Women in The Whiffs

Measure for Measure

In Measure for Measure, A Cappella Blog contributor takes a look at both sides of a controversial issue in collegiate a cappella. Please note that the views expressed by columnists do not necessarily represent those of The ACB as an organization, nor do they necessarily represent the view of individual columnists. The purpose of this piece is to explore issues and further civil, intellectual debate.

The Whiffenpoofs are the longest running documented collegiate a cappella in the world. The Yale group is comprised of seniors who audition for the group, usually after experience singing with other groups. To date the group has been all-male. This past year, two female students from Yale auditioned but did not make into the group. But should women be allowed to participate in the future? In this edition of Measure for Measure we take a look at the statement:

Women should be allowed to join The Whiffenpoofs.

True: The Whiffenpoofs are not only the oldest college a cappella group in the world, they are among the best-connected, most prestigious groups around. They’ve toured the world. They’ve appeared on The Sing-Off. They get opportunities most a cappella groups don’t. A group like this should foster equal opportunities for men and women alike to get involved and the spots should go to the best singers available, regardless of their X- and Y-chromosomes.

The women who have tried out thus far fit the vocal range of the traditional Whiffenpoofs, which means they wouldn’t have forced changes to the repertoire or arrangements. Better yet, accepting female members may afford The Whiffs an opportunity to freshen their image by making some bold new creative choices.

False: The Whiffenpoofs aren’t just a longstanding group, they’re a traditional group, with a largely established repertoire and established traditions. I don’t see anyone beating down the door saying that UO On the Rocks, BYU Vocal Point, or The Tufts Beelzebubs should take on female members. That’s because it would change the character of the group. The Whiffenpoofs are an all-male institution and shouldn’t feel compelled to change their fundamental constitution unless the overwhelming majority of the organization agrees to do so.

Additionally, Yale also has Whim N Rhythm, an all-senior, all-female counterpart to the Whiffenpoofs. While they may not have quite the tenure of The Whiffenpoofs, they have now existed for over 30 years, and provide worthy home for the Yale’s top female a cappella singers.