The Errors of TFM
To The Editor:
November 18th, 2010
Re “Liberté (for some), (In)Egalité, Fraternities: TFM and American Culture” (opinion, Tatiana Schlossberg, Nov. 3)
I have recently happened upon the article “Liberté (for some), (In)Egalité, Fraternities: TFM and American culture” by Tatiana Schlossberg. I have no affiliation with Yale and nor the south in general. I did however participate in the Greek system at The Ohio State University (sigma phi epsilon) 2005 -2008. I would like to say that the TFM website is appalling to this former “frat boy.” As a whole, I can see how fraternities seem as an archaic good ol’ boy club to a group of self proclaimed feminists. In fact, growing up, I thought these organizations were the pinnacle of anti-intellectual machismo. In college I found a group of guys that were quite the opposite of this stereotype. They valued the balance of academics, athleticism (general health), and cultural enlightenment. They created a structured developmental plan to grow members as leaders in these areas on campus and hopefully in the community at large. I joined them hesitantly and found it to be the best decision of my undergraduate career.
Although this may seem to be the exception to norm, Sigma Phi Epsilon is the largest social fraternity in the nation. I have checked the Yale chapter’s website and they seem to follow the fraternities national guidelines for developing gentlemen. It is pretty easy to run an article on how the drunk philistines of fraternities have screwed up again (and TFM is a fantastic example). I would encourage an article on how Sigma Phi Epsilon (and others) are turning the tide in the fraternal world in hopes to better society. I know this is probably not appealing to your reader base (and may be off topic), but it demonstrates a balanced view.
Thank you for your time and for bringing light to the errors of TFM,
PharmD. Candidate, 2012
The Ohio State University
College of Pharmacy
Let’s Get Some Things Straight
To The Editor:
November 17th, 2010
Re The response to Liberté (for some), (In)Egalité, Fraternities: TFM and American Culture by Tatiana Schlossberg
To recap: Tatiana writes a column for a campus feminist magazine about how she’s appalled by TFM – by offhand misogyny and a total sense of social irresponsibility. The response by TFM’s users and defenders is to say that she’s crazy, she’s making it up, TFM is all satire, Tatiana can’t take a joke, and then in the comments to her article Tatiana’s called a “feminist black panther” (whatever that means), a “self-righteous feminist hippie,” and a “black jew.”
So, obviously, something’s going on, and TFM isn’t all fun if, as soon as somebody (in a totally unrelated publication) says that she’s offended by TFM, the reaction is to call her a feminist black panther jew hippie liberal from the north who should mind her own damn business.
Tatiana’s speaking for a lot of people – women especially – who’ve felt that fraternities have had a toxic effect on their college experience. Fraternities tend to be aggressive, tightly organized, well-funded, with access to alcohol, and disproportionate influence over campus life. And what do fraternities do with their influence? Orchestrate date rape (10% of campus date rapes occur in fraternity houses) and rally around brothers who are caught. If you’re a girl on campus, you can’t really avoid it: at some point in college one of your friends is going to get date raped in a frat house and then, lots of luck getting the frat brothers to take your side in it – or you play it the fraternities’ way, join a sorority, and then you’re easy pickings (“a sorostitute”).
Tatiana’s not saying shut down the fraternities (although there’s an argument for that). She’s saying, if you have great power, have a little fucking responsibility to go with it. There’s something obviously flawed about a culture that leads the galaxy in date rape, takes a smug kind of pride in everything about its traditions, and lashes out viciously at any criticism.
Reading through this thread, there’s a few things that jump out – first of all, that most of the posts don’t even deal with Tatiana’s argument. They basically say she’s not allowed to criticize frats.
These look to be the leading dumb reasons explaining why her criticism isn’t valid:
TFM can’t be criticized because a) TFM is satire, b) fraternities organize community service and do lots of good things besides get drunk and flash money c) it’s just a fun site, so don’t take anything seriously, d) anybody criticizing TFM (especially a northerner) is elitist.
a) Doing satire doesn’t mean nobody can criticize you. As ‘A Sphincter’ pointed out, “It’s an online community in which ‘I don’t think that is funny’ is met with the riposte ‘you are a crazy bitch who has no sense of humor.’” Satire doesn’t give you a free pass. Satire means you’re inviting criticism. If you actually get criticized, deal with it.
b) All anybody sees of fraternities is an aggressive we’re in-you’re out campus presence; obviously that’s what TFM is all about. The fact that you also do community service doesn’t mean you get to be an asshole the rest of the time.
c) Grow up. If you post on a public forum, people are going to read it, including people who don’t share your values. If you offend someone, you don’t get to be angry at her for being offended.
d) Tatiana isn’t saying the south is elitist. She’s looking at quotes like, “Just drove through the poor section of town – it was out of my way but worth laughing at the unfortunates” and “Can’t we pay someone to do this?” and “My dad’s taxes are so high he gave me and my brother each another share in the company” and getting a little bit of an elitist vibe wafting in her directions.
Look, you’re the ones inside the club – you made your own little elite. Now justify what’s elite about you. The Ivy League thing is about hard work and intellectual merit. Some of the posts on the thread are absolutely right that those aren’t the only possible values for a college student, but inheriting daddy’s hard-earned money and schmoozing your way through college aren’t exactly accomplishments. There’s a good kind of elitist where you develop abilities that other people don’t have and then there’s the kind where you’re a smug asshole who hasn’t done anything.
@Jessica Wilson/Emeralds and Pearls: It was tough to read your posts. You’re both obviously very smart and eloquent. You’re working hard to defend a lifestyle where you (as sorority sisters) are routinely called a sorostitute and – if you objected to that – would be told that you can’t take a joke. If that’s the southern gentlemanliness you’re defending, it’s time to get some higher standards.
