Gym Talk and Frat Bros, What More Could You Want?

I figured I should start with a little bit of background and context before we dive into the meat and potatoes of this blog. I’m a sophomore communications major who hasn’t picked their focus yet. I’m a white guy from northern VA. I’m also a member of a fraternity. So, let’s put it all together, I’m a white male from northern VA who is in a fraternity, aka I’m supposed to be a douche, or at least that’s what most people think. Now, the funny thing is, most people are right in that assumption. 

I can testify that me and my pledge brothers participate in an environment of toxicity when it comes to hyper-masculinity in the forms of out-drinking one another, fighting one another, and at times, regrettably, objectifying women. So, yes, upper tier Greek life is pretty much the definition of douchey and is a hotbed for misogyny. Not a great good selling point for fraternities, but that’s not the point I’m trying to get at. What I’m writing about and what I would like to share with everyone is that within this hyper-masculine environment, I have recently stumbled upon a microcosm.

I got back from my remote camp counseling job, where I had been for the last six weeks of summer, to find out that I had been added to a series of group chats. They were all the same chat, but spread across iMessage, Instagram, and Snapchat. Just from looking at the guys who were in the chats, I knew this was my fraternities’ hardcore lifters chat. What I expected to be the cockiest, most arrogant group chat I’ve ever been a part of turned out to be the complete opposite.

My whole life I’ve been a bit overweight and by spring break of last year, I weighed almost 220 lbs. At the time I was added to these chats, I had lost 55 lbs and had then now weighed close to 165. When the guys found out they went crazy. All of them had seen me start this journey last year and now I was with them.

That part didn’t really matter to me. Sure, being accepted into a group feels nice but the reason why I’m writing about this is because of the way these guys behave in these chats. It is by far and wide the most supportive group I have EVER been apart of. Since we have a multitude of chats each one has developed their own kind of specific purpose.

The Instagram is typically for inspirational videos of other guys, pretty much stuff we all wish we could do. The Snapchat is what I like to think of as the hype center. It’s where we’ll send a post-workout mirror picture, yes incredibly cringey, but get nothing but support in response. All the members will gas one another up and coming from someone who has never thought of themselves as fit, it is one of the best feelings in the world. The iMessage chat is for those times where we need someone to come lift with us or we just need a little extra nudge in the right direction. It’s also become a great resource for younger guys, like myself, because I often find myself asking older heads for advice.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was shocked. I was shocked by how supportive and uplifting these guys were. I was surprised that despite being in a hyper masculine space with men who stereotypically embody hyper masculinity, we were supporting one another and lifting each other up. Like I said in my introduction, these are the same guys who act so misogynistic at times it disgusts me.

Now for the sake of honesty I need to admit something. When I was writing this, I sent it to my older sister, a UVA grad, who recommended that I add how this type of supportive environment should be not only among fraternity brothers, but within all groups of people. She informed me that women while in hyper-masculine places, such as the gym (especially UREC), feel incredibly subjugated to feelings of discomfort in a male dominated space. With that being said, it makes you wonder how much more welcomed people belonging to a minority would feel if the majority treated them as one of their own.

In conclusion, I’m not trying to get everyone to love frat guys or anything along those lines. If I’m being completely honest, there are times I wish I wasn’t associated with Greek life because of how bad the reputation surrounding it is and how sadly accurate it can be. On the bright side, perhaps this is men learning to embrace one another and lift each other up instead of tearing each other down. I just hope they realize that women need it too.

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