[OPINION] Fraternities are insecure men’s clubs

Frat-related violence is in the headlines again, from the alleged leaked conversations of UP Sigma Rho Fraternity members, to Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Cadet Darwin Dormitorio’s death by hazing. Once again, these groups that market themselves as bastions of lifelong brotherhood and community have to own up to the violent, illogical costs one has to pay to get in.  

And, once again, the common excuse that tries to gloss over this terrible fact is how frats do so much good for its members: doctors waiving fees for their brods, sons getting into jobs thanks to their dad’s brods, parties settling disputes (legally or illegally) with the help of brods in the government, etc. Big favors, basically, and ones that are barely earned; all you have to do is be part of the fraternity and not much else. (And if you have to get beaten up savagely in college to get this advantage, then so be it!)

This tradition had always bothered me, so I tweeted about it. I wrote: “Next time you hear someone brag about his frat, just say, ‘Awww you joined an insecure men's club? That's cute. It *is* hard to go about life if you don't have [a] bunch of guys to help you get ahead regardless of talent or hard work. You are SO brave for admitting that.’”

Next time you hear someone brag about his frat, just say, "Awww you joined an insecure men's club? That's cute. It *is* hard to go about life if you don't have bunch of guys to help you get ahead regardless of talent or hard work. You are SO brave for admitting that." — Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon (@margie_deleon) September 26, 2019 

I didn’t think it would hit that big a nerve, but it did – and then some. As of writing, it has over 4,000 likes and 700 retweets. A sweeping majority are in favor of my point, but there were a few that got quite irked. However, their reasons for disagreeing still circled back to the idea that frats remain important because they do very valuable favors for its members in the spirit of community. One critic compared frats to schools, churches, and basically any other organization; the people you meet there, they reasoned, do favors for you too simply because you are part of that group, so why are frats being singled out?

A lot of organizations, however, don’t let people waive their basic human rights to get in, nor do most make it a point to bully people who are not part of it. Moreover, these organizations were set up for actual reasons, and not just as a platform for its members to do favors for each other regardless of whether they deserve it or not. Most groups have actual, concrete goals, not just a vague sense of “brotherhood” and “excellence.” Most groups do things other than chest-thumping. It pained me that I had to point out to this critic that schools, in particular, are for education, first and foremost. 

The fact that this critic used schools and churches as examples of ways to get easy favors is very telling. It’s clear that many fratmen's concept of community is, ironically, quite selfish. A real and dignified community does its best to help each member move forward for everyone’s betterment, and with the health of the greater society in mind. A real and dignified community does not blatantly circumvent this society’s ethics to get its members ahead even though they hadn’t earned the right to. That’s not a community. That’s just a gang.  

And, yes, friends do big favors for each other. It’s human nature to help people who’ve been a part of your life somehow. But to turn favor-giving into the be-all and end-all of an entire culture, and then taint this culture even further with a sense of entitlement, superiority, and machismo, not to mention copious amounts of violence, is something I will never condone.

You can be an upstanding person on your own. You can live a life of excellence on your own. You can make friends who will look out for you. And, yes, you can be part of a group, and be proud of your group, and want your group to do well. You don't – and shouldn’t – have to be in an organization with a sadly rich history of violence, sexism, and corruption to attain all of this. You have to be really insecure to want to sacrifice your morals just to make sure you have a safety blanket when you graduate. 

So if you want to get ahead in life, do it with a clear conscience, and not by the swing of a blood-soaked paddle. – Rappler.com

Marguerite de Leon

Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon heads Rappler’s Opinion section, and is (happily) wrangled into voice over and hosting work. She has been with Rappler since 2013, and also served as its social media producer for 6 years. She is also a fictionist.

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