The Irvine Queers, OUTspoken, The Feminist Leaders for Equality and Empowerment as well as other groups and individual students held banners and put signs on their bodies to protest a ‘pimp and ho’ themed fraternity party that was being promoted by Tau Kappa Rho on Feb. 12.
Tau Kappa Rho is a newly formed and independent Greek fraternity. The fraternity promoted their party by handing out flyers that said there would be a $250 prize for the best dressed ‘ho’ and that entrance prices would be ‘$3 for pimps’ and ‘free for hoes.’ However, many groups and individuals saw this as sexist and decided to protest in front of the Tau Kappa Rho table on Ring Road.
‘If they want to have a party, that’s cool. I’m out here not to stop their party,’ said Cynthia Clarfield, a fifth-year English and comparative literature major. ‘What I’m out here for is that there are women and men who have walked by this and thought it offends them and that it is sexist, and if they’re afraid to speak up or that they’re the only ones who think that, I want to show that they’re not.’
Stephen Houck, a fourth-year political science major and president of Tau Kappa Rho, believes it is all a misunderstanding.
‘I think it’s taken out of context,’ Houck said. ‘This is nothing more than a costume party. It wasn’t that anyone set out with the intentions of degrading women. Obviously we all have sisters, mothers and grandmothers, so of course we have the utmost respect for women. Nothing on our flyer even gave the indication that it had to be women dressed like hoes, men dressed like pimps.’
The Irvine Queers also protested because of rumors that Tau Kappa Rho tore down some of their posters around campus.
‘One of the members of the Tau Kappa Rho party has admitted to tearing down the Irvine Queers posters,’ said Kym Bradley, a second-year theatre arts major.
‘I feel that we should not have to deal with this,’ said Freddie Diaz, a fourth-year international studies and Spanish literature major and senior advisor for the Irvine Queers. ‘They should not be taking down our stuff and promoting stuff that is degrading to the UCI community.’
Tau Kappa Rho denied the accusations.
‘No. That’s actually news to me,’ Houck said. ‘It’s absurd. My guys are not destructive. We have no negative feelings towards any group on campus. I have no knowledge of this whatsoever, and I know my guys and they’re good guys.’
Despite the controversy surrounding the accusations, most of the debate between the protesters and the fraternity was centered on the choice of the theme of the party.
‘We picked a theme that would attract the most people we could,’ explained Kyle Arnold, a second-year social science major and member of Tau Kappa Rho. ”Pimp and ho’ grabs your attention. So we figured why not do that? It’s not meant in a literal sense. It’s basically describing the theme of the party, and what you’re supposed to wear. A pimp would wear a hat, cane and feather, just really flashy clothes. A ho would wear pretty skimpy clothes, but not necessarily have to, though.’
‘Well they go together,’ added Joshua Matic, a third-year political science major and fellow Tau Kappa Rho member. ‘You can’t necessarily say pimp and princess, can you?’
Houck also further explained why the fraternity decided to choose the particular theme.
‘We spoke with some of the sororities on campus, and they suggested [the theme] was a good idea,’ Houck said. ‘A lot of the other Greek organizations have done things like ‘pimp and ho’ before. We are new here, and we wanted to promote us in the best light. However, it turned out that some people took what we were doing as a negative thing, where I can’t really see that.’
Following complaints, the office of the Dean of Students quickly contacted both parties in an attempt to mediate the situation.
‘[The office of the Dean of Students] treats each situation like this as a teachable moment, where we get the offended parties along with the parties who say what’s the big deal, to try to get them together to talk so that education occurs, so that awareness occurs on both sides,’ said Dean of Students Sally Peterson.
However, Peterson believes that the problem is more fundamental and that there is a better solution.
‘Rather than constantly orchestrating these mini-teachable moments, we should do it with all freshmen,’ Peterson said. ‘This action by this group is one of many that happens a lot throughout the year. It is to be expected when you bring people in from different backgrounds, different exposures, different high schools, different upbringings and different parental backgrounds. You bring them all together and you plop them down and everyone thinks that everyone should be happy. So what are we going to do about it? Well we should be doing something like a University-101 course.’
Students had differing opinions on this event being promoted by Tau Kappa Rho.
‘The titling of the party as a ‘pimp and ho’ party is blatantly offensive,’ said Douglas Ishii, a second-year comparative literature major. ‘It is my belief that the Greek system is built upon a mutual foundation of brotherhood and sisterhood. It is not about just a bunch of guys saying that they want girls to dress in an exposing manner.’
However, second-year psychology and social behavior major Minh-An La-Pham believes differently.
‘I think they should have been protesting for another reason besides sexism. I think the reason should have been more about the advocating of unsafe sex, and not sexism,’ La-Pham said.