your thoughts on ‘pussification’?

By: ivan |

So, here we have this article about fraternities. Given what we’ve discussed so far about language, gender, and sexuality, as well as what we’read about the ways of communication among fraternity members in the US, what are your quick thoughts on this?

Also, as a reminder, here’s the video we watched in class that you may wish to refer to:

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(Edit) Clara
Fraternities are a way for males to regulate each others' 'masculinity' through the reinforcement of the fear of being viewed by their peers as a 'pussy' (i.e not conforming to stereotypical masculine nature). Because of the desire to be part of the in-group in the fraternity and not seen as an outcast, the lines of masculinity are likely to be more clearly drawn in the fraternity than elsewhere.
(Edit) Chloe Gan
I feel like this guy wrote this article to support his masculinity, proving that he was not only able to graduate his pledging, but also that he learnt many 'manly' lessons during the process. Though I agree that there shouldn't be participation trophies for every single person and that people should earn recognition rather than expect it to be given to them, there are SO many problems with his article. Wickham mentions that his fraternity taught him many life lessons that made him 'less of a pussy'. However, aren't these lessons what you should have learnt before you arrive at college? If you are not able to check your ego, be accountable for your actions, and be mentally and physically strong by yourself, that says a LOT about your person. A normal person should not have to rely on pledgeships, or a fraternity to get their life together. The 'war on masculinity' is in his head, because all the above 'qualities' that he mentioned are not only expected of men, but of all people.
(Edit) jiaxuantan
This article is based heavily on the stereotypical masculine traits. Also, the tone of the author seems to be very intolerant of men who are less masculine or men who do not behave and act like a stereotypical masculine man. It seems to be that the tone of the author was deliberate, to make him seem more masculine or to fit in into his fraternity's idea of masculinity. However, what the author said is so true that it is almost scary. Majority of the man makes decisions keeping in mind the fear of being considered as a pussy.
(Edit) sakthi

I think that how fraternities look upon and treat people outside their fraternities, exists at every level. I mean that this exists in organisations and even families. Although I feel that one should not decide masculinity based on people’s ability to drink or get girls or drive a muscle car, I feel that the existence of such structures of belonging to groups somehow helps people. The danger here is that this allows, if these groups get big and influential enough, to perpetuate their ideologies and eventually negatively affect society. Clearly I’m confused.

(Edit) Azzam
I guess in a homosexual environment, being surrounded by all that testosterone, the fear that is inculcated would prevent them from crossing the line of being gay. They will constantly try to outdo each other's masculinity. In a way, this reinforces the stereotypes of masculinity. Hence, there is a constant pressure to portray masculinity and it could be mentally stressful for the members of the fraternity:(
(Edit) Sera Goh
It seems that in fraternities, there is a strong need to be 'masculine', and that is something that is already imposed from the moment someone joins the fraternity through pledging and hazing. Just like in the article, these males fear to be seen as feminine or be called 'pussy', and those who are seen as 'pussies' are often bullied or outcasted. This need to be non-pussy results in extreme 'masculine' behaviours, often involving high risks for these males to prove their masculinity through bravado. In my opinion, this pressure to prove their masculinity is very unhealthy, and being in such an environment constantly could prove to be dangerous, as we see from news of hazing deaths.
(Edit) Simin
Considering they are using 'pussy'- a female genital part, to emphasize how masculinity is compromised in a male. It agrees that homosexual, especially gay, are associated to how woman's speech and actions. In this article, fraternities do not condone to males behaving like females thus portraying a homophobic environment. Boys who joined and are unsure about their sexuality, are kept at bay and may never identify truely with themselves.
(Edit) darwinshia

I agree to a large extend on the opinions of the author as I can relate to them to a large extend. In Singapore, the context of pussification would be males before entering the National Service. After the completion of National service, males would be regarded as a “grown man” most of the time.

I feel that the article gave quite valid points regarding life lessons although it was presented in a really crude manner. If pledge-ship is equivalent to National service, NS definitely did put my ego in check, strengthen my physical and mental endurance but most importantly, NS teaches boys about the importance of accountability towards oneself and the others.