(And just to say the obvious: ‘fratdaddy’ is a positive term, sorostitute is a slur. Lots and lots of TFM posts talk about men using and abusing women; none that I’ve seen are about women wielding power over men. Ladies, the joke’s on you.)
With the north/south thing – that’s really not what Tatiana’s article is about. She noticed that most of the posts on TFM were from southern schools, but frat culture’s obviously incredibly powerful in the south and north (including at Yale, btw, which has about seven or eight frats and three sororities). When you realize what the article’s about, the whole how-dare-she-attack-our-traditions thing comes across a little weak.
Look, you chose to be in a fraternity. This isn’t a condition you were born with; this is something you wanted to do. Fraternities have a bad reputation for date rape and misogyny; you knew that going in. By and large, fraternities have beaten the old rap that they’re racist – take some responsibility and beat the misogynist rap.
TFM is obviously irresponsible and enjoys being irresponsible. That’s fine in itself, but if you use satire (or whatever) that shows you to be misogynist, don’t be surprised if you’re called out on it.
November 17, 2010
THE RIGHT KIND OF FEMINISM?
Published October 20, 2010
To the Editor:
Re Managing Editor Hannah Zeavin’s Oct. 20 appearance on CNN’s American Morning
I heard of your magazine via an interview by Hannah Zeavin regarding the recent incidents at Yale. I am not a feminist, nor am I violently opposed to them, I merely believe in equal treatment for all, and less extreme positions. I say this to give reference for my next statement, not to put anyone on their guard against what I may have to say.
I was very impressed by the way Ms. Zeavin handled herself on the CNN interview, particularly by how she was very clear to state what were her views, and how she could not speak for the majority of Yale students. I must admit that when they introduced her as an editor of a feminist magazine, I was preparing myself to hear an edge opinion that was very defensive or outraged. It was a pleasure to hear from such an even-tempered young woman, who seemed very concerned with representing herself and her position with integrity and rational thought.
I am sure you are getting all kinds of letters, calls, and e-mails from people around the nation; I just wanted to send one of positive approval, perhaps to even out the bunch.
Thank you for your time.
IN DEFENSE OF HOLLABACKNYC
Published September 13, 2010
To the Editor:
Re “Hollaback: Misguided Shouting for a Much-Needed Safe Space” (opinion, Alexandra Brodsky, Aug. 23)
Truth be told, I had neither heard of nor read your publication until today, when a friend drew my attention to the article by Alexandra Brodsky that looked at some of the key players in the anti-street harassment movement and their efforts at ending the public abuse of women. In particular, she zeroes in on the efforts of Holly Kearl, of Stop Street Harassment, and Emily May, of HollaBackNYC. As HollaBack’s Director of Research and Development, I may be slightly biased—guilty as charged. But I’m hoping my observations on this article can objectively illuminate for the lay (wo)man the inherent flaws with Brodsky’s argument.
Regarding HollaBack’s position on declining to accept submissions by male readers, she writes: “Gendered violence and disrespect can go both ways, but in as much as these isolated incidences derive from a larger problem, I cannot help but expect the perpetrator to more often be a man. Yet May’s exclusion of men does not derive from empirical observations of harassment patterns, but damaging assumptions about the entire male sex.” I couldn’t help but wonder if I had read this part correctly or if I was missing something. I reread the sentences. Nope; these two sentences really do blatantly contradict themselves. My high school English teacher would be having a fit with his red pen right about now. What is the HollaBackNYC blog, if not an empirical observation of harassment patterns, and what “movement” is Brodsky referring to elsewhere in the article if these hundreds of stories are “isolated incidences”?
“Street harassment” is a relatively new term that brings slight pause to even well-educated and well-informed people in urban areas. It is a problem that only recently has been acknowledged and identified as such; this being the case, concrete social change is perhaps a decade away. Blogs like Stop Street Harassment, HollaBackNYC, and its sister sites around the world seek to illustrate, however tedious it may be, the hundreds and thousands of stories of women who otherwise would not speak out. A problem without a name can hardly realize its own solution. These blogs bridge the gap between silence and walking on, and speaking out and demanding social justice.
Brodsky hounds the anti-street harassment blogs about their lack of action and complains that the photos rarely result in arrests or convictions. I want to point out several key accomplishments to date, bearing in mind that HollaBackNYC, for example, only recently acquired its first full-time employee in May of this year and operates entirely on in-kind donations and volunteers.
A.) HollaBackNYC was founded after the arrest and conviction of a habitual subway flasher whose photo one New Yorker published on the front page of Metro NY.
B.) Thirteen arrests were made during an undercover sting operation in which NYPD officers were subjected to flashing, groping, and sexual verbal assaults.
C.) The organization helped found New Yorkers for Safe Transit and fought to incorporate anti-sexual harassment announcements and advertisements on NYC subways and buses, which have now become standard operating procedure.
Contradictions and structural discrepancies aside, I found Brodsky’s article to be unnecessarily disparaging of an organization that is still in its infancy, and distastefully disdainful of an individual. Whether Ms. Brodsky seeks to bolster the movement through constructive criticism or bolster her own portfolio, her argument leaves much to be desired. Movements do not happen overnight and HollaBack volunteers will be the first to admit that the organization has a long way to go. Discussion is just the beginning. But for a reputed journal that bills itself as “A Feminist Magazine,” I am quite surprised and frankly disappointed that a fellow activist sees fit to belittle and wax critical of a blog that has helped serve as the catalyst for a worldwide discussion of gender-based harassment, and I can only wonder if these grievances are personal.
Aug. 24, 2010
The writer is Director of Development at HollaBackNYC.
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