Three women who are suing Yale fraternities over alleged sexual harassment have come up with a novel idea: Let them into the boys’ club.
As anyone who has ever seen The Skulls (or, hey, Animal House) knows, fraternities are known for their parties, but membership has other privileges, too, in the form of networking and connections to alumni and former frat brothers well positioned to help out a recent college grad. Yale’s secret societies are truly the stuff of legend. However, traditionally fraternities are adamantly boys only, a mentality that has helped turn some frat houses into cesspools of toxic masculinity, including brutal, debasing hazing rituals and parties rife with sexual harassment and assault.
Now, in a brilliant move of if you can’t beat ’em, join them—and then beat them—three women are hoping to change that environment by joining it.
Anna McNeil, Ellie Singer, and Ry Walker are suing Yale University and nine of its fraternities, CBS News reports, asking a federal court to force fraternities to accept women as members. They claim that Yale and the fraternities have allowed “dangerous environments in which sexual misconduct [has] thrived” and told CBS that they have all been groped and assaulted at frat parties on campus. However, they don’t want to abolish fraternities. They want in on the networking opportunities that fraternities provide, claiming that sororities simply aren’t the same thing. Their lawsuit argues that “‘separate but equal’ Greek life reinforces gender norms, stereotypes, and prejudices.”
The women are seeking class action status, asking the court to award damages and to order policy changes, including “fully integrating women” at Yale’s fraternities. They aren’t the first group to demand that Yale take responsibility for frat behavior, or at least regulate them more effectively, but this is a novel approach to an old problem.