This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Nisha Umesh. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

With Growing ‘Misogyny And Racism’, It’s Time To ‘Dismantle Historically White Fraternities’

More from Nisha Umesh

By Nisha Umesh

It has been about two months since my first year of college ended at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). The University was originally established in 1891 by the North Carolina General Assembly under “An Act to Establish a Normal and Industrial School for White Girls.” In 1956, JoAnne Smart Drane and Bettye Ann Tillman would become the first Black women to enroll at UNCG. And in the fall of 1964, the student body included 282 men as result of a top-down decision to make all UNC System schools co-educational. I do not approve of the initial exclusion of Black women, among other women of colour such as myself, a clear manifestation of racism and sexism in action.

However, since 1964, patriarchy has gone nowhere and is still alive and thriving. The majority of my unpleasant memories from my first year involved various men, who felt entitled to harass me on a regular basis. I had little familiarity with these types of experiences prior to college, and was jolted into a harsh reality I was not prepared to face. Consequently, I am critical of the decision to include men, because of how it has affected my time as a First Year.

fraternity party college students america

Presently on a global scale, women across college campuses face the threat and fear of rape and sexual assault, which we have become normalized to, as it is deeply embedded into our institutions and culture. On college campuses around 1 in 4 women in college are victims of sexual violence, and about 1 in 12 men in college will admit to having raped a woman. These numbers are a clear indication of gender-based oppression, in which men are favored and women are abused.

I soon began to realise just how patriarchy and gender-based oppression weigh down on women’s lives. Whether it be catcalling, sexual assault, rape, emotional or psychological abuse, the power dynamic of this social construct without a doubt favors men, and victimizes women. There exists so deeply permeated into our society a culture resulting from patriarchal norms, which dehumanizes women’s bodies and minds. We are struggling to survive in a blissfully ignorant world, which has historically oppressed us into mere objects of pleasure.

While speaking about sexual violence on college campuses, we must center our conversation around historically White fraternities, which have through time expressed both anti-Black sentiments and misogyny. We cannot forget while addressing sexual violence against women, white men in these fraternities perpetuate racism, demonising and excluding black people and other people of colour from their institutions.

This is perfectly evidenced by a recent incident, in which the frat Sigma Alpha Epsilon of Oklahoma University chanted a racist mantra whilst gathered on a bus, which consisted of the lines “You can hang em’ from a tree, but it will never start with me…“. Much of the U.S reacted with disgust and complete shock, to which I must ask, should we be surprised?

With the U.S having such a deep history of anti-blackness, as this very nation was built off the labour and genocide of people of colour, can we truly express shock towards what has and never will be an isolated incident? Lynching is not a racial crime of the past, and today still trails in the shadows of black people, as evidenced by this video. As Robert Cohen, professor of Social Studies and History at New York University, so eloquently says: “Lynching symbolizes black powerlessness…The implication seems to be that even if the university integrates the fraternity will remain an outpost of white supremacy and racial exclusion.

Jessica Bennett, a columnist at Time, poses the question: “Why isn’t every campus in America dissolving its fraternity program — or at least instituting major, serious reform?” Amid endless reports of sexual violence emerging against fraternity members, our universities must critique the violence perpetuated by historically white fraternities, and question whether these powerful male social groups should exist. From policing the bodies and dress of women, abusing alcohol, and expressing anti-Black sentiment, it is time to dismantle historically white fraternities and prioritise social groups which can provide a space of support and voice for people of colour.

Sexual violence and anti-Blackness are very much tied together, for as white fraternities are granted systemic privilege, and power, they utilize this to abuse women, especially women of of colour. Misogyny and racism has always been present in our education institutions and will continue to, until we recognize and fight to dismantle patriarchy and abolish white supremacy in the U.S. As Cohen powerfully states regarding the incident at the University of Oklahoma: “The historical roots of this racist fraternity tradition and the political, cultural and demographic props that sustain it must be understood and confronted honestly if the ghost of Jim Crow is ever to be banished from frat row.

You must be to comment.
  1. David

    I actually thought this article was a spoof at first, I can’t believe even a gender studies student would be so prejudiced and foolish to try and deny innocent people their right to assembly on the basis of discredited statistics and guilt-by-association.

  2. Demosthenes

    “Why isn’t every campus in America dissolving its fraternity program…. ”
    Probably because that would be more than a slight overreaction. Not to mention it would be financially unadvisable. Groups for people of color shouldn’t be prioritized, that would be just as racist as the aforementioned chant. They should be given equal footing, which can be done without dismantling other groups. Punishing the masses for the crimes of a few is highly illogical.
    “— or at least instituting major, serious reform?””
    This a start, but there is no suggestion (besides dismantlement and prioritizing people of color) as to the reform in her article or yours.

    Also, this is a side-note: your tagline of “collects male tears” is unprofessional and a hindrance to you being taken seriously.

More from Nisha Umesh

Similar Posts

By Swonshutaa Dash

By Ritwik Trivedi

By Anshul Abraham

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below