Frat charity event falls victim to feminist concerns at UMD

The University of Maryland Sigma Chi fraternity has canceled an annual charity fundraiser because some sororities deemed a pageant component sexist.

Sigma Chi fraternities are known for their Derby Days events, which enlist sororities to compete in games and activities for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, and traditionally culminate with a “Derby Darling” pageant.

This year, however, The Diamondback reports that the fraternity became aware of rumors circulating around UMD that some students were concerned that the pageant, which features trivia games and skits, objectifies women.

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Panhellenic Association President Maddy Bruffy, a self-identified liberal, told the campus paper that some sorority members felt uncomfortable participating in the event, which features a single representative from each sorority.

"Women in the past have pre-gamed and gotten drunk for the event," Bruffy complained, apparently intending to criticize the event organizers rather than the students who over-imbibed.

"Onstage, they're promiscuous, they're dancing sort of to make the audience—a lot of the men who were judging—excited,” Bruffy continued. “The manner of how the pageant was run and who the women were trying to impress, it felt more against the values a lot of our organizations are trying to uphold."

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Sigma Chi president Eric Magas sought to defuse the situation by reaching out to the sorority presidents, according to Sigma Chi member Jake Goode, who reported that Magas received no response.

“We didn’t know what they didn’t like about it,” he observed. “We were just trying to figure that out and have an open forum. We reached out, but nobody came and said anything to us.”

This year's Derby Days raised more than $30,000 for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, Goode added, though that figure likely would have been higher had the pageant proceeded as planned.

Instead, the fraternity has decided to donate the pageant’s $500 budget to the House of Ruth Maryland, a non-profit in Baltimore that helps survivors of domestic abuse.

"This is an opportunity for us to really use this as a learning experience," Goode told the Diamondback. "[We're] kind of looking forward to next year being able to see new ideas for Derby Days and really investigating the possibility of a replacement that sticks to our core values."

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