Perils of brotherhood
“Boys will be boys” is often used to excuse the childish reckless behavior of young males who are overcome by an apparent excess of testosterone and end up hurting each other and hapless bystanders.
This may have been the hormonal cause of an outbreak of violence last week between two fraternities based in UP Diliman involving “brods” of Upsilon Sigma Phi and Alpha Phi Beta. Video footage caught the fracas, but even after the scuffle was broken up by campus police, it was followed by another leaked video showing a vehicular smash-up involving members of the two brotherhood organizations that had taken place some days before.
This was bad enough. But the scandal escalated with the release of a leaked chat “thread” containing comments that have been widely attributed to Upsilonians (although there is no definitive proof yet for such attribution, and the document’s provenance remains in question). In that explosive thread, the participants hit out at women, lumad and other minorities, including Muslims, people of color, the LGBTQ community, victims of martial law, other fraternities, activists, and even former president Cory Aquino.
About the only prominent figures left unscathed were President Duterte, whom they esteemed as “Tatay Digong,” and of course Upsilonians who’ve since risen through the ranks and now occupy important positions in government. Untouched as well was the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, also an Upsilonian, as is the martyred Ninoy Aquino.
The firestorm of outrage that followed in the wake of the leaked comments comes at a most ironic occasion. Upsilon just recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, marked by a big to-do and even highlighted with a presidential proclamation that declares 2018 as Upsilon’s centennial year.
Two Upsilonian student leaders soon issued denunciations and distanced themselves from the group. Akbayan Youth chair Juan Carlo Tejano asked for “immediate and unequivocal action” from the leaders (and maybe elders) of Upsilon, asking them to “make a choice—either to verify and identify and expel the members responsible, or we will completely disaffiliate ourselves from the Frat.”
Similar sentiments were aired by Yael Toribio, UP Student Council chair, who said he has “tendered my leave of absence from the fraternity until such crisis… is solved.”
Upsilon’s student members released their own statement, saying they “strongly condemn all acts of discrimination” and that they had worked with many organizations and individuals in the fight for equality, as “this is what we stand for.” As for the slurs made by their alleged cohorts, we “take these accusations very seriously and will not tolerate members espousing such backward, misogynistic, and discriminatory views.”
And such backward views, indeed. The outrageous remarks, among them the observation that women’s mouths are good only for giving pleasure to men and the truly horrific suggestion to punch women in the gut after sex to prevent pregnancy, may be deemed by some as an excess of braggadocio engaged in by young men seeking to outdo one another in loutish behavior. It may even be deemed private or privileged communication, posted in expectation that no one outside the group would read the rude words.
But the members of the Filipino public, the “barbarians” who have never joined fraternities or sororities, are nonetheless grateful for whoever caused this jaw-dropping exchange to go public. In the harsh light of day, the posts offer proof of what goes on in the minds of some college-age male students. Male students who managed to qualify for consideration in one of the country’s oldest fraternities in the nation’s top university, successfully underwent initiation and apparently were welcomed as “brods” worthy of associating with their prominent elders.
The trouble is that “boys” will and have grown up into men—although not always as gentlemen, with some of them learning not the loftily expressed ideals of their brotherhood, but baser behavior like misogyny, toxic masculinity, self-entitlement and exceptionalism.
So, will this controversy jolt Upsilon and other fraternities enough to change their ways and worldviews? As an article in the online magazine Esquire put it, as with other incidents of this nature, “People are going to latch on to it for a few days, air their outrage and grievances, and then move on to the next scandal du jour.”
The still-reeling UP community and the rest of the public must make sure this isn’t the case this time.
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