Derby Days: Changing the gender stereotype

Derby days has become a spring term tradition at Washington and Lee and schools across the country.

Nationally, the tradition of Sigma Chi’s Derby Days began in 1933, with the mission of giving back to the community.While derby days is frequently praised for its philanthropic achievements, the event has been criticized for gender insensitivity.

The Derby Days Cook-Off tends to raise the most concern.

The cook-off entails preparing a meal for each other and the judges, members of Sigma Chi. The meal includes an appetizer, main course and dessert.

According to Sigma Chi, last year, Panhellenic Council requested that it cancel the cook-off over concerns of gender stereotypes.

The Sigma Chi Derby Days Manual states that chapters support women’s groups that choose not to participate because of human dignity concerns.

This year, Sigma Chi took a step in the right direction.

Sigma Chi entered a team and participated in the cook-off alongside the sorority teams. The team of fraternity brothers prepared a meal and was judged just as the sorority teams were.

Sigma Chi’s decision to include a team in the cook-off helped to ease concerns regarding gender insensitivity.

Sorority teams were also encouraged to enjoy the meals they prepared. The teams not only cooked for the judges but also for themselves.

Additionally, the sorority teams were encouraged to stay and relax with the brothers and other teams after the event. The teams were not just seen as chefs but rather as friends.

The freshmen that participate have not had the opportunity to attend derby days before competing. Many may not fully understand what the events entail until they find themselves competing.

As their sorority’s newest members, competitors may feel that they have a lot to live up to.  Competitors want their performance to reflect well on their new sororities.

They may feel less inclined to speak up about the gender inequality within derby days because they feel pressure to win and impress their sorority’s older members.

Therefore, it is especially important for Sigma Chi to take gender concerns into consideration when planning derby days.

Derby days are still far from being free of sexism. Nonetheless, the 2015 Derby Days competition marks a step in the right direction.

Hopefully, Sigma Chi will continue to take gender concerns into consideration when planning derby days and the event will become a better experience for all involved.