In Rolling Stone’s piece about Dartmouth frat culture, writer Janet Reitman paints a pretty dark picture for girls on campus.The story follows a boy, Andrew Lohse, whose experience in Greek culture at Dartmouth lead him to write a damning editorial about the campus earlier this year, but Reitman can’t help but talk about how that culture impacts women.
Here’s her take:
Sexual assault is rampant at Dartmouth; some female students say they circulate the names of men considered “dangerous” and fraternity houses viewed as “unsafe…”
“It’s depressing coming of age here,” says Deanna Portero, a senior from New York. While Dartmouth has an equal ratio of men to women, she says, it often feels as though nothing has changed since the 1970s. Today, a girl who wants to play pong at a frat party can do so only if she plays with a brother. Not to play is prudish; to be someone’s pong partner, though, “generally means you’re going to hook up with him afterwards,” says Portero. “And if you don’t like it, ‘Fuck you – don’t drink our beer.'”
Like we said — it’s dark. But since part of the debate about this article is about whether or not it was skewed, we decided to talk to a Dartmouth girl ourselves — we’ll call her Sarah.
Bottom line: She told us that Dartmouth and Hanover, New Hampshire are “a campus and a town that were built for boys… and they’ve had a hard time adjusting to women… I just remember my friends and I thinking when we graduated that we needed to get out of here and go somewhere where boys treat you right… the (culture of) bro-ness is definitely true.”
Women knew which frats were “sketchy” and who they wanted to hang out with. For Sarah’s part by the way, SAE, Lohse’s frat, was full of lame guys who didn’t fit in much of anywhere else.
Some of that comes through pretty clearly in the Rolling Stone piece but that doesn’t mean Sarah thinks Reitman got it all right. She never felt scared, though she did know girls who were roofied at a sketchy frat, and she told us that Reitman forgot a very important thing — most girls are complicit in this behaviour.
“Something you hear on campus all the time is ‘haze yourself’…. and it’s really fun.”
Sororities may not be able to drink on campus, but that doesn’t stop them from taking girls off campus and making them drink excessively, dress up, embarrass themselves publicly etc.
“Things were drawn on my face. There could have been a penis, but I can’t be sure.”
Another thing that Sarah said Reitman missed, is that fact that it’s totally OK for over achieving students to opt out of hazing for sports games or tests. It’s also OK for students to opt out simply because they want to.
“It’s fine to say F-you I’m not doing that,” she explained.
Another Dartmouth alum told Sarah that pledging was about pushing yourself to the brink, and then knowing your brothers (or sisters) would never let you go all the way. It’s about building trust.
Then again, Sarah admits that Dartmouth has a weird culture — it has its own customs and language. In fact it’s so insular that its really hard for people to criticise the place. To an outsider, all of that can be a little bit creepy.
“If you’re not mentally stable it’s a bad scene… One guy in the article said that it was hard to tell who was an alcoholic and who wasn’t — that was definitely true.”