December 11, 2018

Reflections on our Workshops with Sororities

By Niki and Tintin

This past semester, the SASC partnered with UBC sororities to initiate dialogue about sexualized violence on campus and in the Greek community. This is part of an ongoing collaboration, which also includes Healthier Masculinities’ simultaneous work with the fraternities. Niki and Tintin, alongside some of our wonderful outreach volunteers: Catherine, Miley, Julia, and Vivienne have helped facilitate these sorority workshops. The whole process began with our initial workshop with the panhellenic council executive members. This is important because it ensured that the workshops had a trial run with leaders within the Greek community and could provide insight into what worked and what didn’t work.

Honestly speaking, we – as Niki and Tintin –  were pretty nervous to begin our workshops simply because they were directed to much larger audiences than we were used to. Moreover, because Greek life is a world neither of us are familiar with, our presence there felt voyeuristic – as though we were imposing our presence. Upon the first few workshops, we were both confronted with our preconceived notions about the Greek community. As outsiders looking in, it can be easy to have a one-dimensional view of a community that you’re not a part of, but we quickly learned that these prejudices that we carried were untrue and that really, when it comes down to it- all communities have relationships with power and violence to some extent. In fact, we were greeted with many rich and nuanced conversations about how to address issues of gender-based violence within Greek Life.

The content of our workshops included: consent education, bystander intervention, and responding to disclosures of sexual assault. We also focused on questions specifically addressing ways that sororities are able to challenge rape culture and the ways in which women are complicit in perpetuating rape culture. Many of the answers that we’ve received from participants in our workshops have been insightful and really got to the heart of rape culture on campus.

We acknowledge that these conversations are difficult to have, especially within the context of a community that has had an ongoing and historical issue with sexualized violence. Nor do we want to assume that just because we had a high level of audience participation and engagement, that everyone feels safe discussing the topic of rape culture and sexualized violence. It’s important then, to say vigilant in the fight against gender-based violence and know that this is an ongoing process of unlearning and disrupting rape culture.

Consent education is a continuous process, and our workshops are only the beginning. On behalf of the SASC we hope that UBC sororities take more steps to engage in dialogue about gender-based violence and other forms of oppression. We realize that our reach within the Greek community can only go so far, and indeed it is up to them to take the conversation further and embody and enact cultures of consent within their own community and networks.

We want to thank UBC sororities for inviting us into their space and giving us the opportunity to engage in such rich dialogues. We hope that we will be welcomed back in the coming years!

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