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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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50 Responses

  1. Laurie
    Laurie February 26, 2007 at 2:10 pm |

    ‘Cause it makes soooo much sense for a sorority that is hurting for new recruits to summarily dismiss two thirds of its existing members.

    *headhand!*

    There was a reason that I never got caught up in that stuff in college, and the ridiculous rush process was only part of it. Good on the young women who left voluntarily!! They showed some real guts and moral standards, and the women who stayed could learn a lot from them.

  2. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl February 26, 2007 at 2:11 pm |

    Heh… I actually attended a university summer prep session for high schoolers at DePauw university over a decade ago — 2 weeks in sunny Greencastle Indiana had me packing my bags for NYU the next year. The big event of the day (for those of us too young to go out to the bars) was hopping in the party wagons and heading down to Wal-Mart. Yee haw.

    I remember how distinctly I felt alienated from the other white women in the program — they were specifically scouting out DePauw as a possible university whereas I actually thought I might learn something (Ha!). I found people to hang out with, but it definitely wasn’t a sorority experience.

  3. quite contrary
    quite contrary February 26, 2007 at 2:11 pm |

    When I was in college (over ten years ago!) I joined a sorority. I rushed at the urging of my parents, who were both in the Greek system in college. I was a fairly rebellious teen, so I think they wanted me to join a sorority to “straighten” me out and get me to lose the Doc Martens.

    My house wasn’t the best on campus; in fact, we were always on notice with our national HQ for low membership. Many of the other sororities and fraternities on campus had cruel names for rival houses, including ours, that usually commented on the overall look of the house. I remember during rush, the coordinator always put the pretty women in the most visible places, and tried to hide the less attractive. We had to model our rush outfits for the rush coordinators (which as an internal committee, BTW), to check for “tastefulness”, but it was really an excuse to tell the larger women that they shouldn’t wear spaghetti straps or the flat-chested women to get a padded bra. For some reason I didn’t think anything of it then, but now it makes me ill, and a little ashamed. Clearly, I hadn’t found feminism yet!

    If I had to do it over again, I would not join. My very best friend is one of my “sisters” but other than that, I don’t keep up with anyone. I tried, but after my divorce, I got a really cold shoulder and a lot of “I would just die if that happened to me” comments. That made me realize the falsity of the sisterhood idea, and that it was all a huge competition.

    I respect the DZ women for standing up for their sisters; they clearly know what sisterhood is. I wish I had been as smart when I was in college, and I bet we continue to hear great things about them. But if I have a daughter, I will probably discourage her from rushing.

  4. Esme
    Esme February 26, 2007 at 2:59 pm |

    I’ve read some interesting research on black vs. white sororities. Apparently, traditionally black sororities focus more on academic than romantic success, encourage career rather than marriage goals, foster financial independence, and serve as an academic moreso than social support system. I wish I still had the book with the primary essay in it, but a woman in my department did her senior research on the subject and I find it wonderful that there are Greek organizations that encourage women to develop independent identities and successes

  5. BStu
    BStu February 26, 2007 at 3:05 pm |

    I’m glad my school didn’t have a greek system at all so none of this nonsence was going on. Admitedly, what we have here is a sorority admiting that its only purpose is to be a club for the pretty people which only distinguishes it from other sororities by acknowledging the obvious. Still, it does distinguish them and provides an appropriate avenue to respond. They should be thrown out of the school. If they are going to be this blunt in expressing their purpose, the school should respond in kind. They should become an unsanctioned and unofficial organization as far as the school is concerned. And that can be a lesson to any other greek society that wants to become more overt in their hostility towards their “lessers.” I’d love to be rid of such elitist and sizist institutions in one fell swoop, but I’ll gladly have them taken out piece meal if thats the option we’re afforded.

  6. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 26, 2007 at 3:25 pm |

    I hope all of the girls who were either thrown out or quit go on to form their own real sorority (as in, one that uses the original meaning of the word, “sisterhood.”)

