to a rager. You know who else comes off as aloof in class? Everyone who goes to class and isn’t a know-it-all douche. We’re not any different than any other college student; you just happen only to see us in the two situations where pretty much anyone our age wouldn’t come off particularly well. You’re not around during the day when we’re all hanging out, giving each other a hard time, relaxing, or playing video games. Or when we’re volunteering in the community. Or when we’re visiting kids who have cancer.

Also, what are you complaining about? The party you paid $5 to get trashed at was at OUR HOUSE. You’re fucking welcome.

We’re paying for friends.

This is by far the dumbest of all these stereotypes. There are bad seeds everywhere who ruin things for the rest of us by holding true to some of these other generalizations, but nobody is paying for friends. Let me ask you a question. If you get a country club membership, are you paying for friends or are you paying to play golf, drink, and socialize? If you join a union, are you paying for friends or are you teaming up with other workers in your industry to ensure fair treatment? If you subscribe to Playboy, are you paying for boobs? Well…yeah, I think in that case you are. My point is, most clubs and organizations that have any kind of overhead require some form of dues. Fraternities aren’t any different.

We’re simple-minded idiots.

Beer, sports, sex, intramurals, and boat shoes. That’s what we’re all about, right? How could anyone who partakes in the above activities possibly have an intellect worth commenting on? This would make sense, except Greeks’ average GPA is higher than that of the general student population across the country. Hell, a lot of us have GPA minimums in order to remain in good standing with our chapters. Combined with mandatory study times for pledges and the overwhelming representation of fraternity members in both businesses and high levels of governmental policy-making, by what metric exactly are you saying we’re dumb?

I’m not saying we’re immune to criticism. I’m just saying don’t be so fucking lazy about it.

Sterling Cooper is a contributing writer for Total Frat Move and Post Grad Problems. He has never understood why people like sand, and has been in a bitter ten year rivalry with Muggsy Bogues, for reasons neither of them choose to reveal.

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