Near the beginning of the school year, I took interest in becoming a part of an organization whose name I will not mention (although I really should so you know what to avoid) partly because of respect, but mainly because I took a pledge of secrecy. There are many other groups that share the same organizational structure, and joining one of these groups is a big part of the “university experience” otherwise portrait in the mainstream media. And the implications from having a membership to one of these groups range from being impressive to idiotic. Lucky for me I chose just the right organization to reaffirm my hatred for any sort of organized social group that value illusory elitism through exclusivity. The group was formed back in 1867, and since then has established a respectable reputation among others in its own category.
The group is an organization by name, but operates more like a society in that the group does not share any sort of superordinate goal, nor have a common interest (except maybe superficiality). To be fair they do have a list of “core values” that members are expected to keep (memorize), but really one does not have to claim membership to a club to value things like integrity, honor and respect, and personal and intellectual growth. They might as well add to the list “one must eat food and drink water.”
300 words in and I have realized that no matter how hard I try to justify it, there is no less embarrassing way to admit that I, a self-assured, crowd-hating, sweat pants-loving social wimp, took a sorority pledge. And it was not like somebody had come up to me at a bar and made me an offer my blood-alcohol level finds irresistible, nor was it a spontaneous decision I could not justify turning down. I actually signed up and paid the registration fee online, weeks in advance, and went through formal recruitment and somehow managed to secure a spot in the sorority of my choice. Throughout the recruitment weekend the Rho Gammas (greek term meaning your weekend baby sitter) kept reiterating that the recruitment process is a two-way route, where the sorority of your choice must feel the same way about you. My success that weekend felt like I had put on a sorting hat, and it read my mind and had put me in Slytherine. (Side note: I am a living proof that sororities are not as selective as they claim to be, this phenomenon was as if the CIA were to let a terrorist into their agency).
With the mixed reputation that Greek Life upholds (in that anybody slightly sane would notice something a little off about Greek life in one aspect or another), I was curious to find out for myself what the buzz was all about. Once I was in, I took my time and completed their required online new member education program and sent out friend requests to the new sisters I’m about to commit to having lifelong friendships with. I felt that I had familiarized myself enough and was very well equipped to face the overwhelming challenges of not being a sorority girl myself, but being surrounded by them.
At this point my feelings towards the Panhellenic council diverged a little. Despise the fact that Greek members, on campus, are notoriously known for their stuck up attitudes that may be the root cause of the mistreatment to their new members, putting up with these girls come with a few perks.
First, Greek Life is huge on every campus; this means that once you are a Greek, you have automatically gained the social approval from other Greek members, which at some University accounts up to half of the entire student body. From those of you studying business, you must understand the importance of networking, which in college open doors to internship opportunities and, well, connections. On a less important note, you are invited to more parties and have more people to wave hello to at the campus library. This is one of the most advertised perks of being involved in Greek life, or the aspect of it known to GDIs (Goddamn individuals, Greek term equivalent of a muggle) as “paying for friends.” What they don’t tell you is that unfortunately you become an ingroup only by association, which is ironic considering that one of the most important core value of all of these organizations is “sincere friendships” and “life long commitments.” So when they want something from you, like from my own experience, these sisters will try to use these meaningless statements to mentally guilt you into committing to their organization. But when it comes time for you to reap the benefits of having these superficial friendships you’ve paid for, like having a group of people to go out with on a Friday night, all of a sudden it becomes a matter of rationality, and the expectations you have are falsely justified to sound unrealistic. In my case, it was announced to the new members through subtext that they don’t have to (don’t want to and won’t) invite you to hang out outside of official sorority events (in my case consist strictly of one session at Laser Quest and an hour of hot yoga). So if you expect that the $500 you paid at the beginning of the semester will go towards placing yourself somewhere in a professionally taken bar photo with a bunch of hot frat dudes and your sorority ladies, you couldn’t be more wrong.
The one thing about Greek life that I admire is that they know when to put their popularity to good use. Although rarely mentioned, Greek organizations have a very impressive list of philanthropic initiatives and charitable foundations they are involved with. They hold social gatherings and fun events throughout the school year and have the entire student body involved to raise money, and collect donations. If I could add something to this admirable act it would be for them to make these events worthwhile also by adding an educational factor. Most people who attend these events don’t really know what their charitable donations are going towards. But hey, doesn’t matter what the reason is, as long as more funds are being raised for cancer research and more kids are learning how to read, Greek organizations are already making this world a better place to be.
At this point you must be thinking “Well, what else did you expect from a bunch of Sorority girls..?” however the statement backfires front and back. First if you are in support of these organizations, why have you justified the dumbing down of your social reputation from being “a society of educated young women” to “a group of girls who care about nothing else besides themselves.” Second, if you are in a sorority and still think not much should be expected from you because of that, then you are saying the same about others in your sisterhood.
So, how should we look at Greek life? Their members are worshiped as idols by some, and hated like villains by others. From my own experience I have met both wonderful girls and intolerable stuck up bitches; they vary in characters. However the one thing that gives sorority girls the reputation that they have maintained for decades is how good they look on the surface, which is often translate to being shallow, fake, and insincere, but does not necessarily have to carry a frown upon reputation because that is also why we love them. Think about it for a second, the most interesting you will see today on your social media feed is probably going to be an album of strictly selfies and snapchat screenshots posted by your friendly neighbourhood sorority girl. You hate her for it, but you could not resist sneaking a quick peak. You want to delete her off Facebook because you guys aren’t actually friends and you know too much about her life, but at the same time you can’t wait to find out what she’s going to do next. Sorority girls even find themselves more interesting than most people do (surprise, surprise!). Websites like TotalSororityMoves.com and Greekrank.com are just a few of many sorority blogs that feature stories on sorority girls and stuff that sorority girls are totally into.
I did not end up going through with initiation. After two months I was well fed up with the passive-aggressive hazing and the condescending attitude I failed to accept. Gaining those girls’ approval was just too much work for me, and I felt that I have finished my task of trying to understand the sorority girl specie. I spoke to an alumnae advisor on the phone to notify her of the withdrawal of my membership. She was disappointed to hear that her organization was not the right fit for me, and also addressed that “it isn’t for everybody.” And she was probably right, and you won’t get them unless you are one of them either.
To wrap it up, the sorority status does not say much about a girl’s inner characteristics; the stereotype, although proven extremely accurate, only holds true about their surface. We have justified many reasons to hate them, but if you want to like them, don’t take them seriously, don’t try to understand them, just appreciate them from a distance.