Welcome to banquet season. A weekend of seclusion spent with fraternity brothers and their dates at the beach may sound relaxing, but the weeks leading up to it definitely are not for the girls attending. As per tradition, dates attending a fraternity’s formal decorate a cooler as a demonstration of their appreciation for the invitation.

An impressive cooler requires an investment of both time and money. It must be sanded, primed and decorated via various mediums. Between the price of the cooler, the decorations and its contents, the expenses that the date is supposed to pay for add up significantly.

Many female students find the expectation offensive. Males who attend sorority formals just show up. They don’t devote excessive time and money for a token of appreciation, nor are they expected to. While many recognize that sorority formals are one day and fraternity formals are a whole weekend, the disparity between the responsibilities of the dates seems a little too extreme.

Some can’t help but notice the sexist undertones associated with this tradition. An Elon student points out the gender stereotypes, as “girls are expected to be obedient and artistic, while the guys pay for most of the weekend.” Further, she sees no problem with decorating the cooler if it’s a choice, but the fact that others assume it will be done is a problem.

Some girls view the tradition positively. Elon freshman Meg Gunson feels that coolers foster good, fun competition between both the guys and girls. The responsibility also acts as a unifier between the dates because they all have to decorate their own cooler. Considering the time, effort and creativity put into the project, it should be fun, but others feel that the pressure to present an impressive token has turned it into more of a burden. 

The most ironic part of this whole scenario is that the females seem to care more about the tradition than the males to whom they are actually giving the cooler. Elon sophomore Thomas Hale reflects back on a conversation he and his roommate had, sharing, “Guys are more focused on the inside of the cooler than the outside.” Still, the pressure associated with decorating the best cooler holds such a strong weight in our minds that we strive for greatness. 

Maybe my cynicism derives from my lack of exposure, as I may come to understand its value after witnessing the tradition more than once. Maybe it comes from the stress I see it imposes on the women pouring their blood, sweat and tears into this project. Still, the question remains, whom are we doing this for? Is it because we truly believe the guys care about every stroke we paint, or is it to prove ourselves to fellow women?


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