The decision to join a sorority can be a defining moment in a woman’s college career. Nevertheless, the media depicts college Greek life in a very specific way. If you take the two movies Sydney White (2007) and The House Bunny (2008), sororities are either full of rich, vain girls or helpless nerds. In both movies, girls are either already labeled as the “it” girls or desperately seek to gain that status. Often, this perpetuates the objectification of women at the pleasure of the fraternities or jocks. Yet in reality, what kind of message are these organizations sending to freshman girls?
Hazing has become the norm for many Greek organizations, and although often done in good fun, occasionally these rituals go a step too far. For example, in a Huffington Post article published earlier this year, former Dartmouth student Ravital Segal recalls a hazing ritual that put her on the brink of death. She was forced to drink 64-ounces of alcoholic fruit punch followed by a rapid series of vodka shots. When she awoke the next morning, the doctors informed her that her .399% BAC level was just .001% short of the limit that can cause death.
As a feminist, it is hard for me to grasp how these practices occur. Hazing rituals have the potential to mentally damage women for years after their college glory days are over. Is this really what “sisterhood” is about?
This was the view I held about sororities for years: utter disgust. In fact, in my process of selecting a university, I explicitly looked at schools with no or nearly no Greek life. Had someone told me that three weeks into my freshman year I would be rushing a sorority, I probably would have laughed.
But I did. Much to my own dismay I did. Why? Well, because I found my type of Greek life, a professional sorority.
I had never heard of a professional sorority before. I always considered the word “sorority” synonymous with “partying” and honestly didn’t think that type of social atmosphere was what I was wanted to get out of college. However, the first week of school I was introduced to Delta Phi Epsilon Professional Foreign Service Sorority (DPE).
These girls were not your stereotypical sorority girls; they were highly motivated, talented, and smart young women. Most spoke more than one language, had held multiple internships, had travelled the world, and had aspirations of being CEOs or joining the Peace Corps. DPE’s commitment to community service and networking appealed to me and for the first time got me excited about joining a sisterhood. I was always that feminist back home that had too many guy friends and barely any girlfriends. Finding a core group of girlfriends equally as motivated and driven as me was something I desperately wanted. After a two month pledging period of “hazing” that consisted of activities such as a “monument jaunt” where the pledges visited some of the embassies in D.C. or coordinating to bring a professional female speaker to come speak with the sorority, I became a sister.
Flash forward a year and a half and my decision to join a sorority is among the best I’ve made in college. I was wrong to write off sororities as a useless social construct. Greek life does not always conflict with feminist beliefs. If you are a feminist looking to join a sorority, my biggest advice is to stay true to your values. No organization is ever worth demeaning yourself or your dignity. Going Greek can be a great experience; you just have to know where to look.