February 22, 2014

"An astonishing number of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, congressmen and male senators, and American presidents have belonged to fraternities."

A sentence that makes more sense if you know that it appears in the middle of an article titled "The Dark Power of Fraternities/A yearlong investigation of Greek houses reveals their endemic, lurid, and sometimes tragic problems — and a sophisticated system for shifting the blame."

The article is by Caitlin Flanagan, and it appears in the same new issue of The Atlantic as the article (linked in the previous post) that gave us a perfectly serious and sympathetic presentation of men who are fixated on wearing silicone rubber masks that depict exaggerated, heavily made-up female faces.

Caitlin Flanagan's name has appeared only once before on this blog, in a post titled: "Why did Caitlin Flanagan write such a poorly supported article on fraternities and rape?"
And why did the Wall Street Journal publish it? Was there a whole lot more material in the original article, which was then edited down to make Flanagan look utterly ridiculous?
I'm not going to spend the time with The Atlantic's "Dark Power" article to figure out whether it's better supported than the WSJ's Caitlin Flanagan article. I don't have that kind of time. The title is ludicrous, I can't imagine being astonished by whatever the number of CEOs and politicians is, and I'm just struck by the presence of this article in the same issue as that piece about the "masking scene."

32 comments:

PB Reader said...

Some people just don't like clubs, men's clubs in particular. For a sole woman to conduct an "investigation", but not talk about the other fraternities on campus (otherwise casually known as sororities), and not talk about similar incidents on campus in general, seems to be just another (solo) sortie in the war on men.

Pettifogger said...

I chose not to pledge a fraternity when I went to college. At the time, doing so just did not feel right. I had the sense I would be getting into something all-consuming that I did not yet fully understand.

From the perspective of almost 48 years, I realize my personality is not well suited to being in a fraternity. That same personality has helped me in some ways and held me back in others. I suspect that a personality drawn to fraternities is likewise one well-suited to political life.

TomHynes said...

My fraternity was KKK. Kappa Kappa Kappa, one of the oldest Dartmouth fraternities. We had the initials before they did.

TomHynes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SGT Ted said...

All this is, is a feminist attacking men she doesn't like. She's a sexist.

Remember the "Skull and Bones" conspiracy bullshit that was floated during GHW Bushes Presidency? This is the same type of bullshit.

DEK said...

I believe it is called "being clubbable". An utterly unremarkable correlation.

MadisonMan said...

I wonder how many Legislators have belonged to sororities.

I'll guess that the author didn't look into that.

Phil 3:14 said...

Men together: scary

(Unless they're gay)

virgil xenophon said...

Remember the book "Bowling Alone" by Robert Putnam about the supposed dysfunctional sociocultural changes in modern American society that have led to the "collapse" of the American "community? In which Putnam decried the dissolving of those formal social structures that led to "community enrichment" etc. So worried was President Clinton by the implications of Putnam's work that he called a "summit" at Camp David composed of Putnam and other prominent sociologists and cultural anthropologists for suggestions as to what could be done to support/reinforce/re-institute the vital social structures Putnam believed were vital for a healthy society. Yet feminists attack with abandon one of the few such "social structures" that "enrich" the "fabric" of society. In fact, the success of fraternities in pushing forward/encouraging their membership to participate in campus life by joining various social and academic clubs, participating in, and running for office in student government, and participating in intermural athletics is seen by the feministas as a negative, claiming fraternities "dominate" such organizations. Yet this sort of positivistic "societal interaction" is the VERY thing the Camp David summit sought to encourage. No little savage irony there.

And the facts would seem to reveal there are precious few downsides to fraternities, either. Besides providing campus leadership and helping instill school spirit by organized promotion/support of athletic events, fraternities promote both good scholarship and civic community service support. EVERY year since 1945 the All-fraternity GPA on college campuses where fraternity men are not over 50% of the male population exceeds that of the All-mens average. And the disparity would be even greater if fraternity men were backed out of the all-men's average.

