The University of Georgia is currently hosting the latest artistic study about the mysteries of Greek life, unexplored by outsiders. You’d expect pictures of a bunch of 20 year olds passed out in Greek letters and their own vomit, but instead, photographer Kelly Kristin Jones has taken a broader view on the pressures and realities sorority girls face in their lives.
None of the girls are smiling in the 17-piece exhibit. It shows them lying on couches or staring into the distance. Despite its outward appearance, this story isn’t so much about some GDI’s art show full of pictures of forlorn sorority girls you’ll never meet. It’s about why she would do something like this in the first place.
From the Red and Black:
“‘Greek girls and the images we project on them have forced them to be the ideal of these expectations,’ Jones said.
‘They are expected to be perfect all the time,’ she said.
These social expectations require the girls to be many things at once — socialite, philanthropist, friend and daughter.
The images Jones took were those moments in a sorority girl’s life that often times would be overlooked.
‘I am simply offering the viewer a consideration of the moments surrounding the formal portrait,’ Jones said.”
As a fraternity man, I can see just how greatly the stereotypical clichés about the differences between men and women are exaggerated by the Greek system. Not all men are rowdy and messy. All fraternity men are supposed to be. Not all women are polite and wholesome. All sorority women are supposed to be. Our brothers, from our executive board to our alumni, essentially encourage an Animal House existence. Sorority women, on the other hand, are seemingly forced by their authority figures, to hide a major facet of what they really do.
This duality has been evident at pretty much every event I’ve ever attended. After every homecoming our partner sorority has some ridiculous punishment for some ridiculous transgression. A partner sorority was once put on probation after a bonfire keg party in the woods, called a “Woodser,” because nationals found drunken Facebook pictures from the event. The following year, we changed the event’s name to “Ski Lodge,” and my brothers and I continued to post, tweet, and shout about it. No one was trying to stop us. The girls had to keep it a secret.
Sororities are almost forced to live a two-sided life, even outside of big date functions and parties. Like pretty much everyone around them, they want to drink, flirt, and live out a typical college existence, but they have an image thrust upon them that guys don’t have to deal with.
I realized pretty quickly that sundresses, pearls, and images of charity and class, aren’t really what a sorority is all about. When I think of a real sorority house, I think of girls in hoodies frantically studying over textbooks in the common room during the afternoon, and drunkenly sneaking down to the kitchen fridge for leftovers at night. That’s a bit closer to what goes on, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Behind those walls are also fights, one-night stands, illnesses, hurt, and loss. That’s not to say that’s what a sorority woman is. She can be, and usually is, exactly what she, or society, considers her to be. She is a volunteer, and a care-giver, and a scholar, and an achiever, almost always more so than her non-Greek peers, but she’s more than that.
That’s why there are no exhibits of “Behind the Scenes of a Fraternity House.” Hooking up, drinking, smoking– guys do that with or without anybody watching them. Sure, we’re leaders and athletes and all that, but it’s sort of just a part of what we do, not an image we’re forced to preserve at the expense of who we really are. It’s pretty simple to figure out what we’re all about, particularly in our fraternity lives, but GDI artists will continue to spend months on sorority women because of all they are. The complexities of their lives are truly fascinating.
[via The Red and Black]
Image via The Red and Black