We are Always Wearing Our Letters

By: RahK Lash

At a recent fraternity leadership event, I was asked to make closing remarks. As the keynote speaker introduced me, he left the audience with the words “Brothers, protect our women.” I approached the mic and invited the room to consider “who are we protecting our women from?”

I asked the room, all brothers of my own fraternity, what it would feel like to live in a world where we no longer had to say such things because we valued everyone’s humanity and women knew they were safe in our presence. As a proud brother of eight years and a current chapter president, continuing to hold the light high and letting it illuminate an area we tend to overlook in our well-intentioned work, I knew I was going against the grain. There is a strength beyond physical muscles we can demonstrate to engage our brothers around notions of accountability and responsibility.

Having a conversation that places the danger or threat to women outside of those four walls and beyond the reach of any man in the room was easier than opening up about how our collective socialization lays a foundation for violence against women to persist. As fraternity men, we must find the courage to acknowledge our role in preventing violence. That courage may ask us to address our own chapter brothers, our alumni and most importantly, ourselves.

We are men of standards, legacy and service. While we may wear different letters and colors to separate us, we are all bound by our missions and fraternal values. The wording may vary organization to organization, but the core messages are the same: love for all, service to our communities, and developing men as leaders of tomorrow and today, to carry on our tradition of influence and impact. When we speak, people listen. Our actions send messages across college campuses and can motivate our chapters across the country to follow our lead.

Our letters are a platform that give us the power to project our voices and advocate for social change. We are always wearing our letters and we sport them with pride to symbolize our direct connection to a force of greater good. Let’s model the beliefs and behaviors we want future members to exhibit when we imagine the longevity of our chapters many years down the road. If you are unsure how to start, take a look at our #LIVERESPECT on Campus Toolkit.

I have worked with fraternity chapters that have requested assistance facilitating dialogues around healthy manhood, dating violence, sexual assault prevention and how to hold each other accountable as peers. Typically, these proactive gestures are made by a chapter president or executive board looking to shed lingering reputations of misconduct that preceded the current roster of members.  In these situations, I invite the men to unpack the A CALL TO MEN Man Box TEDTalk and give each other the space and freedom to be vulnerable. In that space, these guys have to dive deep and be willing to say “I don’t know what to do in this situation” or “how can I hold my brother accountable without losing our friendship the next day?” It is only through this honest, uncomfortable, unfiltered dialogue that these young men can reach each other and set their fraternity on a different path.

I encourage fraternities across the governing councils to watch Tony Porter’s TEDTalk and open the floor for discussion at your next chapter meeting. Consider how your goals, mission and objectives support your role in ending a culture of violence against women.

We are always wearing our letters. There is a need and an opportunity for us to affect positive change on our college campuses.