    I briefly considered joining a sorority in college because where I went to school, a huge amount of the social life was sucked up by the fraternity/sorority system. But after hearing one or two stories, I knew it wasn’t for me. I ended up first with the student government and then at the student newspaper, where I fit in a lot better.

    People were always asking my best friend which sorority she belonged to because she’s white, blonde, blue-eyed, and pretty, so of course she must belong to a sorority (she didn’t). I wish I could remember which fake assortment of Greek letters we came up with, because I know it was an acronym for something about how stupid the system is. ;-)

  7. lizvelrene
    lizvelrene February 26, 2007 at 3:26 pm |

    The greek system at DePauw is especially disgusting. It’s a school of entitled rich brats for the most part, and the greek houses are the only source of a social life whatsoever on campus. It’s located in the middle of nowhere surrounded by cornfields with absolutely no where else to go but frat parties. It’s a one-gas-station town outside the campus, with an hour’s drive to Indianapolis’s non-existent nightlife. So you end up with a campus that was 90% greek in my time. Anyone who didn’t conform to a very strict standard of whiteness and upper class affectation was shut out of the only social option around, and stuck living in dorms for four years as there were no apartments around to rent either. That is, unless things have changed a lot since I was there 5 years ago.

    I witnessed an awful lot of disgusting behavior while I was there. A gay friend of mine was physically attacked by frat boys three times on Old Gold Weekend – the big homecoming school loyalty to-do – while just walking down the street, and ended up leaving the school a few weeks later. A hazing incident involving burning freshmen initiates with lit cigarettes took place just down the hall from me in my dorm. The sorority took some bad publicity for that but was not, to my knowledge, punished for it. Lastly another freshman kid, a real sweet 18 year old from South Texas, was arrested for dealing when his frat buddies convinced him the only way he could get into their house was by bringing them drugs. When an undercover officer caught him he did hard time, and the white kids got no punishment at all. That’s just two years time – after that I did off-campus study and my non-greek friends transferred out.

    There were some minority sororities and frats when I was there, but they were tiny – 10-20 people apiece – and they had no living quarters. They had to rent out communal space to give parties, and have meetings in the cafeteria.

    In a place like that the greek system has an awful lot of power and no checks on it. Since the vast majority of alumnus are also greek there’s a very strong disinclination on the part of the school administrators to do anything that might offend them. It’s sad, because there were a lot of good things about the school but the greek system made it pretty well unlivable.

  8. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl February 26, 2007 at 3:40 pm |

    liz: When I was at the summer program I remember being told what an important part of campus life frats and sororities were. That really turned me off… I’m glad to know that my instincts were right.

  9. tzs
    tzs February 26, 2007 at 3:43 pm |

    What I remember mainly about the Greek system at UIUC was how, as a grad student, I kept getting the sorority “girls” mixed up in the physics section I taught. (There was one other woman, quite distinguishable.) I wanted to say:”look, you’re both white, blond Farah Fawcett hair, tons of make-up on your faces, and you come to class in sweatpants with greek letters plastered on your asses! Of course I’m going to mix you up!”

  10. evil fizz
    evil fizz February 26, 2007 at 4:37 pm | *

    I find it very interesting that the entire criteria here seems to be whether or not the frat boys want to fuck you. And by interesting I mean appalling.

  11. Tiffany in Houston
    Tiffany in Houston February 26, 2007 at 4:45 pm |

    I’ve been discussing this with some interest amongst my sorors. I am a member of the second oldest and largest (membership wise) black sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

    Commenter Esme is correct in her assessment of the policy and programming thrusts of black sororities (and fraternities). Our focus is on academic achievement and community service and while there is a social component, particularly at the collegiate level (parties, step shows etc), the expectation is that you are there to achieve. In particular on primarily white campuses, they exist as a safe space for minority students. In addition, membership is a lifetime commitment and the expectation is that the colligiate member will matriculate to an alumnae chapter and continue with the public service components that are stressed from our national office. You can also join the organization at the alumnae level.