However, I do feel uncomfortable with the use of the word “pussification” as I feel that even without going through fraternity/national service, it does not makes males less “masculine” than the norm. These life lessons can also be learned even without going through pledgeship/national service.


As such, I feel that the idea of a less muscular man or terms like “pussification” might probably be created by misconception from social norms.

(Edit) Min Jun
I feel that the author is very afraid of being labeled a pussy, and he is propelled by this fear when trying to maintain and showcase his masculinity. He blames the term pussy for every little decision in life - be it his drink or his car choice. I think this picture might also be an example of what the author meant when he said that pledgeship broke his ego. This is quite a degrading scene for the new member, while the other members are obviously enjoying it. I think that there are other ways other than these when wanting to "truly be a man" and to be "less of a pussy".  
(Edit) debs
Fraternity members seem to place a lot of value on expressing their heterosexuality via masculinity. From the article, the author implies that the qualities of a "pussy" are less stereotypically masculine, such as preferring Arts to Business and having cream in your coffee. From this, it seems he scrutinizes the most minute of behaviours and separates them into the binaries of "masculine" and not "not masculine". The values he mentions about holding oneself accountable and having your ego in check etc are indeed important for all of us, but the scrutiny he places on everyday behaviour/personal preferences displays how men like him are conditioned to believe that if they don't subscribe to the societal gendered expectation of a "masculine man", the credibility of masculinity and heterosexuality are compromised.
(Edit) Kai Wen
I feel like the reputation of fraternities is usually one of (hyper-)masculinity, especially because they are meant to embody traditionally masculine concepts (brotherhood, strength etc.). It seems as though frat boys feel the need to overcompensate to differentiate themselves from other college males not in fraternities? So they position themselves at the extreme end of the spectrum of masculinity, leaving no room for any sort of non-masculine behaviours lest they be perceived as part of the out-group (those not in frats) because they so desperately want to belong to the group with perceived higher social standing. However, to justify these kinds of toxic behaviours on the basis of a few perceived life lessons (that really should not take the experience of pledgeship to learn) is sort of ridiculous to me.
(Edit) Jasmine
I feel that practices of any group would depend on the fraternity itself. And in this case, such in-group solidarity that reinforces one's masculinity resulted in a hazing practice. This practice could also be seen as a display of masculine qualities. I guess the reason why most people would just go through with it is partly because it serves as a common practice (like a tradition) that every member of the group goes through together as a shared experience. Since most associate fraternity with prestige, it is unlikely that they would reject such initiation. But then again, this article is rather one-sided, in its intolerance of "being a pussy" and superficial in the sense it does not touch on the underlying notions like wanting to impress the opposite sex (heterosexuality as a norm).
(Edit) Nurfaizah
I feel that Madison is trying really hard to reinforce this somewhat toxic idea that fraternities are these places men go to become better men, physically and mentally stronger than before. But what he’s really perpetuating is the culturally constructed fear of being a pussy. He argues that pledging a fraternity is a rite of passage and is a process where men truly learn what it means to be a man but the things he says he learnt can be gained through other life experiences, less toxic ones at that too.
(Edit) Sho Khamsani
Firstly, it's great that the author actually got something out of being in a fraternity, I mean after all that hazing! Anyhow, his takeaways being socially motivated, kinda makes him a "pussy" too, no? It goes well against  traditional qualities of masculinity -  to have independence; ownership of his own life and decisions.  Secondly, there are many other viable options to instil accountability and personality as well as build solidarity; being in a frat is almost a total cop-out, easy way out, justified, to make themselves feel better by placing someone else to be "lesser. Thirdly, frats also serve to further proliferate notions of toxic masculinity and hypermasculine tendencies.
