Some background: My freshman year, I attended a small women's college. It was lovely, and a perfect fit for many of my friends. However, it wasn't a perfect fit for me. I just wasn't happy there. So, I transferred to the large state university across the street.
At summer orientation, my mom convinced me to go through sorority rush. She figured that even if I didn't pledge, rush was a great way to meet people at this gigantic school where I literally knew no one. Both she and my dad had been Greek, and that's how they met. Mom regaled me with stories of fun mixers and homecoming floats and skits. She taught me the Greek alphabet as we trekked across my new campus.
I went through rush and found to my surprise that, for the most part, the women I met were normal. They were interesting and energetic and not at all fembots. They were individuals. Of course, there was the house where the girl asked me what my daddy did, and I made a mental note that this was not my sorority, so I lied. I lied like a dog and was all, "Ohh, mah daddy's a surgeon." And then she was all, "Ohmygawd, mine too! What's his speciality?" And then I freaked out and was all, "Ohh, I'm from a small town, so he's a generalist." And she was all, "Ohmygawwwwd, my daddy is cardio." And then I ran outta that house. I ran like the wind!
Eventually, I pledged the house where I looked at the seniors and thought, "I'd like to be like them." They were poised, and they were leaders. It wasn't the "best" house, or the "hottest" house, but it was the perfect house for me.
A non-Greek friend recently asked me if I liked being Greek because it meant instant friends. I was taken aback. That wasn't it at all. Like any group, there were people I connected with and people whom I very much did not care for. It's just like any other organization in that way. And sorority sisters aren't instant friends.
What I loved about the sorority experience was that it provided structure and opportunity. It gave me ways to connect with people I might not have otherwise met. And it provided the chance to do new things. I sang in the university's main auditorium. I got leadership experience serving on the house exec board. And, of course, I attended events where I could meet boys.
But here's the thing: I never considered the Greek system patriarchal.
I was a women's studies minor, and I was careful never to wear Greek letters on days when I had a women's studies class. It was just too complicated. But I never understood how I should feel subjugated by a system that gave me and my female cohorts leadership experience. If you want a resume builder, being active in the Greek community is it. There are always philanthropies to organize and steering committees on which to serve. More than half of those positions were filled by women. How could a system that was helping women grow and serve and learn be bad?
|Yeah, I'm dressed like Pinocchio, but I'm learning stuff. It was a skit. Not, like, what I wore to class.|
As for the very important "meeting boys" component? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that basically every college organization thrives because students are looking for ways to do stuff they like. And what "they like" is "romantic partners."
The stereotypes are funny, and some people are so, so dumb. But most of the people I met in the Greek system were kind, funny, smart folks. I was supremely blessed to make some fantastic, life-long friends through my sorority. These are the kind of friends you could call at 3 a.m. from a truck stop. True friends.
We weren't hazed. The national Greek organizations are so scared of lawsuits that they shut that business DOWN. Funny thing, though - the small sororities at my women's college? They weren't affiliated with national sororities, and they hazed the crap outta their pledges. There wasn't anyone around to keep them in check.
The recent trouble in Greekland is really disturbing. But instead of it being a call to shut the entire system down, it's a call for more adult involvement. The painful truth is that 19-year-olds don't have fully formed brains. They can be dumb as hell. They need responsible house parents and active alumni to help keep things in check. More education about race and violence against women is needed, too.
But don't let a few bad apples ruin the pi.