On the Subject of Sororities

There’s always this moment, when people see the pin with the Greek letters on my blazer, or people hear me mention my “big”, or my “little”, and they draw the logical conclusion that I am in a sorority (I’m not, but that’s besides the point. If I had time to rush, I would probably be in a sorority).  And that moment is always followed by the one where people give me this funny look, like it doesn’t make sense, and they say something like “Wait, YOU’RE in a sorority?  You’re…so not the sorority type”.

And they mean it in a good way.  So, alright, people with the judge-y looks, what IS the sorority type?

Sororities in the US today have been overly stereotyped.  First of all, every sorority is different.  Heck, every CHAPTER of every sorority is a little different-~-Delta Gamma at the University of Florida isn’t the same as Delta Gamma at American University etc etc.  And if that’s the case, then any stereotype you give is invariably going to be inaccurate at some point, because unless what you’re going to say is “sorority girls are female” or “sorority girls are in college”, then probably you’ve mislabeled SOMEONE who falls under the umbrella of sorority girls.

The “Sorority Squat”

Back to the stereotypes: all too often, sorority girls are painted as dumb party girls who maybe do some charity work (?) and are perpetually gunning for boyfriends.  They worry about things like what to wear to formal, and they gossip a lot.  They’re kind of shallow.  They squeal and throw up hand signs on the quad.  They maintain petty rivalries with other sororities.

Hollywood isn’t helping, of course.  Shows like Greek and movies like The House Bunny and Sydney White show the majority of their sorority girl characters in this light: they are petty, bitchy, and generally unlikeable.  But just because

Above: Condoleezza Rice, former Sec. of State and Alpha Chi Omega (Gamma Delta) alum

that’s how the media has chosen to portray girls who choose to associate with sororities doesn’t make them bad, and when we join in the vilification of sororities, what we are doing is writing off a large number of girls who are talented, smart, sweet, and creative-~-and most of all, we are demeaning powerful girl-girl friendships that we should be supporting and celebrating.

Here are two things you maybe didn’t think about:

  1. Sororities keep track of GPAs.  Most schools have a minimum GPA requirement in order for students to be able to rush, which means that anyone who is IN a sorority had to meet an academic requirement in order to get there.  On top of that, many sororities require a certain GPA minimum in order to hold a leadership position.  That means that the president of the sorority you hate probably isn’t actually the dumbest girl you’ve ever met-~-keep that in mind.
  2. Sororities have a philanthropy requirement.  That’s pretty awesome, because it means that all of those girls that you are whining about are actually in some way working for the betterment of the community.  They might be raising money for cancer research or volunteering with an after school program, but all of them are doing something.  So before you complain that they’re bringing society down (no, really, I heard someone make that comment last week), figure out what YOU’RE doing that’s just as good for the world.

Also in a sorority: Katie Couric, ABC News Correspondent and a Delta Delta Delta alum

On top of that, sororities foster a sense of community and offer a support system for their members.  They provide networks of contacts that can help-~-really help-~-during and after college.  They add to college campus communities by helping to organize big events that pull together people outside of their own cliques.  In short, they’re GOOD for women.

So why do they get vilified?  Look, I’m not saying there has never been a girl who couldn’t shut up about her sorority and her nonsense that made me roll my eyes and be like “wow, really?”.  But that’s the thing: she’s an individual.  Sororities get vilified because they magnify what people see as annoyingly feminine behavior-~-lots of picture-taking, lots of social events, and of course, just lots of girls.  Which means that when we hate on sororities for all of these things, what we are hating on is traditional femininity.  We are hating on girls who interact primarily with girls (which may not be true) and worry a lot about clothes (because non-sorority girls don’t?  Also, have you ever had to find a dress for a formal at the last minute, one that you actually have shoes for and that actually fits right off the rack? It’s hard!), and who bake cupcakes and celebrate their girl-ness.

We should ALL be celebrating our girl-ness.  Feminism isn’t about shunning femininity-~-it’s about getting respect for it.  We should be celebrating sisterhood and the idea of women helping other women, supporting other women, and making other people shine.  We should be celebrating lifelong friendships, not bitching about how annoying that sorority is and omg did you see what she was wearing?  (Newsflash, that’s just as bad as whatever you were complaining that girl was doing/saying).

I may not love every sorority girl I’ve ever met, and I may not even like the way some of the sororities on my campus treat people who aren’t in their groups, but when it comes to sororities in general…let’s be real: there’s some serious power for good there.  And it’s time we started seeing it that way.

This post is dedicated to Jamie T, Emily Y and Carly S (ΦΜ), Katty HK (ΦΣΣ), Alli HR (ΑΧΩ), Leah F and Janie I (ΔΦΕ), and Hillary W (ΑΕΦ)-~-thanks for being so much cooler than the stereotype!


~ by Randi Saunders on September 24, 2012.

One Response to “On the Subject of Sororities”

  1. I’m still thinking about this post. When I went to school, I specifically chose a college without sororities and fraternities because my perception of the Greek system was not only the stereotypes you described, but also that it was elitist and segregated. I’m not sure if that has changed or not. My sister was in a sorority and does have life-long friendships with women that are strong and amazing and connects with women today from other schools who were in the same sorority. That really is impressive and something I wish I had from college. It has always seemed to be something with both pros and cons, but definitely a strengthening of women and that is something to be celebrated.

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