“From the outside looking in you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out you can’t explain it.”
It’s the phrase we were greeted with on bid day. The phrase we uttered to our non-Greek parents when we tried to explain how big of a deal it was to get a little. The phrase that holds us together and keeps us strong when those on the outside just don’t get it. Thanks to a recent article from Marie Claire, I finally fully understood just how much that phrase, my sisterhood, and the entire Greek community means to me.
It sounds sappy, really. I’m not one to preach “GREEK LIFE IS THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD.” I gently make fun of it regularly. I never held an officer position and I have never lived in my sorority house. I made some good friends in my chapter, but I was never one of those girls who lived and breathed Greek life.
So, honestly, when I opened up “Sorority Secrets: The Dark Side of Sisterhood That No One’s Willing to Talk About” by Alexandra Robbins, I didn’t really think I would be affected by it. I can take the hate and I can brush cruel comments aside (it’s pretty much part of my job description). I figured this would be another article about how Greek life is “bad” and how we’re all sluts. Whatever. No big. But the deeper I got into her extensive article about sorority culture, the more concerned I became.
In her work, Alexandra interviews sorority women to receive their inside perspective on what it’s like to wear letters, rock their symbol, and hangout with the hottest guys on campus. She tells women’s stories of how they were sexually assaulted by fraternity men, how they were encouraged to get drunk and attend events with top-tier frats to boost their own social status, and how they would put the sorority’s image above the safety of it’s own members.
The article spouts off numbers (like Greek women are “four times more likely to be assaulted than non-Greeks”), gives quotes from nationals showing the disconnect between students and advisors (the higher ups think that good grades will boost our statuses, whereas we, apparently, do not), and paints sororities in an “opaque” light that outsiders don’t understand.
But what they can see of it? It’s dangerous, apparently.
- Apparently, we would throw our sisters under the bus if they would stop us from climbing the social ladder.
- Apparently, sorority members are silenced instead of supported.
- Apparently, sorority members are told what to wear, where to go, and how to act.
- Apparently, if you’re Greek, you’re pressured to drink every night instead of studying.
- Apparently, fraternities drug girls at their parties in order to get laid.
- Apparently, sorority members wont report these incidents because they don’t want to “rock the boat.”
- Apparently, “there’s not much empowerment for sorority women because we have to do things to make sure the [fraternity] guys like us.”
- Apparently, “the focus is being placed too heavily on who we hang out with rather than what we stand for.”
- And apparently, “the oaths we take aren’t being upheld because of the focus on fraternities.”
And I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to call bullshit on this whole thing.
The “sorority” being described in this, and articles similar to this, is one that I have never seen. Maybe I was lucky, and found the perfect chapter on the perfect campus. Maybe I steered clear of this apparently prevalent behavior. Or maybe, just maybe, Greek life isn’t as bad as the media makes it out to be. Maybe the few bad chapters that the non-Greek population focuses on aren’t good examples of what the rest of our sisterhoods are like. Maybe it really is hard to tell what it’s like from the outside.
Because the truth is, my sisterhood was the opposite of the one described.
“We would throw our sisters under the bus if they would stop us from climbing the social ladder.”
In my chapter, we supported each other. The same thing happened in my best friends’ chapters, as well as my roommates’ chapters. Never once did I feel like a fraternity, a man, or someone who made me feel uncomfortable was chosen over me. Despite our growing status on campus, we put each other above a rank on the social ladder.
“Sorority members are silenced instead of supported.”
When nationals tells us to not speak out in matters concerning the organization, it’s a business move. As a group, it’s accepted and understood. You wouldn’t release a statement about your workplace, your university, or your club without discussing it with advisors first. If you did speak out, however, you would most likely face repercussions. A sorority is no different, and we all agreed to that, in writing, we when accept our memberships.
“Sorority members are told what to dress, where to go, and how to act.”