The same holds for community service. Whether measured in man-hours devoted to community service drives, money raised/donated, etc., fraternity men again far out-distance their campus counterparts. And again, remember, that fraternity men often do "double-duty" as part of these other "independent" doings as members of their dorm, or various academic/social club affiliations who contribute in these areas.

And all this doesn't happen by accident. Every fraternity's national organization sponsors national awards for both scholarship and community service and actively encourages their member chapters which themselves fiercely compete for the honors and trophies.



The Feminazis can go pound sand..

Big Mike said...

Fraterities attract males with a high social IQ, and helps them polish it. And people with a high social IQ generally do rise to the top of the business world and politics. That should be obvious even to Caitlin Flanagan.

The question for Caitlin is whether females who are leadership positions at major corporations and/or in politics have belonged to sororities. My sense is that they did not, but that's because I work for an engineering company and the women I know in upper management all have engineering backgrounds.

If I'm right -- and I'm very aware that the corporation I work for probably differs significantly from other Fortune 500 firms -- then sororities do not provide the jumping off point for their sisters that fraternities do for their brothers. And that would be a problem for the sororities to fix.

SJ said...

An astonishing number of [men in positions of power] have belonged to fraternities.

An astonishing number, relative to what?

I get very tired of journalists talking about numbers, but not telling me what they are comparing the numbers to.

virgil xenophon said...

LOL! Phil 3:14, above,@8:57 wins the thread!!

Anglelyne said...

Hasn't this woman ever look at youtube? Why does she think that competing for Darwin awards, being violent, and thinking it would be a great idea to make a video of it all is some unique characteristic of fraternities? Oh, and then some vaporings about fraternities being somehow a major culprit in the ongoing great American college scam?

Whatever. That's as far as I deigned to read. Something about the evil that lurks at the heart of (white) male sociability, right?

I came across this blog exchange that had an idea that I thought ought to be tried in real life, too:

"One of the sad consequences of this trend is that "gentlemen's club" now exists only as a euphemism for a low establishment."

"Someone could write a great Chestertonian satire about a men's literary club, or even something like Wodehouse's Drones, which has to masquerade as a strip club in order to keep the feminist harpies and their do-gooding fellow travelers at bay."

southcentralpa said...

Caitlin Flanagan may go off on odd tangents now and again, but she's willing to go against the "idols of the age", as it were. I loved her http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2004/03/how-serfdom-saved-the-women-s-movement/302892 and http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/09/sex-and-the-married-man/307622/

Michael said...

I would imagine that fraternities as they currently exist are doomed by PC and women like the author of this horribly tedious article. They will go underground and become truly secret societies. The universities will be perplexed at the drop in alumni contributions and the rise in housing costs and by the fact that all the terrible things blamed on frats will have to be blamed on something else. Membership will be more selective in the new fraternities, the secret ones, and more successful in the end than they are now for reasons obvious to all but the non members. And writers of articles.

virgil xenophon said...

Anglelyne weighs in with her usual sardonic take on idiocy. A national treasure that gal. I'd propose marriage just based on general principles but my wife of forty years might object--or mayby not; she's been mumbling lately about finding someone to give me away to, lol.

dbp said...

"Astonishing", this word does not mean what Caitlin Flanagan thinks it means.

Or maybe it does, she doesn't give us any numbers so we have to take her word for it. That it is astonishing. If say 3% of college men were from fraternities and they occupied 60% of CEO positions, then this would be astonishing. But if 1/3 of college men pledged and 50% of CEOs were former frat boys then this would be more-or-less in line with rational expectations.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that a big part of the success of fraternity members is that they learn to network a bit while at college. Night before last, one bro called up to tell me that a kid in the class behind ours had just died. Some sort of cancer. The guy who died had been a judge, and had been chapter president right before me. The one who called is a consummate networker, and so we spent better than an hour catching up on maybe a dozen of the bro. I have a decent idea of how 20-30 of them are doing, the high points in their lives, etc. - and we graduated over 40 years ago. My best friend to this day is probably my pledge son.

