Does it matter if the distributor of a charming guide to the "targeting" of women, with or without their consent, was actually a registered member of a fraternity? And whether or not the document was an original? Some think it does.
Today, we heard from Jaclyn Matthews, executive vice president of USC's Panhellenic council. (Her signature identifies her major as "Public Relations & Gender Studies." Handy!) She wrote, "The men of the University of Southern California's Greek community are just as outraged and disgusted as the women," and said she'd been working "tirelessly this past week with the Panhellenic Council president, the Interfraternal Council president, the president of the USC chapter of Kappa Sigma and our advisers to address the incident." She continued,
The email did not originate at USC and the student who forwarded the email to USC's Kappa Sigma is not a registered member of our Greek community. We have drafted an official response (attached) that asserts the facts of the situation and intends to clear the horrible misconceptions of USC's Greek community proliferated by the email.
In addition to continuing to work with student groups like the Women's Student Assembly, the Queer & Ally Student Assembly and USC's MenCare, a peer-education and leadership-development program focused on preventing sexual violence and fostering healthy ideas of masculinity, all of the Interfraternity Council fraternity presidents have signed a Pledge to Be a Gentleman, reaffirming our Greek community's commitment to treating all individuals with respect in our words and actions.
I would love for Jezebel's readers, many of them my friends and peers, to view our response and know that we share their revulsion to the content of the email. USC's Greek community hopes to lead other Greek organizations in taking an active stand against such ignorance and misogyny.
We're happy to hear that men and women on campus are being pro-active about the underlying issues expressed in the email, and that it's well, a teaching moment for why that's Not Okay. But it's jarring to lead with, "The email did not originate at USC and the student who forwarded the email to USC's Kappa Sigma is not a registered member of our Greek community." (There is at least one anonymous but impressively detailed contention that the author panicked and tried to suggest that he hadn't written it or that it had come from another school — Harvard. Because didn't you see The Social Network?). But the haste to distance the good people of USC's Greek life from the sentiments expressed therein seems like missing the point.
Do fraternities have a lock on misogyny? Absolutely not. (See: The United States Congress.) Nor do small towns in Texas have the victim-blaming market cornered. (See: Educated, worldly supporters of Assange, Julian.) But on the other hand, it's worth examining how norms shift within particular institutions, ones that could plausibly be the source of real friendship and support as well as mutually-enabling misogyny. The email suggested a sort of performativity, as if acting out what the author believed to be the way real men in real fraternities behave, with the expectation of affirmation or approval. Maybe he's seen too many movies; maybe it had no basis in reality. We wish it had no basis in our culture.