Never in my years as a Greek (and now as an alumna) have I been told what to wear in a general setting. During recruitment there are dress codes, but like any performance, interview, or professional event, that’s not only understood, but it’s encouraged. In my day-to-day life, I never felt bad about wearing sweatpants. I was never mocked for not wearing makeup. I never had to apologize for not looking like the stereotype. If I didn’t want to go somewhere, I didn’t go. If I didn’t want to do something, I didn’t. It was that simple. Whether or not there was a point system, I made the choices for myself, and my chapter (as well as countless other chapters) respected that.
“If you’re Greek you’re pressured to drink every night instead of studying.”
The amount of girls who stay in to study instead of going out or going on socials is amazing. It’s not amazing to us, because it’s normal. But to non-Greeks, you’d be surprised. Academics are held very highly in Greek organizations. Members care about their GPAs. With some of the brightest women at my university sharing my letters, I saw countless women forgo social events to study for exams or enjoy a quiet night at home.
“Fraternities drug girls at their parties in order to get laid.”
Despite the countless frat parties I, my sisters, and my friends have been to, none of us have ever been drugged. Does it happen? I’m sure. But is it a Greek thing or a societal thing? Generalizations like that are not only disgusting, but they’re absurdly off-base. The number of gentlemen, true friends, and amazing men that I have met through the Greek system is only a small portion of the people who are being slandered by stereotypes like that.
“Sorority members wont report these incidents because they don’t want to “rock the boat.”
As a member, we are held accountable for our actions and in return we receive the support of over a hundred sisters, numerous advisors, and countless alumni. Never has my voice been silenced. Never have my concerns been pushed aside. Never have I been encouraged to keep my mouth shut.
“There’s not much empowerment for sorority women because we have to do things to make sure the [fraternity] guys like us.”
Fraternity men aren’t invited to my house’s chapter dinners. They don’t get to come to our sisterhood socials, our pan socials, or our movie nights. They aren’t welcome in the bedrooms of our house and they can’t be in the common areas after hours. They don’t get published on our Instagrams looking sloppy, and they don’t get to treat us, or our chapter, with disrespect. Members of my chapter lifted each other up. They hold each other to higher standards and made sure that no matter what, we like ourselves before we try to get guys to like us.
“The focus is being placed too heavily on who we hang out with rather than what we stand for.”
Members of my chapter were there for each other when a sister’s father passed away. We were there when someone’s brother got in an accident. We were there when one girl got diagnosed with a serious medical issue. We held each other’s hands. We raised money. We supported and learned and educated ourselves and others. We volunteered. We evolved. We learned and we loved and we pushed each other everyday. Those are the moments I remember. What fraternity was I partnered with for homecoming my sophomore year? I have no idea. But what did I do when my big told me that her friend had passed away? That, I remember.
“The oaths we take aren’t being upheld because of the focus on fraternities.”
When I joined my chapter, I took an oath to be a good person. I promised to lookout for myself and my sisters. I dedicated myself to becoming the best possible version of who I could be and strive for excellence in everything I do. I swore to be a good friend. I promised to be honest and trustworthy and always be there for anyone in times of hardship, whether it was a sister, an enemy, or a stranger. Do I mess up? All of the time. But does having that oath push me to be a better person? Everyday. Saying that fraternity men, or anyone else, has anything to do with the oath I took to my historical chapter is preposterous.
So go ahead, say what we’re like without ever really knowing. Tell us what it feels like on the inside without ever being on the inside yourself. And speak for an entire community of people using a few select, personal experiences. Greek life isn’t about what people say. Despite the parties and the social statues and the tiers, Greek life is more than that. Sisterhood is more than that. It’s knowing that no matter where you go or what you do, you’re never alone. It’s the support system of women all over the country who will pick up the phone when you need them most. It’s the feeling you get when you walk through your chapter’s door, hug your big, and meet someone who holds the same values as you do, and knowing that you’re home.
No matter what you say or what you do, you can’t take that away from us. Maybe it’s time to stop the Greek witch hunt and start getting to know the people behind the letters. Your move, society..
[via Marie claire]