Upon learning that my female cousin had been made an official brother of the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity, my grandfather wrote in an email: “I would think you would make a better sister.”
I confess I had the same thought. My cousin wrote, “That would make more sense but since it’s co-ed we are all brothers.”
After reading my cousin’s response, I was spurred to do some research. Though the official site says nothing about gender terminology, the Alpha Phi Omega Wikipedia page touts the same information my cousin provided:
The fraternity was opened fully to women in 1976. All members are called “Brothers,” regardless of gender. The Fraternity views “Brothers” as a gender-neutral term.
Gender neutral term? Something smells fishy. I would understand if historically a single sex group calls each other one thing than it would make sense to continue calling everyone the same thing after the opposite sex has been added to the mix, but Tau Beta Sigma, a similar co-educational sorority with female history, calls its members “sisters and brothers.”
To me, calling “brother” a gender neutral term reeks of the ancient linguistic trend of referring to all of humanity with the word “man” or “mankind,” as if men are a sufficient default with which to define the entire race. Talk about outdated.
This is clearly a double standard. Why are women okay being called “brother” when a man would never submit to being called “sister?” And what implications do these labels promote?
What about males and females who identify as another* gender? How do they play into the mix? Would YOU be willing to be called “brother” as a woman or “sister” as a man?
*Updated November 25, 2014. Thank you, PTA, for reminding me there is no gender binary.