When I saw the above posters made for Sigma Chi Derby Days floating around Jezebel, I strained my eyes from rolling them so hard. Great. Another group of “offensive” signs for the tryhards of America to be “offended” by, just so they can make a redundant point: they think Greek life is awful. I was surprised when the feminazi anti-Greek women’s publication said the signs were “about as ‘problematic’ as a truck stop bumper sticker,” but then I remembered that at Jezebel and many places on the internet, women can’t offend, they can only take offense. Why, then, were they reporting on this if they didn’t think it was a big deal?
Because obviously the sororities made the signs, and that is sexist. Because Derby Days as a whole is sexist. Derby Days, Jezebel writer Jia Tolentino says, is a con.
For freshmen, non-Greeks, or students who don’t have a Sigma Chi chapter at their school, Derby Days is a week-long philanthropy, hosted by Sigma Chi, during which sororities compete in number of different events, ranging from Penny Wars, to dance competitions, to trivia, to anything the guys can think up. Many individual chapters of Sigma Chi end up donating upwards of $10,000 to cancer research, and the organization as a whole has donated millions. The fraternity usually throws the winning sorority an all-expenses paid mixer and donates a portion of the proceeds to the sorority’s philanthropy.
The problem Jezebel has found with this? “Sigma Chi has figured out a way to earn an enormous institutional remission by getting thousands and thousands of sorority women to do all the work.”
Putting on a philanthropy event of any kind takes weeks (even months) of preparation. Putting on an event of this magnitude takes a lot of work. Most Sigma Chi chapters delegate a “Derby Days” chair (in some cases in addition to the philanthropy chair), about six months prior to the event. The chairman then plans Derby Days with his committee for the entire time leading up to it.
The fraternity is responsible for coming up with challenges for the sororities to compete in, booking venues to host events, organizing local businesses to sponsor and donate money, and GETTING 500 WOMEN TO ONE PLACE AT ONE TIME. They set up before and clean up after every event. All the girls have to do is show up and participate in fun, silly competitions. Additionally one to three “coaches” (fraternity members) are generally assigned to each sorority (which could end up being upwards of 30-40 members), who are just as much a part of the competitions as the women themselves. They go to all the practices, and sometimes participate in events.
But yeah, the girls do all the work.
Part of the author’s problem with the event is that she sees it as “a true testament to…the astonishing degree to which young people—young women—in the Greek system will allow themselves to be told what to do.” What she neglects to realize is this is how every philanthropy event, hosted by both fraternities and sororities, operates. The organization hosts a competition between the other organizations. Every fraternity and sorority offers up 1-15 members (depending on how many are needed for the event) who will then participate in a fun, friendly competition, with all their friends cheering them on, for a good cause.
Needless to say, Derby Days is voluntary, though, as Tolentino puts it, “not opting in is unthinkable.” I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a social aspect to Derby Days, as there is with every philanthropy event. It’s a tradition on campus that can sometimes be as big as Greek Week. It’s a competition between sororities who love competition. And it’s fun. It’s honestly just fucking fun.
We opt in, because yes, it would be weird if we didn’t. Every other organization is participating, and it seems strange if you don’t, but to say that “sorority girls willingly, enthusiastically forgo their own pursuits to engage in Sigma Chi-branded dance competitions, lip-sync performances, coin drives, contests, walkathons, banner-making, playground cleanups, and intramural sports” is asinine.
Some chapters have “Sigma Chi Sweethearts” and “Derby Darlings” competitions, much like sororities have Mr. Fraternity or Greek God competitions, this is true. But to say the ultimate goal is “Sigma Chi’s approval” is simply untrue. We go because we want to raise money. We go because we want to support our sorority sisters as they compete, publicly. We go because it’s something to do.
What it all boils down to, of course, isn’t whether or not Sigma Chi put in the work or used sorority women as slave labor. It’s not about whether our lipsync dance “encouraged the women to perform as objects for [men’s] entertainment,” or whether people willingly participated in dance competitions, because they were former dancers and jumped at the chance to continue performing. And it’s not about whether a sign with some slight innuendo is sexist. It’s the nagging question, why are only women asked to compete?
Simply put, and forgive me for generalizing: guys don’t care as much. It’s difficult enough to get the guys to participate in one night of philanthropy events. Pairing with guys for Greek Week for competitions is a hellacious process — they can’t dance, they can’t craft, and they don’t keep nice, neat planners like we do. So to ask them to go above and beyond for another fraternity’s (OR sorority’s) event is unrealistic.
But as for girls…this kind of activity? We like it. If another sorority had a weeklong event that blew up as big as Derby Days did, sororities would still participate. Sororities everywhere still get excited about participating in big sorority events like DG’s Anchor Splash, whether or not they are in Delta Gamma. It’s not the approval of men we’re seeking. It’s the involvement in Greek Life that we love. It’s that, in participating in a week long event together, we feel closer to our sisters. It’s that we actually enjoy doing something with each other that doesn’t involve alcohol, and hell, even goes to a good cause.
And to call that a “con” on Sigma Chi’s part is dangerous, hateful, and frankly, untrue..