In a time when, on the other side of Greek Row, fraternities are garnering national outrage for racist chants and misogynistic banners, I am, quite frankly, shocked that a university spokesperson felt obliged to make a statement about this video. "Responsible digital citizens?" These women spend a majority of the video smiling, laughing and enjoying each other's company. The last time I turned on any cable TV channel, opened any magazine or walked down a billboard-filled city street, bikinis were not illegal.
"This video is not reflective of UA's expectations for student organizations to be responsible digital citizens." - University of Alabama spokesperson
Why are many people so furious about this video? A.L. Bailey offers some insight, calling the video "worse for women than Donald Trump," describing it as "so hyper-feminine, so reductive and objectifying, so Stepford Wives: College Edition. It's all so ... unempowering."
Hyper-feminine? Is that even a phrase we can properly use, in a time when we debate the meaning of gender norms altogether and urge young women to be who they want to be, ultimately making that decision for themselves? Do we really feel comfortable encouraging young women and then lashing out when they make what someone might personally think is the wrong choice? Are we really here to police this?
Brilliant writer and actress Amy Poehler said it best: "It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for." The women of Alpha Phi's Alabama chapter are being asked to do just that; apologize. And for what, at the very core? Being confident? Having fun? Some may call my opinion, as a sorority woman myself, biased. Maybe I am since the lasting friendships and leadership experiences that my sorority gave me have made me who I am today.
But when I see this video's controversy, I see a debate over female objectification and personal agency. Did my sorority recruit new members by making videos of ourselves blowing glitter while having dance parties in white dresses and bikinis? Well, no. But I like to think that, in the 21st century, we could have if we wanted to. We could make that choice without fear of being treated differently, just as we, as a society, are now deciding that a female student should not be penalized if her collar bone is deemed a threat to the attention spans of pubescent boys, or that the way a woman dresses is never an invitation for sexual assault. Isn't that what modern feminism is about at its core?
I find A.L.'s words very interesting, considering no information about this sorority chapter's academic or philanthropic records is mentioned in the video. She's making assumptions about these women based purely on their appearances. Selling themselves short - how? By having blonde hair? By wearing a bikini? By being silly with their friends? Do women need to wear scholarly robes and nun habits to be taken seriously? A.L. seems to think so.
"Are they recruiting a diverse and talented group of young women embarking on a college education? Upon first or even fifth glance, probably not. [...] did they realize they are a group of young women blessed with potential who are selling themselves, and each other, short?"
"Were they satisfied with being the commodity?" she demanded, alluding to the creepy, entitled men she imagines watching the video, deciding that this is the basis for how they will ultimately objectify and disrespect women. I wonder what A.L. suggests as the alternative: No bikini dancing or hair flipping to provoke these "hormonal college-aged guys?" Or what if, instead, we taught our young men that even the girls who dance around in swimsuits deserve to be treated with respect? Shouldn't that be the actual focus?
A.L.'s response is part of the problem.