(Edit) Valerie
I don't even know where to start with this article. Putting aside how degrading it is to associate "cowardliness" with "being a pussy" (i.e. not packing 500 pounds of pure testosterone means that women are unaccountable and irresponsible??), the writer is pretty much doing a lot of "homosocial bonding" with this flaky article, if the comments (by frat boys) on what he wrote (as saving the website FOR frat boys) are anything to go by. Indeed, his proposition that men should be more accountable and responsible for their actions, that having these values exhibit maturity on the part of the men would have been agreeable but who said these favourable values were reserved solely for men? And to boost their own masculinity, no less. So one cannot be taught to be accountable and responsible for their own actions because, oh I don't know, they want to be good people but because one does not want to be seen as a "pussy", especially if one needs to act masculine to assert their own masculinity. Madison says that pledging into a fraternity keeps his ego in check but then raves about being "introduced to countless beautiful sorority girls" and a fraternity as "(his) ticket to four years of pure glory" all in the same breath. Nope, sorry, I can smell your ego from across the Pacific Ocean. But lest I'm admonished for an ad hominem argument, Madison is almost exactly embodying the fragility of what it means to be masculine - degrading the opposite gender (if you buy into the binary argument) like reappropriating a euphemism of their genitalia to label someone as a coward (yeah because aren't all women cowards?) is essential to boost a man's masculine ego in the eyes of other men. If "pushing your mind and body to their absolute limits (regardless of the fact that perhaps a man cannot bat a ball from first to third base because he just CAN'T get that amount of muscle and strength) is the cornerstone of what it means to be a non-pussy", perhaps it will be better if you drop dead and die when your mind and body gives out on you. (-:
(Edit) Tania
First off, this article talks about the many stereotypes of what a real man should be. For example, things like being good at sports or being able to hold your liquor or even not adding cream to coffee (which is absolutely ridiculous, I don't add cream to my coffee, am I thus a cuck?), are all typical behaviours males are expected to have. The author further confirms that such stereotypes are very important to masculinity as he calls males who are any less than what they are supposed to be, 'pussies'. The problem with using the word 'pussy' is firstly, that males still think themselves as superior over females. That females are weak, artsy fartsy individuals who are way too soft and unable to push their mind and bodies to their absolute limits (based on his last para). This article seems to be a writing for the author to reaffirm his masculinity. But really, does one need a fraternity to learn how to responsible for themselves? How do females learn self responsibility then?
(Edit) Syazwani
I think Wickham should make a trip to one of the hostess clubs in Japan. Clearly, this is an issue of confidence and the requirement of validation of his masculinity. Using the term 'pussy' to mean a sign of weakness hints to toxic masculinity. Wickham constantly plays on the stereotypes of a masculine male when he talks about the advantages of staying in fraternities. While the points themselves seem positive, the language used to describe them are laced with misogyny.
(Edit) Veena Ang
Masculinity is fragile. The entire post reeked of defensiveness against his masculinity and how small acts such as asking for cream at Starbucks makes one a pussy or less of a man. His use of the word pussy denotes negative qualities of a stereotyped woman such as indecisiveness, inaccountability, weak physical and mental endurance, which also make up the bulk of his argument when he talked about how pledgeship helped him gain those qualities. He insinuates that those who do not conform to or do not have these qualities are then considered feminine or less of a man. Whereas we don't see females who are not considered feminine enough being called "dicks" or an equivalent insult.
(Edit) Nur Namirah