Another thing that is of interest is that of my class, I think almost everyone got an advanced degree. Two ER Docs, two MBA/JDs, and maybe a half dozen who just got MBAs. This is probably about average - but maybe a bit biased away from law and medicine. Know a lot of lawyers, some high powered, and some closer to ambulance chasers. Ditto for doctors. And, some stock brokers to leech off of the rest of us.

At the time, this ratio of advanced degrees was a bit higher than the college average, and maybe we saw this more in our house than others. But, I do know two high powered ones my year in another house, including someone who was general counsel for a federal department during the Reagan Administration (which was pretty good, only having been out of undergraduate a decade). Fraternity members have a higher percentage getting graduate degrees than did the GDIs, and when they did, they tended towards professional degrees.

Another part of this was civic involvement. Though only maybe 1/4 the student body were Greek, most student body officers were (my roommate my last year, and successor as house president was really bad - three years as class president, and one as student body president). If there was a fund raiser, for almost anything, it was inevitably run by, and staffed by members of fraternities and sororities. I remember us joining with a sorority to set a world trampoline record raising money for some charity when I was house president (we raised the money the usual way, by signing people up to pay by the number of hours we jumped - ultimately over a month straight).

And, if you think that this has changed - my kid just graduated, at a school where there were even fewer in fraternities and sororities, and, again, the level of social and school involvement was substantially higher with the Greeks than the GDIs. And, moreover, GPAs were higher, with more attending graduate school.

Some of it, I think, is self-selection, but some may also be peer pressure. There is pressure to get decent grades (esp. since the houses are inevitably in competition), pressure to be involved, pressure to play sports, pressure for graduate school, etc. And, back then, at least for a lot of us, that pressure was more potent than that of our parents. It wasn't, at least for most of us, overwhelming pressure, just that everyone else was doing it.

And, yes, competition. Not all good though - one guy in the class ahead of ours and I got into a competition to see who could ace the 2nd semester basic accounting class. He won, by skipping the first day of class, and only attended for the mid-term and final. It helped that we had a number of other, more dutiful, bros in the class who would bring us the homework, drop ours off, etc.

It wasn't for everyone, but I am quite happy that I was able to participate.

Bruce Hayden said...

Men together: scary

(Unless they're gay)


Back when I was in college, the dynamic there is a bit weird. Just like you don't want there to be too many women on campus, in comparison with the guys, you definitely don't want too many gays in a fraternity, or it would become known as a gay house. And, with a lot of guys living right with each other so intimately, that is something that would drive off many, if not most, straight guys. So, we ultimately had a guy or so in every class who came out after graduation. Maybe slightly above the national average, but not by much. I think that most of them were still trying to be straight, getting dates to the functions, etc., and am pretty sure that there wasn't any gay action in the house at the time. Most guys, even today, and definitely back then, right out of high school, seem to still be pretty homophobic. I think, for a lot of us, it takes getting sexually active with women to overcome this.

Fen said...

Bruce: I think that a big part of the success of fraternity members is that they learn to network a bit while at college

Spot on. I learned the value of networking at an early age because my dad was a big shot attorney in Texas and he was always having to call in favors to get me out of trouble.

But in college, I distinctly remember the look on the face of my fellow frat pledges when they realized the alumni would be instrumental in helping them find jobs, get promotions, get housing deals, introduce them to quality women wine and food.

You could almost hear their minds go "click!"

Bruce Hayden said...

Fraterities attract males with a high social IQ, and helps them polish it. And people with a high social IQ generally do rise to the top of the business world and politics. That should be obvious even to Caitlin Flanagan.

I think that that the aptitude part of this may be overrated. A lot of the guys in my house didn't start with that high of social IQs. But, you are inevitably placed in positions where you need to push the envelope in this regard, as contrasted to many non-Greeks. And, again, there is the peer pressure - you needed to have dates to the functions, and if you didn't have one, someone likely would get you one. We wore sport coats and ties for weekly meetings, at a time when Greek events were the only time you saw such, and the women, to this day, wear skirts - in both cases, practicing wearing dress wear.

