HERE'S THE NAKED TRUTH: being a sorority girl is everything you think it is--and also nothing at all like that.
What was real:
The constant social events, the coordinated singing, the incessant squatting for photos, the ubiquitous use of Sorority Terminology (i.e., "biz-cajsh" for "business casual"), the secret rituals, the petty fighting, the excessive coffee drinking.
What wasn't real:
Hazing, naked lesbian pillow fights*, only dating frat boys, not caring about grades**, superficiality, excessive partying, sluttiness, slut-shaming, racism.
What we didn't focus on, but what was there (and still is):
My sorority was small--an 8-to-25-member chapter whose membership was constantly in flux, on a campus where 60-to-120-member chapters were the norm. On the East Coast, my sorority is huge, spanning 37 chapters between Florida and New York. But on the West Coast? Eight. Eight chapters from San Diego to Seattle, and that's including Arizona. So it was no wonder that UCI's installment has lingered around 12 members strong (on average) since its incarnation. It's also a culturally Jewish sorority, and considering the tension between the Jewish and Palestinian communities in Irvine***, it's no wonder that the Jewish (and Jewish-supporting) population at UCI would be afraid to come out of the woodwork and stand in solidarity as three widely-scoffed-at things: Jewish, women, and sorority girls.
But despite its small size and the pre-existing oppression that has been part of its culture for over a decade, this sorority has presented a genuine intention and a tightly-knit community that has been extremely supportive, and I recently had an interaction with the current active members that legitimately gave me hope for the world:
Six of us (three old, three new) met at a pizza parlor in Irvine and sat around and talked for a couple of hours. We came in as strangers, but there was something about being part of that culture many moons ago ourselves and acknowledging the specific struggles that our chapter had and not pretending that everything had been perfect that allowed us oldbies to create a connection with the newbies. People laugh at words like "sisterhood" and "ritual"--hell, I even laughed at those words--like they're paltry, cheesy, superficial things. How can you create the bonds of sisterhood, after all, when there's constant drama in the sorority community over stupid shit? How can you promise the genuine connection of "sisterhood" when all you're doing is paying for friends?
I get it. Sororities seem ridiculous with their color-coordinated outfits and rhyming cheers. But sitting in that pizza parlor and talking to these young women who were dealing with similar struggles to what I dealt with, and having an opportunity to be honest with them--that experience reminded me that sororities aren't about the parties and the stupid fights and the chapter meetings.
They're about connecting women with other like-minded women who would have never otherwise had the opportunity to meet.
They're about teaching women lifelong business skills--and creating a culture of acceptance of women in power.
They're about older women who lived in different times reaching across generational gaps to acknowledge the struggles of the younger women who came after them--and passing along understanding, tolerance, and love to the women in these future generations.
I found incredible, long-lasting friendships with women I never would have otherwise had the opportunity to meet. I've noticed that the alumna are constantly reaching out to one another, connecting with one another, looking for opportunities to support each other. This is the kind of network of women that empowers other women to exist in the world as equals, as leaders, as tomorrow's inspirers, regardless of whether those other women are affiliated with a sorority or not. But sorority organizations are among the top supporters of women-led things--like working together to make sure every woman around the world has access to education, spreading awareness and prevention of domestic violence, and supporting organizations that prevent eating disorders, among other things--and are persistent in bringing this mentality to the world. Above all else, that's something I'm glad to be part of.
*granted, we had all of these things (nakedness, lesbians, and pillow fights), but they were never all combined together at the same time, you dirty-minded fool. (Not that lesbians having a naked pillow fight is inherently dirty, but it's annoying when it's there for male gratification, okay?)
**my sorority (at UCI) has had the highest cumulative GPA at UC Irvine out of all the sororities since its existence at UCI (as Epsilon Phi, a local sorority, until we expanded to a national organization in 2008). Winter 2017 had them at an average GPA of 3.35, significantly higher than the all-women's GPA of 3.12.
***UCI headquarters the Olive Tree Initiative and has recently initiated programming for coordinating interfaith events where both sides can initiate dialogue with each other. I'm excited to see how this programming will shape these communities on campus in coming years!
6/26/2017 06:06:34 pm
Heyoo. I thought you ladies were the coolest sorority I've come in contact with. I definitely still have those biases against sororities, but hanging out and being welcomed by yours -- even though I wasn't a member! -- brought me the closest I've ever been to considering joining a sorority. Money was probably the biggest factor, plus my own complicated views on my Jewishness.
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