The article talks about the importance of masculinity by not being a pussy. That being said, pussy is associated with women. Hence, pussy is used derogatorily to denote when men are not conforming to their gender roles. However, if pussy is used by women, it is not an issue or it does not have a negative impact because it does not affect women femininity. Thus, man’s desire to not be a pussy is an important aspect to show their masculinity and to do that, Madison Wickham suggests joining a fraternity: Pledgeship.

(Edit) Boon Yong
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The fraternity members’ fear of being labelled as a pussy seems to be key in their decision-making in life. The writer himself portrays himself as masculine through his choice of major, car and even coffee and talks about important lessons that he learned from being in a fraternity. This fear might have helped him personally, but this may do more harm than good for those who unable to deal with the pressure of having to be seen as masculine in all situations. 

(Edit) Vanessa
this article (along with much of the discourse today, e.g. the aziz ansari issue) is frustrating because it lacks nuance. we keep trying to dichotomize people and acts: you can only be either hypermasculine or a pussy, sex for women is only either given with enthusiastic consent or it's sexual assault. the reality is that a wide continuum lies between those dichotomies. men can be masculine and order whipped cream too!!! also, it's interesting that the term 'pussy' is typically associated with weakness, rather than femininity (effeminate men). it's not behaviour traditionally regarded as "feminine" that earns men a reference to women's reproductive organ, but rather, cowardice and a lack of endurance/accountability. doesn't that speak volumes about what the patriarchy thinks of women? :~)
(Edit) azida001

The article aims to defend fraternities and it was mentioned that ‘pussification is killing the concept of accountability’, however I don’t understand why the need to have a fraternity just so they can practice accountability? With or without fraternity, one can practice accountability. Also, the word ‘pussy’ seem to carry a derogatory term as it reduces a man to a reproductive organ - if you don’t conform, then you are a pussy. But the question to me here is, what is wrong with being a pussy? 

(Edit) Dwi Idayuny
First off, the term pussy has been entwined with notions of weakness and feminity that these 'masculine' frat boys do not want to be identified with. It feels as though they care too much about this socially constructed idea and 'not being called a pussy' has become the sole driving force for them. Not to mention the constant need to be set apart from (possible) feminine-like actions and to assert dominance over them.   It all boils down to an individual's need for acceptance and I feel that their mindset makes them most vulnerable to the homosexual panic disorder. If being a pussy means making me happy, then I am a pussy. This guy is obviously unable to do that. To realise that it's FINE to like 'pussy' things, aren't you a pussy then?... BECAUSE A man would stand up for himself. And if you like cream on your drink, YOU PUT CREAM ON YO DRINK.
(Edit) Ming En
The article advocates for the assertion of masculinity in everything a man does in order to avoid being called a 'pussy'. It views 'pussy' as the worst thing that a man could be and something that should be avoided at all costs -- a view that is toxic in itself. This not only encourages toxic masculinity but also misogynistic views that are already deeply entrenched in society. Men being associated with anything relatively feminine is naturally seen as an insult and derogatory. On the surface, the author of this article seems to bring up valid points about how pledging to a fraternity and avoiding being a 'pussy' can be beneficial. However, I feel that his assertions actually contribute to misogynistic attitudes in society and at the same time, places unrealistic expectations on what men 'should be'.
(Edit) Natasha
When first reading this article, it seemed to me that it is a response to present ideas that fraternities are purely negative and that nothing good and value-adding comes out of being in one. Therefore the author proposes that fraternities push one to achieve greatness through desiring not to be a pussy. However, the opinions in this article seem to heavily reinforce heteronormative masculine characteristics as something that men need to possess. It also suggests that you need to "not be a pussy" in order to achieve something great and that this method of avoiding 'pussification' is an effective way for men to be propelled to do something they would otherwise not be compelled to. Honestly, this article makes me fairly annoyed and uncomfortable because it seems to continue reinforcing heteronormative masculine qualities as THE way to go, and that those who fall outside those boundaries cannot amount to success. The message that seems to be brought across to others as well is that you always have to face the challenge, and 'not be a pussy', in order to counter a problem, which totally disregards the other ways and methods and personalities that others may appreciate and be more responsive to in dealing with situations in life.
(Edit) Joel Low
This article, while an accurate portrayal of the realities males live in, highlights the intolerant discourse of masculinity and also does not afford readers with a full picture of the issue. The article does not consider that the "little guy" who "couldn't throw a baseball from third to first to save [his] life" could very well be a future Nobel prize winner or that he could make other huge contributions to society in his own capacity. The article reflects the one-size-fits-all approach of masculinity - shoehorning males from different backgrounds, with different passions into one mould of the "ideal" male specimen. Also, we should examine the construction of masculinity within an overarching heteronormative framework. While the strongly articulated desire to avoid being a pussy is a huge push factor for males, the article does not consider the pull factor. The heterosexual system largely prizes the ideal "male" specimen: suave, well-built, tan, rich, ballsy. The article does not consider the pull factor: the desire to be deemed attractive to females within this heterosexual construct that we have been socialised into.
(Edit) Tan Jun Yi
For a 'boys only' club, the last thing they want would literally be a female, and what's more feminine than a female reproductive organ? Personally, I feel that the 'pussification' of men only pushes the agenda of men's rights advocacy activists, with men who do not fit into stereotypically masculine gender role being 'not men'. Social norms are hard to change, and joining a fraternity where masculinity is embedded and indexed by widely use phrases (assuming that women are discussed frequently, whether it is for solidarity or competition) makes it much harder for anyone to challenge non-normative sexualities. Joining a fraternity would already be a foot in the door, and by the time actual, physical hazing happens, all efforts made by the wannabe frat boy would have already become a sunk cost, with generations of frat boys trying to justify all the trouble they went through placing much greater value on fraternities and the toxic masculinity it promotes.
(Edit) Jaslyne Loh
Madison Wickham's article on pussification discusses about stereotypical masculine traits in a war against masculinity where he adopts a deliberate persona to portray him as a high masculine male in order to fit into the fraternity's idea of masculinity. Personally, I feel that Madison is frightened to be labelled a pussy and hence positioned himself at the extreme end of the spectrum of masculinity, where he is supposed to go for a Business major, to not have cream in coffee and so on. The fear of being labelled a pussy is very real as these "pussies" tend to be bullied or outcasted in the society, and something should be done for fear of more deaths from pledging or hazing.
(Edit) Sharon Ng
First above all, yes, it was completely unnecessary to include the word "pussy" in the headline. For one, why condemn another's way of life just because your masculinity is being threatened? I guess we're at this point where the internet is a platform for one to prove that "I/we are above them all", to get likes and comments for constant reassurance of "my/ourselves" and to find like-minded people to prove that they are not the outcast. The deliberate use of a derogatory term just seems like a pathetic move by the author to project hate for anti-frats and a silent cry to protect his own masculinity. Sadly, this avoidance of 'pussification', or the extreme reinforcement of hetero-masculine traits has also become a mindset for many males even in Singapore.
(Edit) Lim Qiu Li Cherie

