The Point: Define Fraternity

Define “fraternity.” For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

Some Yale students want fraternities to accept women. Why? Well, as one freshman said: “Women being a part for fraternities would create a better, more positive environment … and would probably lessen sexual assault in their houses.”

Hmmm… what could go wrong with that plan?!

I think a little lesson on the meaning of words is in order… free of charge, which is of course more than Yale can say.

“Fraternity” means “brotherhood.” It comes from “frater,” the Latin word for brother. Likewise, women can belong to a “sorority,” which means sisterhood.

By definition, women can’t be brothers, and men can’t be sisters. Therefore, stick with me here, a fraternity that admits women is no longer a fraternity.

Words have meaning. They point to reality, and how we use them gives us a clearer or more distorted vision of reality. Nowhere is that more obvious than when it comes to sex and gender.

Men and women were created biologically, physiologically, and emotionally different. That’s reality, unlike a sorority with men, or a fraternity with women.


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  • Scott

    Maybe she could found the worlds first Greek “Irmandadity” as a gender neutral alternative?

  • Paul McCosby

    For what it’s worth, I’m not sure about the word fraternity specifically, but I know that in Latin the masculine gender often is used when referring to both genders or to either gender. This is reflected in the older custom in the English language of using the masculine pronoun when the gender of the person referred to is not known.

    • Scott

      From what I could find, a gender neutral equivalent to the Latin word “fraterno/fraternal” could be irmao/irmandades.