Joetopia

Let's count the ways the Cal Poly frat party theme was wrong

jtarica@thetribunenews.comNovember 23, 2013 

Once again, the Greek community is making Cal Poly look bad.

This time, the shame apparently comes courtesy of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, which according to the Cal Poly Diversity Coalition, hosted a fun little seasonal mixer the fellas dubbed “Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos.” The event apparently featured dudes in early American attire and gals in sexually explicit Native American-themed costumes.

When reporter Julia Hickey was chasing the story last week, she initially heard the party featured some kind of “cowboys and Indians” theme. When another reporter discovered the actual name of the event and shared it, I literally burst out laughing — not because the theme was clever or humorous, but because it was just so astoundingly insensitive and actually confirmed the offense as even more clueless and obnoxious than we first thought.

“It’s unfair,” protested one Greek who isn’t a member of the frat in question but still smartly only gave his first name as Daniel. “We are taught that Thanksgiving is pilgrims and Indians.”

A sorority member Hickey talked to was equally unfazed. “There are a lot more offensive themes out there, especially during Halloween.”

Oh you silly Greeks, you aren’t helping. Where to even begin with how dumb this is?

Let’s start with the whole “bros and hos” thing, which has become a common fraternity/sorority mashup for guys-and-girls parties.

For the dim bulbs who organize these get-togethers, the rhyme-y phrase is obviously a convenient starting point. Jot down “bros and hos,” attach a theme, and voilà … let the beer pong commence.

Apparently referring to the women partygoers as prostitutes doesn’t bother anyone. I’m sure all would say it’s just a joke, and everyone is being too politically correct. The fact that fraternities host shindigs like this, which are then enthusiastically attended by sororities, speaks poorly of both sides.

Next up in the party planning was picking a theme, which in keeping with the month and season, seized on a Colonial America idea. Except don’t you like how the sexes were divided?

Of course it wasn’t “Colonial Hos and Indian Bros,” because who wants to see sorority girls dressed up like victims from the Salem Witch Trials? Women in bonnets and head-to-toe frocks isn’t sexy, especially when the other option is loincloths. So now we’ve got frat boy “bros” decked out as pilgrims and tarted up sorority girl “hos.”

But that’s still not enough, because the party name has to be catchy, not historically accurate to the New England locale. I guess when the organizers were going through tribe names, “Colonial Bros and Wampanoag Hos” didn’t have the right ring to it.

No worries, there’s a better option, and the name just rolls right off the tongue, leaving plenty of room in their mouths for the appropriate insertion of feet.

Who cares that these Native Americans are from the Four Corners region of the Southwest, most assuredly never shared turkey and sweet potatoes with the settlers from the Plymouth Colony, and were in fact subjected to terrible abuse at the hands of American soldiers (including the rape of Navajo women)?

Put it all together and there you have it: A fraternity brainchild that’s sexually demeaning, culturally offensive and historically ignorant — all for the convenience of a good time.

I don’t know whether to be more offended as a 1/32 Native American myself or as a proud Cal Poly alum who has to share a collegiate affiliation with people like this.

All things considered, this isn’t a huge deal and could be very simply resolved with a little sensitivity training — which was the goal of a university forum on Friday — and an apology — which has yet to occur from the actual organizers, although the Interfraternity Council did dispatch its PR director Friday to apologize on behalf of the “community of Greeks.”

For their part, the responsible parties are employing the typical strategy lawyers always recommend to clients who do something dumb. Don’t comment. Say nothing.

Here’s a piece of advice, frat boys: If you want to make this unwanted attention go away, just come clean, say you’re sorry and pledge to be a little broader in your world view and a little wiser in your decision-making. You’re young, and we all do stupid things before our brains fully mature.

This is a chance to do a little of that maturing.

 

Joe Tarica is the presentation editor for The Tribune. Reach him at jtarica@thetribunenews.com or on Twitter @joetarica.

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