    There is not to say that on the college level, there isn’t some pettiness especially when it comes to selection of new members but I have to say that my friends and I all found this totally bizarre and a real bad case of cutting off one’s nose to spite their face.

    For anyone interested in learning more I would suggest reading The Divine Nine by Lawrence C Ross. It is a history of all 9 predominately black Greek lettered organizations. Many prominent African Americans are members of these organizations.

  12. jfpbookworm
    jfpbookworm February 26, 2007 at 4:50 pm |

    It’s amazing how little this sort of “Greek life” has to do with the coed fraternity I was in in college. We were another “socially awkward” group, but we managed to turn our image around by throwing better, “artsier” parties – think Revenge of the Nerds without the racism and sexism. Had our national organization tried to do something like this (how do they even have the power to?), I’m fairly confident the chapter would have simply seceded from the national, as other chapters have done in the past for various reasons.

  13. Carovee
    Carovee February 26, 2007 at 5:58 pm |

    This is a little off topic but was anybody else bothered by the “he said/she said” nature of the NYT article? The national officers claimed that the women who were kicked out were not committed to recruitment. At least one of the young women quoted said that, in fact, some of the women who were asked to leave were very committed while some who were not asked to leave did nothing for the sorority. This seems fairly easy to clear up. Don’t sororities have to keep records of stuff like that? Couldn’t the reporter ask both parties to back up their claims?

    Sigh, just another sign of the downward spiral in reporting I guess.

  14. Rin
    Rin February 26, 2007 at 6:06 pm |

    This kind of reorganization stuff has been going on for years though — the girls in my chapter of AXiD were summarily told that we studied too much and didn’t rush enough (gee, why did I go to college again?) and that we didn’t take recruiting seriously, so they shut us down and tried again the following year with all new members. Thankfully, it didn’t go over very well with the rest of the campus (I went to a very nerdy school and we were the anti-sorority on campus, they missed us), and now there isn’t a chapter at all on campus.

    Our theory was that since the national Panhellenic Council had made a new rule saying that any chapter in any sorority could be reorganized (i.e. shut down and restarted with all new members), and as long as they recolonized in a year, they wouldn’t have to petition the campus to be let back in. So, for a lot of sororities (not just mine), they decided to cut their losses with the chapters they didn’t like, or who were too small, and shut them down and basically restart them from scratch.

  15. Hugo
    Hugo February 26, 2007 at 8:05 pm |

    I’ve posted about this today. The legacy of American sororities (both white and black) is one of uneasy cross-pollination with the larger feminist movement. Historically, it has not been as adversarial a relationship as we sometimes imagine.

  16. Squeaky
    Squeaky February 26, 2007 at 9:09 pm |

    I don’t think a lot of people realize that sororities want a certain attitude or personality as well as a superficial image. I’m 5’11” skinny, blonde, and I played varsity volleyball in college. I was actively recruited into a number of sororities my sophomore year. Of course they wanted me!!! I looked fantastic in mini skirts. Once I joined, though, the group was horribly clique-y and catty. I didn’t like to party every night of the week and sleep around with frat boys, so I didn’t fit in. I’m a very quirky person, despite how I look, and in retrospect, I wish I had never gotten caught up with such a bland group. When I met my future husband, a non-frat boy, my “sisters” were extremely condescending towards me about my relationship. I ended up dropping out, and I don’t talk to any of them any more. I would discourage any young woman with a sense of individuality from joining a greek organization.

