This Thursday, Stanford Athletics is hosting a “Greek Night” at the men’s basketball game. In an effort to encourage members of the Greek community to attend, they are offering prizes to the IFC, ISC and multicultural Greek organizations with the highest percentage of members at the event. The prize for the fraternity with the best attendance: a gift certificate to The Old Pro, a well-known local sports bar. The prize for the sorority with the best attendance: free passes to SoulCycle.
Do you see a problem with this? The boys that win get to go buy beer, and the girls that win get to go work out. Prizes like these simply serve to reinforce the stereotypically gendered assumptions that already haunt these organizations. They send incredibly negative messages both to the individuals within these organizations and also to the community at large. It seems that Stanford Athletics is telling sorority women they should be fit and skinny, while encouraging their male peers to go drink. To the rest of the Stanford community (these prizes were advertised in an email sent to the entire student body), Stanford Athletics is propagating the assumption that all sorority women are fitness fanatics while all fraternity men love bull riding and beer drinking.
This simply isn’t true. I am a sorority woman, and let me tell you, I would much rather spend my Saturday at the Old Pro than at SoulCycle. Conversely, I have plenty of friends in fraternities who like working out more than drinking beer. That being said, I am not denying that plenty of sorority women love SoulCycle and that plenty of fraternity men love the Old Pro. But, whether the majority of women in Greek organizations would rather go to SoulCycle than Old Pro is beside the point. What matters to this conversation is that when Stanford Athletics assumes these gender norms are universally true and broadcasts this belief through prizes like these, it propagates the assumption that all sorority women do (and should) choose fitness as recreation, and that all fraternity men do (and should) choose drinking and bull riding.
And let’s not forget about the multicultural Greek organizations. Their prize is lunch from Jersey Mikes. Why couldn’t a winning multicultural fraternity be awarded an Old Pro gift certificate or a winning multicultural sorority passes to Soul Cycle? Again, Stanford Athletics is choosing to reinforce divisions between groups at Stanford, divisions that are both unnecessary and counterproductive. Moreover, these are $5 subs instead of $30 fitness passes. Does this seem like a second-tier prize to anyone else?
While undoubtedly well-intentioned, these prizes aren’t what many of the members of these organizations really want. These starkly contrasting prizes put us into boxes and paint us as the epitome of stereotypical gender norms. Don’t be fooled — both boys and girls want to ride bikes and bulls.
– Ronnie Thompson
Contact Ronnie Thompson at vthomps1 ‘at’ stanford.edu