Shallow. Entitled. Skinny. Ditzy. Rich. Stupid. Slutty. Loud. Annoying. Blonde. “Sorority girl.”
Many women who participate in Greek life on college campuses are confronted with the stereotype of what a “sorority girl” is like. After going through recruitment my freshman year, someone said they “didn’t see me as a sorority girl.” At first, I was confused — should I be insulted, or was that meant to be a compliment?
I came to realize that the statement had very little to do with me and everything to do with generally accepted perceptions of sorority women.
The “sorority girl” stereotype has existed for a long time, but it’s been exacerbated by viral videos depicting strange sorority traditions or people imitating the behavior of Greek women for comedy. There is an expectation that people who belong to sororities are stupid or don’t care about school, like to party, are too focused on their appearance and are “basic” or uninteresting.
In addition to blatant insults directed at sorority women, there also seems to be a misunderstanding of what sororities are. There are sororities that belong to the National Panhellenic Conference, which are likely the organizations most people think of when discussing sororities.
But there is also the National Pan-Hellenic Council, or the Divine Nine, which includes historically Black sororities created partially as a result of segregationist practices within the NPC. There are academic sororities dedicated to certain majors or fields, often with a GPA requirement attached, and there are cultural sororities that exist for underrepresented groups on college campuses.
So when we’re discussing “sorority girls” and weaponizing the term against women who participate in Greek life, are we including the women of the historically significant Divine Nine? Are we including STEM majors with rigorous curriculums who join Greek honors societies as a result of their hard work? What about the United Greek Council here at the UofA, which includes a sorority for Latina women on campus? Or what about the women who are members of NPC sororities who don’t fit the mold people have created for a “sorority girl”?
Who exactly is the target when we’re ridiculing these women?
When the term “sorority girl” is used as an insult, it’s not only demeaning to the women who join “traditional” sororities — those who have historically been rich, white and privileged, but do not always fit that description — it’s also minimizing the impact and influence of thousands of other women in history.
It’s erasing Black women who formed their own groups when they were facing discrimination on college campuses. It’s ignoring women who are dedicated to academics in their field. It’s overlooking the experience of minority students, such as Latinas at the UofA, who are seeking community and a safe space.
It’s important to recognize, discuss and address legitimate criticisms of traditional Greek life. Not every critique of sororities is a baseless, hateful claim — just the opposite. There are issues, particularly within the NPC Greek system, that need to be discussed and addressed.
For one thing, barriers to entry in traditional Greek life are incredibly high. Dues are expensive, sometimes thousands of dollars a year, not including room and board if you choose to live “in house.”
Additionally, the recruitment process is brutal. Because membership has to be capped at a certain number, women are “cut” based on a strict but subjective and messy selection system. It’s draining for nearly everyone involved.
There are plenty of other problems that exist in addition to these. There’s a harmful “legacy” system that still exists in some chapters, which perpetuates rich and white privilege. Subjective social rankings of chapters on campus pit UA women against each other. Exorbitant amounts of money are spent on objectively unimportant things within individual chapters. But these problems aren’t the subject of the “sorority girl” conversation, even when they should be.
The majority of criticism toward “sorority girls” isn’t well-thought-out, constructive commentary on systemic issues within Greek life. It’s not questioning the validity of a system that excludes people based on their ability to pay or their social standing with existing members. The jokes about “sorority girls” are a lowbrow, backhanded form of rhetoric rooted in sexism and misogyny that cannot be characterized by any amount of critical thinking.
By continuing to use the “sorority girl” stereotype as an insult, we are simply avoiding important conversations and legitimate critiques of Greek life in favor of cheap insults that exist only to put women down. We are perpetuating a cycle of women being forced to prove that they’re “not like other girls” — or, in this case, that they’re “not really a sorority girl” — to be accepted or respected.
We’re ignoring the sororities that don’t look like what people expect from Greek organizations, which in turn ignores the significant contributions that those organizations make to their communities. And, overall, we’re demeaning thousands of women who participate in Greek life that are intelligent, hardworking, inclusive, dedicated, confident and kind.
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