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April 26 2011

Closing Fraternities Won't Stop Violence

Carrie L. Lukas

I truly enjoyed To Hell With All That, Caitlin Flanagan's touching and insightful book on modern women's complicated relationship with traditional feminine roles. She's a writer I enjoy, even if I don't agree with everything she says.

Her column in this weekend in the Wall Street Journal, which called to ban fraternities in an effort to discourage violence against women on campus, definitely fell into the latter category. Flanagan highlights a real problem--violence against women on college campus--but offered a solution that seemed unlikely to solve that problem, while denying men some basic rights to associate freely.

I've written before about how many of the numbers on the extent of rape are misleading. Yet that's really not the point: Even if the percentage of women who suffer violent assault is far lower than the eye-popping one-in-four statistic commonly used, it's still a problem and the goal should be that no woman is subject to such abuse.

But how does closing fraternities actually protect women? Colleges would still feature large groups of young men, would-be fraternity members, who would still gather in groups, organize parties, live together, and in all likelihood drink heavily. I find in highly doubtful that eradicating the use of Greek letters would significantly change that dynamic. (Readers: does anyone know if a study has been done comparing rates of violence in schools before and after they close down a Greek system? Or comparing those that have a Greek system to those that don't? It wouldn't be slam dunk evidence on the topic, but would be interesting to see...)

Law Professor Ann Althouse offers her own criticism of Flanagan's take.

I tend to agree with Althouse. We need other strategies to prevent violence against women, which has to include educating women about how to avoid putting themselves in bad situation, as well as severe penalties for perpetrators. It's important, however, to remember the importance of innocence until proven guilty, and not condemn an entire half of our society for actions taken by a minority of them.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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