After reading the article, I feel unjust that women’s genitals or “pussies” are being used as a negative term or representation of weak or coward. I think that both sexes’ genitals should be treated at equal status since both are essentially required for reproduction. Not to forget that it is through a woman’s womb or vagina that a baby is conceived. Can men imagine how much tolerance or courage is needed for a woman to go through a painful childbirth process? Thus, why are women or their pussies being considered as weak or cowardly?

Moving on deeper into the context of the article and video, I think that there are advantages and disadvantages of fraternities. As seen, fraternities, much like sororities, give a sense of belonging and identification to individuals, making them feel that they are part of a group. I believe that it is in human’s nature to seek acceptance or recognition from others since most of us are born and raised in a community. Thus, I do agree with the saying that the environment sculpts how living beings grow.

Yet, the video mentioned about “better be safe than sorry” and “social cues”. Is our environment or society being too inflexible or restricted such that individuals feel pressured to grow and shine from their inner selves? There should be a balance between being independent and taking in opinions. I feel that we should be sensible, responsible and accountable for ourselves ultimately, not to others. The author of the article seems to be overly-reliant on his fraternity that he may have forgotten his true self. He believed that his fraternity did sculpt him into a “better man”. However, who was the one who set the expectation or definition of this “better man”? Is it his fraternity or himself?

From what I see, this “better man” is merely a more disciplined man, someone who can take control of his life. Any individual could achieve that, either through self help or help from peers and family. This has nothing to do with being in a fraternity or being a “pussy”. 

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