Massachusetts Daily Collegian

In college, ratios are more than a math concept

Party ratios are problematic

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In college, ratios are more than a math concept

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

By Maxwell Zeff, Collegian Columnist

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As my first semester of college comes to a close, it is astonishing to look back on all that I’ve learned. However, despite not taking a math class this semester, one thing that I seemed to learn a lot about was “ratios.” In the mathematical sense, ratios are the quantitative relationship between two numbers, indicating how many times the first number contains the second. Ratios can be used to refer to just about anything. Apples to oranges, people to cars, windows to buildings. But when you’re going out on a weekend in college, “ratio” takes on a whole new meaning.

As the week comes to a close and the Rubinoff and Busch Lights make their way out of mini fridges throughout the University of Massachusetts, ratio becomes a term specifically referring to the number of girls to the number of guys in a group. The reason for this is because many house parties require a specific minimum ratio of girls to guys in order to let people into their residences. It is common knowledge that the girls should outnumber guys. Ratios could be two girls for every one guy, three girls to one guy and I even had an experience at a particular fraternity where they wanted every guy to have at least nine girls accompanying them to be let in. This was my first week at college. I barely even knew nine people. But although the required ratios may vary, ratios are almost always present at large house parties on campus, fraternity-owned or not.

So why do house parties have ratios? Simple: American college boys understand math all too well. They know if there is a higher number of girls and a lower number of guys, the guys have a better chance with the girls. This extremely advanced statistical analysis puts the owners of the house, or the members of the fraternity, in an optimal position for success. Seems smart, right? Well, it seems quite sexist and patriarchal as well. Almost anyone can understand that this system is unfair to women and gives these young male homeowners an excessive and undeserving amount of power. In the generation of the #MeToo movement where people seem to be getting more and more socially aware every day, why do college parties remain stuck in this hypermasculine system that places sexist young men at the top of the food chain? Surely the women going to these parties must have questioned why they are valued quantitatively. Surely even the young men attending these parties must have at one point questioned why their presence was such a nuisance that it need to be paid for with four times as many women as them. There must be some other forces at play here.

All of these people have probably realized at some point that they are contributing to a problematic party culture. However, whatever doubtful thoughts they had were most likely suppressed by the sociological impact of college itself. To adjust to college is to adjust to an entirely different culture from what any of us have been exposed to before, and with a new culture comes a new set of norms and values that we learn to abide by. Many would say it is common sense to not bother going to the party down the road that employs misogynistic techniques, but common sense is relative to the subculture one belongs to. In his book, “Everything is obvious once you know the answer,” sociologist Duncan J. Watts claims that the existence of universal common sense itself is a myth. Watts remarks that acceptable and unacceptable behaviors are completely determined by the society they reside in, and for these college students, ratios are fairly common practice.

One could argue that it is just the subculture of students who attend these parties that submit to these sexist practices and while this may be true, they would be equally upset if these rules were applied in any other context. Imagine dining hall employees rejecting male students and telling them to come back with three more girls before they could eat. All of this is not to mention that this system completely neglects those who don’t confine themselves to the gender binary, as well as promoting detrimental heteronormative stereotypes. So why is it that for a few hours a week (specifically the night hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays), we allow these outdated practices to infiltrate our progressive community?

House and fraternity parties provide a quintessential facet of college life: a release. The average UMass student is recommended to spend 45 hours a week on their academics. And that’s not including clubs, sports and any other extracurricular activities that students choose to partake in, as most students do. That’s equivalent to working more hours than a full-time job. Furthermore, the modern college student exists in a high-stress environment, while performing an intricate balancing act of school, clubs, family, friends, jobs and more. All of this stress needs some sort of release, and while I would typically recommend mindful meditation, the reality is that young adults nationwide choose to let loose by partying on the weekends to relieve the stresses of the week. A house party environment is the perfect place to do so – a place to escape from reality. There are no expectations within the walls of that house. People come to drink, to dance, to scream songs with upbeat tempos that get their hearts racing and that’s about it. People will sacrifice quite a lot to do this. They do this for the same reason people pay hundreds of dollars to go to music festivals– an escape from the norms and expectations society. College students typically require some form of release to survive the stresses of their reality, and if it means checking your views on gender and society at the door, it is a price many are willing to pay.

Maxwell Zeff is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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