The question for Caitlin is whether females who are leadership positions at major corporations and/or in politics have belonged to sororities. My sense is that they did not, but that's because I work for an engineering company and the women I know in upper management all have engineering backgrounds.

Again, I think that the social IQ works in their favor. When I was in a large regional law firm, we would talk to the summer associates, and a surprising number of the women had been in sororities. Maybe even more than the guys in fraternities.

If I'm right -- and I'm very aware that the corporation I work for probably differs significantly from other Fortune 500 firms -- then sororities do not provide the jumping off point for their sisters that fraternities do for their brothers. And that would be a problem for the sororities to fix.

Engineering is different, and I don't think representative of the rest of the corporate world.

I don't think that the sororities today are unaware of this, and do think that they work hard to overcome it. One thing that living in a Greek house does is teach you to live somewhat amicably with a varied number of people of your same sex. Making this worse with women, is that they have to deal with the emotional side of this more than guys do.

I think that sororities have changed more than fraternities in the 40+ years since I graduated. Back then, they seemed to be more geared towards being akin to finishing schools, where the women were groomed to be wives for the successful businessmen and professionals being groomed in the fraternities. But, now, I sense this to have changed to grooming them to be successful businesswomen and professionals. For example, requiring them to wear business wear to weekly meetings. The push for grades, graduate school, and social involvement. Etc.

Bruce Hayden said...

Spot on. I learned the value of networking at an early age because my dad was a big shot attorney in Texas and he was always having to call in favors to get me out of trouble.

That was something that may father was not really willing to do. I remember the time when I was 16 1/4 and I had let my next door neighbor, who was 15 3/4, drive. Quite humorous in retrospect with the police watching as we tried to switch positions - to no avail. So, we showed up in court, and the judge asked any attorneys to identify themselves so that they could go first. No one volunteered. Then he asked my father, and my father told him that he wasn't there as an attorney, but rather, as a father. Fine, come ahead anyway. Has my father looked up the offense? No, but he thought that a couple days in jail would be fine. Well, the judge pointed out that I had been cited under the wrong statute, and so couldn't oblige. Case dismissed. I had, of course, met the judge socially, doing the requisite job as a waiter, at parties at my parents' house. Still, despite that, or maybe because of that, I got grounded.

Michael K said...

"We wore sport coats and ties for weekly meetings, at a time when Greek events were the only time you saw such, and the women, to this day, wear skirts - in both cases, practicing wearing dress wear. "

Exactly. I was a pledge in 1956 and got a crash course in dress and manner although I was fairly "social." It was just that I came from a very modest background and was a scholarship student.

What the article is about, if anything, is the appalling (to me) level of alcohol abuse in college these days. God knows we drank and partied but it was the days before "the pill" and sex was pretty much a rare commodity.

I was in Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) and we had the usual secret handshake and stuff but our impression with this resembled Delta House in "Animal House." There were other houses on campus that took the paddling and such more seriously but we didn't.

As to girls, my high school girlfriend was a Chi Omega at Purdue (we had a song about that) and graduated as an engineer. My wife was a Kappa and still centers her social life around sorority sisters 60 years later.

Fraternities and sororities were a positive influence then but the alcohol and sexual liberties today are the topic of the article. At least that's what I saw as I skimmed it. It was too tedious to read entirely.

Michael K said...

I might add that, in 1956, the only men' housing at USC was for the football team. If you weren't on the football team it was fraternities or rooming houses.

They were quite cheap and included meals except on Sunday.

Bruce Hayden said...

I was in Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) and we had the usual secret handshake and stuff but our impression with this resembled Delta House in "Animal House." There were other houses on campus that took the paddling and such more seriously but we didn't.

Just the opposite for me - the Fijis were the ones who used the paddles the hardest. Probably wouldn't have joined a house like that.

Part of our problem was that we were Vietnam era. About half the pledges didn't initiate (out of their own choice), and a bunch of those who did, came back from summer vacation (1969) and essentially faded away. One theory is that their friends from high school were more involved in the anti-war, etc. movement. I think that I survived that by going to summer school that summer (beat having to work), and not having any close high school friends.

