Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Great Greek Debate

Most of you know how tiring conferences can be. You get up really early, gather, listen, learn, network, meet all sorts of new people, break for lunch, gather again, listen some more, break for happy hour but it’s not truly a break because you’re networking your tail off. Then you realize its midnight and you just want to sleep. Your brain stopped working hours ago and your body is ready to finally give in. This past year we were at a conference and approaching the midnight hour when we hopped on the elevator to head back to our room and turn in for the night. There was an older woman standing next to us on the elevator and she looked at the conference name lanyard hanging around my neck and she asked what it meant. I told her the full name of the conference and she just stared at me so I explained that Becca and I were speakers and we work primarily with college students to help end sexual violence. I was hopeful that the conversation would end there. Not a chance. She asked what types of student groups we work with and I rattled off several different organizations. She said, “It’s good that you talk to Frat boys because that’s really the reason for date rape.”

Rrrrrk, needle scratch the record. Hold the phone Ramone. What did she just say? As soon as the hard-hitting words left the woman’s lips I woke up, Becca and I looked at one another, took a deep breath and consciously fought going into super defense mode. It was late and we were exhausted, but here we go. We could have ignored her, politely smiled and waited for our floor to light up, but that would be the easy way out and even though we were dog tired, we are impassioned activists. Avoiding her comment just would not feel right and so the heated conversation with the unknown woman in the elevator began.

I quickly fired back by blurting out the number of tremendous leaders that are Greek, some of them United States President’s for crying out loud. Becca cut in and began rattling off financial details about the tremendous good deeds of Greek organization’s noting their philanthropic contributions.

Okay, so that conversation was ALL in my head, but you know sometimes the conversations I have in my head are the best kind because they usually have a great sound track playing in the background, the perfect dose of dramatic flare and they always end with me feeling brilliant and victorious. Enough about my flawlessly twisted thoughts, lets get back to the elevator commotion.

For a split second, I thought it would be a good idea to reply to this woman by saying, “You are wrong and you just don’t understand because you’re not Greek lady,” then walk off and possibly talk a little trash about her with my home girl B.T. along the way. Yes, that would be easy and maybe even fun but that’s not necessarily the right thing to do and that’s not what we did. Becca and I took turns arm wrestling her instead. Okay, that did not happen either but just for the record, I totally would have won.

What really happened is we both politely smiled at the woman in the elevator and said something like this, “I’m sorry you feel that way. We have worked with many Greek men and women on campuses all over the country that are committed to preventing sexual assault and speaking out against violence. I can see why you might feel that way though, because unfortunately opinions are often made about all Fraternity men and Sorority women based on several isolated incidents.” The woman smiled at us both and said, “Good for you. Thank you.”

Nice. Very nice.

But let’s pretend the conversation in my head was really our reaction. What then? If we responded to her comment in an overly defensive manner we would have missed out on a huge opportunity to educate. Moments like this do not have to turn into a heated confrontation or the great Greek debate, especially not in such a tiny confined space. When people blatantly share their negative personal assumptions about our values, character and actions, we might be inclined to respond defensively and point out their flaws, but if we do, we are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to remove the unfortunate stigma associated with being Greek.

Greek men and women are doing lots of good throughout the land. We get the chance to witness their character, values and achievements on the regular and we could not be more proud of our brothers and sisters or more proud to be Greek.

Here’s just one example of what we see and are sometimes lucky enough to be a part of --

The sisters of Delta Gamma at Southern Methodist University host a sexual assault awareness program for all incoming students on their campus each year through the Delta Gamma Foundation Lectureship in Values and Ethics. We are extremely proud and honored to have been a part of this program for the third year in a row. Thank you to the women of Delta Gamma for all you do, not just on the first day of class but throughout the year to help make your campus a safer place for everyone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's really hard to respond positively when people are talking complete nonesense and trash about something that is as important as your "letters" but I will do my best. I hope when I do they are as respectful as the woman you met on the elevator. Thanks for sharing.