Just a few weeks after the video of fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma campus singing a racist song riled up the whole country, fraternity leadership and the administration of the University of Georgia have caused consternation over their decision to ban hoop skirts as appropriate articles of clothing to be worn during Greek events celebrating their Southern heritage.
As the Athens Banner-Herald reports, the hoop skirts ban was part of a larger conversation held last week about making sure the students aren't making fools of themselves at a time when a great deal of attention is being paid to Greek organizations:
Talk during Monday's UGA meeting at UGA was about presenting the university and Greek organizations in a good light, and not inviting negative attention, said Victor Wilson, UGA's vice president for student affairs.
Part of the talk was about dress at such events as KA's "Old South Week" and SAE's "Magnolia Ball." The discussion included hoop skirts, and the messages conveyed by such dresses or other articles of clothing, Wilson said.
"The discussion was about more than dress, but about how you present yourself, and dress was part of that," he explained.
It wasn't administrators who made the ultimate call on attire, it was the fraternity and sorority leaders, Wilson said.
Another email, sent by the heads of UGA's Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council, stated "that Antebellum hoop skirts are not appropriate in the context of some events. We will continue to review costuming and themes for future events to ensure their appropriateness for our organizations."
Schools and fraternities have been slowly phasing out dress related to the confederacy for years; formerly, members of fraternities and sororities at schools across the South wore Confederate soldier uniforms to these types of parties, while women tried to match the style of that time with their own garb.
That doesn't mean, however, that these changes are going over well. Elizabeth Sayers, a UGA student, penned an op-ed for The Odyssey, noting that, "It's a tricky subject for sure, since the U.S. has a history of racial inequality, but the ban on hoop skirts is unjustified and narrow-minded. In no way do hoop skirts have any relation to racial intolerance, as they have been a fashion staple for women for almost 300 years."
Sayers went on to argue that all cultures have clothing that can be associated with violent and/or discriminatory histories: "There is no wholly innocent or perfectly just culture that has ever existed." Even non UGA students have weighed in; Veronica of Total Sorority Move wrote, "a dress is just a dress, and there's nothing offensive about it."
That being said:
This was the smart decision. As Greeks (and this country's number one scapegoat), we can't make decisions based on how we think society should be, we need to make decisions based on how things are. Currently, society is hating on Greeks pretty hard, often on the basis of racism as of late, and we need to be proactive in showing them it's just a few bad eggs getting a lot of negative attention for us all. If that means making it so they have nothing left to say about us in order to protect our community, then I say do it.
Image via Delta Zeta at the University of Georgia/Facebook
Contact the author at email@example.com.