When we were freshmen, coats and ties were required for Sunday lunch for the guys. This was apparently a big improvement from a half a generation earlier when chapel service was required. But by the end of the year, this requirement was abolished, after a lot of guys started showing up in coats, ties, shorts, and sandals. No shirts, or t-shirts in the winter. That was for the rest of the student body. As I noted, we still had to wear the coats and ties to fraternity meetings, as well as collared shirts, long pants, and real shoes.

Bruce Hayden said...

As to girls, my high school girlfriend was a Chi Omega.

Interestingly, Chi Omega is not a sorority, but rather a women's fraternity. I think that most of the rest of them are officially sororities. I was a bit underwhelmed when I discovered that Patsy Shroeder, long time liberal Congresswoman from Denver, and who embarassed the country by showing up in a bunny suit on Great Wall of China, was a Chi Omega.

Bruce Hayden said...


Fraternities and sororities were a positive influence then but the alcohol and sexual liberties today are the topic of the article. At least that's what I saw as I skimmed it. It was too tedious to read entirely.

At least at a lot of colleges, the fraternities and sororities are probably no worse than most of the rest of the students in this regard. And, there is pressure to keep it under control, both socially from within, and from administrations. If you get too blatant, you threaten the entire fraternity or sorority getting kicked out. Much different from the independents, who only threaten themselves.

The sex is a result of the sexual revolution, which I experienced the first part of. When I entered college as a freshman, males were not allowed out of the lobby in female dorms, and visa versa. House mothers were supposed to enforce this. We got limited (twice a week) intervisitation late freshman year. By my junior year, it was 24 hour, with males and females living in the same dorms. Sophomore year, I was one of two guys living in the freshman women's dorm - I had to be in by midnight, and couldn't leave until maybe 10 the next day. Then I got a single in the fraternity house.

Guys are drinking a bit more, but the real difference is a lot of the women, many of whom seem to binge drink on the weekends. At my kid's small liberal arts college, it was rare that a kid or two wasn't "transported" (euphemism for EMTs hauling them off in an ambulance) as a result of too much alcohol, and a distinct majority were co-eds. Imagine the BAC of a 110 lb young woman who has had 6-8 drinks in a couple of hours. And, it isn't just one of them, but a lot of them, and it isn't a one time occurrence, but rather, every weekend for many. You would think that waking up in a stranger's bed after this, or having a friend do such, would dissuade them. But it doesn't.

The other part of this though is that along with the sexual revolution, you have a tendency to marry later and later, esp. for those expecting to go to graduate school. No more pinned, and then engaged by spring senior year. So, there isn't nearly as much dating. Or, really chance to date (though the Greeks do tend to still push this). Much more the hookup culture, and hanging around in small groups containing both sexes.

Freeman Hunt said...

An astonishing number of those same people probably belong to gyms and for many more years than their time at college. What dark power lurks in the weight room?

campy said...

"An astonishing number of those same people probably belong to gyms and for many more years than their time at college."

More likely they have their own in the McMansion.

Sam L. said...

And they belong to the Bohemian Grove, Rosicrucians, Tri-Lateral Committee, the Bilderbergs, and HEY! My dad and my bro were Sigma Nus!

traditionalguy said...

In the summer of 65, four frat bros were driving out to Washington State from Atlanta, and we arranged a free stay the first night at the Phi Delt House in Lincoln Nebraska. The local Chapter was hospitable to us and the guy who helped us at the House was a huge Nebraska football player. It was a nice networking experience.

My son also joined Phi Delta Theta at TCU and still has the same close friends that he made there in the mid 90s.

That type all male social interaction is natural. Too bad the feminists feel jealous of us.

ken in sc said...

I was once pledged to an unusual fraternity called Acacia. It was associated with the Masons. I dropped out because they kept changing the rules and charges on me. However my daughter is a Chi Omega. She is also a partner in a “Big Law” firm. Her XO connection has helped her, from time to time, throughout her career. A student who can afford it should do it.