I’ve done my dues on frat row: worn the tight Brandy Melville wrap tops with strategically ripped jeans to impress whichever poor pledge is on door duty, gone to Fiji when we knew we didn’t have an in at Sig Pi, and tried stretching three wristbands into entry for five. I’ve conformed to the image I’m told I must emulate to enter the hallowed grounds of beer-heavy parties, ruled by frat boys with bad music taste and womanizing tendencies. I’ve done the freshman-girl-who-wants-to-have-a-good-time thing.
It’s really quite interesting—I’m proud to call myself a feminist and think of myself as someone who exists to please herself and not the mostly male eyes constantly evaluating me. I have a STEMinist pin on my backpack and a Girls Who Code sticker on my laptop. Yet somehow, in the sphere of post-10 PM social life at college, all of that comes crumbling down. I unintentionally become the freshman girl aware of her position at the bottom of the hierarchy, with sorority girls and frat boys at the top. This might not be true for all colleges, but at most schools where Greek life dominates the social scene, it seems pretty universal. I dress to please door-duty guys and capture the attention of guys at the party, who I know will probably ignore me regardless.
I mulled over this topic for a while, musing over why a few Greek letters plastered on a house had so much control over my self-worth and confidence. I first wondered if there was a hole in my feminism. Perhaps I couldn’t preach female self-empowerment to others until I empowered myself first. But, I thought, I do usually dress for myself. I don’t tweeze my eyebrows or yank hair off my legs to please someone else (especially in the winter). I use perfume because I know it makes me feel more put together, not because I think someone is constantly sniffing my wrists and behind my neck. I see shopping for clothes as an act of self-care and indulgence. Even when my friends and I are getting ready to go out together, listening to our Zumba playlist and swapping clothes and makeup tips in the most 2000s rom-com way possible, I feel good about myself. In the sage words of Lizzo, I am 100% that bitch.
Where does this dichotomy between my normal, empowered self and my dependence on external gratification come from then? If I’m normally a feminist whose empowerment comes from herself and her coven of people around her, why does the social hierarchy of college affect me so much? I think, to a certain extent, we’re all subject to influence by whatever environment we’re in. In college it’s Greek life, in high school it’s popular girls, and beyond that into the real world… I don’t know yet. Because of the influence of our surroundings, we all want to feel like we’re part of whatever situation life has thrust us into, and for college girls, that means penetrating the mysterious bubble of frat guys. While I desperately wish I didn’t depend on guys’ opinions for confidence, I know it’s not possible to escape the pervasiveness of that mindset.
Going to parties, ultimately, is a way of feeling like you belong. The smell of Keystone Light and shrieks of girls when they see their friend going upstairs with someone isn’t all bad. After making it past the initial hurdle of getting into the party, walking into the main room feels like you’re part of something. Everyone’s dressed similarly, in one place, all united by a common quest to let loose and forget about school for a night. You feel almost like you’re in a movie, dancing with your friends, talking with guys, seeing the weirdest and most cliché things happen. It’s just slightly infuriating that to get there, I sacrifice part of who I am and the standards I have for myself. I’m not offering a solution to their problem; until something large changes within the system, I think us young girls have to realize that no matter how much we impress frat boys or capture the attention of others while dancing on tables, we need to be our own best friends. It doesn’t matter, in the end, if you walk into a party looking like all the other girls in Air Force 1s and black ripped jeans if you feel uncomfortable because you’re probably not going to have the best time. Know, as your own best friend, how to comfort yourself and what you want.
So, Chad from Pike, please kindly screw off. I know that you hold the gates to the college haven of beer-covered floors trying to hold the weight of people screaming the words to “Every Time We Touch.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not swearing off frat parties forever—I just know that if I’m dancing on a table or wearing a tube top, it’s because I know I look and feel good. Not doing it for you, Chad, but for myself.