What are You Really Saying? Unpacking Subconscious Masculinity in Fraternity Culture.

I recently received a call from my little brother in my fraternity in distress about dating a woman he has been talking too. As a good budding student affair’s professional, I tried to support my brother using helping skills in higher education. When I asked him to explain to me what the problem was, he began to lay out this elaborate story about how he has feelings for someone that another fraternity brother had dated. This conversation reminded me of the theme “Bro’s Before Hoes” and the idea that a fraternity man cannot date and or talk romantically to a woman who has been involved with another fraternity brother. This theme is never addressed despite talking frequently with fraternity men about their masculinity.

As an undergraduate in my first or second year of college I would have probably prescribed to the same mentality of “Bros before hoes,” however as his big brother who is supposed to provide guidance, I sat and reflected about what it really meant for him to feel that he cannot talk with this woman about how he feels potentially go on dates with her.

As fraternity man, I saw that my little brother was trying to respect his other brother and his former partner by asking if it was acceptable to ask this woman on a date.  Then I began to think from a lens other than just my fraternal lens and started to see the problem with this viewpoint. These fraternity men are engaging in a conversation that took away all decision making from this woman, who can decide for herself who she does and does not want to be with. It reminded me that even though student affairs professionals engage fraternity men in constant conversation around masculinity through sexual assault prevention; student affairs professionals rarely engage fraternity men in conversations that happen amongst one another on a micro level.

My fraternity at my undergraduate university was engaged in work to dismantle rape culture and often had in depth conversations about masculinity and male privilege, but I do not remember one conversation about how we engaged our masculinity in ways that did not center interactions with women. We never had the conversation about how the little things that we have subconsciously come to believe as normal were rooted in ways that were based in ownership over someone else’s decision-making process. When I had this realization, I was astonished that such a little thing was so ingrained in our membership that even though we actively programmed to engage masculinity and unpack it, we still were perpetuating the same system subconsciously amongst one another.

I believe that as a fraternity man in student affairs and higher education, I have the opportunity and responsibility to reflect on my own experiences in my organization and to engage as an insider with these fraternal organizations to tackle some larger conversations about what it means to be a fraternity man who respects women on all levels. To accomplish this, not only myself, but the men I work with must dive deeper into how we understand and engage masculinity in our organizations and our everyday conversations with each other.

As a fraternity man, I would like to call to action other fraternity men in the field of student affairs and higher education to start to unpack their own masculinity and the ways it showed up in your chapters. Start to use the knowledge you have now that you are out of your organization to help another organization on your campus, or volunteer with a leadership retreat for you national or local headquarters to unpack these subconscious masculine themes. Through this charge, I hope that we as fraternity men can help our brothers get back to our values of respecting those around us not only consciously but also on a more subconscious level as well.

Brandon Majmudar (He/Him/His)

Colorado State University, Class of 2016

University of Vermont, Class of 2018

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