One of the most interesting aspects of being a fraternity man is the entire essence of your organization itself, that is the fact that you’re apart of group of all men. The thing about that is manhood, being a guy, or bro-ing out is that everyone does it differently. There’s no right way to be a man. In this new age of conversations surrounding masculinity, societal influences, and our environment, what is means to be a man, that tried and true definition, does not look like it what it did so very many years ago at the founding of our organizations. The big question today is, what part do we all play in our chapters in deciding what “men” look and act like, brother-man?
Stereotypes & Societal Influences
It’s taken many years to acknowledge what’s been right in front of the world and that is that the norms that we all adhere to are nothing more than social constructs (keyword there is constructs, as in ideas that have been built). When that glaring reality was finally acknowledged the obvious definitions of what makes a man a man don’t really apply. You’re no longer looking for the deepest booming voice, a full beard, and broad shoulders, but rather anyone who identifies as male. American society from the moment of birth has dictated and trained boys what is right and wrong for guys to do, and say. The color blue, sports, cars, and the outdoors, among other things, are supposed to be universal links between all guys. But what about all the guys who don’t necessarily enjoy all of those things, does that make them any less of a man? What we’ve learned is that it’s not a deviation from the society settled norm, because the norm isn’t the end all standard but rather an ideal (one of many) of who guys should be and what role they should play. Every many is different and the actions of one are not supposed to reflect on all others. The idea of this “fraternal gentleman” can be problematic in that way. Yes, courtesy, respect, and kindness should be displayed by all fraternity men, but how you dress, speak, and carry yourself cannot be mandated by ideals. It’s okay to strive to be a good person, but the definition of your manhood is up to you.
When it’s all laid out in front of you it takes some getting used to but it makes perfect sense and then forces you to determine what part you’ve played in society, and reflect upon how society has influenced you. Would you be a different person if you hadn’t been gently reminded to act, look and portray yourself a certain way? The question is rhetorical because absolutely yes. Men from different cultures carry themselves differently and it’s because of the environments they grew up in. The fact that someone was raised differently than you were does not make their “manhood” wrong – just different from yours. Remember, from their point of view, the way you carry your manhood could be/is just as foreign and “wrong.” Brother-man is unique for each and every one of us.
Manhood in Your Fraternity
Does your chapter celebrate all kinds of men? Do you question the traditionally assigned characteristics of the binary masculine/feminine binary? Are you conscious of your brothers whose manhood differs from yours? All are important questions to ask yourself because more likely than not, your manhood may be nothing more than stereotypes being reinforced, not necessarily wrong, but not necessarily “right” either.
- Non-Dominant Identities – It’s highly important to acknowledge the members in your chapter and even evaluate your recruitment process for how your interact with those guys who do hold minority identities (men of color, homosexual, disabled etc.). Masculinity comes is all different shapes, sizes, colors, and preferences, being aware of that is absolutely crucial so as to not alienate those differ from you.
- Preconceived Notions – It’s essential to check yourself and your ideas. The thing about your ideas is that just, they’re you’re ideas. Not everyone shares them or relates to them like you do. Of course how you express your masculinity seems “correct” to you, but there’s no such thing as a “correct” way to display who you are. Different does not equal wrong.
- Inclusivity – Fraternities are notorious for their exclusivity, which is acceptable to a certain extent. When your traditions and rituals are detrimental to some of your brothers that’s when a problem arises and you’re faced with the tough decision, but obvious choice to change to accommodate everyone. If you always do the same things that is girls, and booze – try mixing it up, be aware that lifestyle is not everyone’s idea of fun.