  17. Jasmine
    Jasmine February 26, 2007 at 9:36 pm |

    I was a member of a sorority in college that at any given time composed of many girls who aren’t really considered the sorority “type” I was even discussing the situation at DePauw with my boyfriend and we began discussing the image problem my sorority grappled with. He saw us as not fitting the stereotypical sorority type, but he viewed it as a GOOD thing.
    We were one of the smaller chapters on campus and often had the highest GPA. Boston U does not have a big greek system due to the city environment the campus is in. Our National HQ was always on us about increasing our numbers, but the same 3-4 sororities always dominated Rush week and got the bigger numbers. They had the better images and the connection with the frats on campus, who often had mixers and invited these girls to their rush events (which I personally viewed as sexist meat markets, but knew that a connection like this could have benefited us) A Exec board member regretfully informed us that we were considered the “ugly girl” sorority. And I truly resented how this all came down to appearances. My boyfriend even recalled overhearing two “stereotypical” blond girls referring to my chapter as the one NOT to join. We knew that we were not viewed positively in the community. I even ran for and won a position on the Panhellenic council, in hopes of increasing our influence and bettering our image. I HATED IT and almost burned out because I was also juggling an exec position in our own chapter and a part time waitressing job.
    Some of my best freinds were girls I met in that sorority and I love them to death (four of us even went to DC for the March for Women’s Lives), but i absolutely DESPISED the system we had to exist in.

  18. kate
    kate February 26, 2007 at 11:06 pm |

    He saw us as not fitting the stereotypical sorority type, but he viewed it as a GOOD thing.

    Nice to know your boyfriend approved of your sorority. Just thought I’d call you on what women do all the time. “My husband says…” “My boyfriend says…” as if somehow our experiences and views need the man-stamp. They don’t.

    Neither do women in sororities, which is such a disappointment as I have high regard for education and the opportunity learning gives to broaden one’s potential for positve personal and social impact.

    Guess I’m just a stupid idealist, seems the patriarchy still has a strangle hold everywhere.

  19. Justin K.
    Justin K. February 26, 2007 at 11:37 pm |

    I’m a DePauw alum (’02) and from the incidents you describe lizvelrene, it sounds like we may have overlapped there, although I remember the Greek numbers being more like 75%. I was one of the 25%, a student attracted by the genuinely good academics and generous merit scholarships (the rich douchebags subsidize some very bright and promising scholarship students). Went through the first round of rush just to see what the big deal was. Wound up dozing off in a chair in a frat living room after 6 hours of being dragged around houses to here the same screaming chants and sales pitches and decided it wasn’t for me.

    Liz is right about some of the odious stuff that happens in the houses, but what always struck me about the greeks was the torrent of self-pity that gushed out every time the houses were criticized for hazing, drinking, or general jackassery, the school paper would fill up with editorials and letters complaining about how everyone picks on the greeks and no one understands that “it’s about brother/sisterhood, and academic achievement, and leadership, and good works.” It sounds like the DZs (who in my time as well were a small, studious, relatively mature house) were actually living up to those stated standards and got axed for it.

    Let me pose a question to the folks saying, effectively, “the greek system sucks, but my house did OK,” and I supposed to the ex- and current DZs as well, many of who speak in terms of fixing the greek system. If your national can come in at will, smash up your sisterhood, humiliate you by confining you to rooms during rush, and restart the house from scratch (and kudos to president Bottoms for saying DPU would not necessarily allow this), why bother with them at all? Why not create some new kind of community. These women have proven that real sisterhood is at cross-purposes with greek life, so why not chuck the whole sorority thing?

  20. exangelena
    exangelena February 27, 2007 at 12:41 am |

    Has anyone ever read “Pledged” by Alexandra Robbins? She does write about the black versus white sororities, although there’s always the problem of the “paper bag test” (that even black girls who are darker than paper bags can’t get into sororities). Disturbingly, of the four subjects in her book, half of them suffered date rape. I’m not a sorority girl so I can’t testify to its veracity, but I think it’s a fascinating book for a feminist to read …

  21. One Jewish Dyke
    One Jewish Dyke February 27, 2007 at 3:01 am |

    I went to a school where greek life on campus was very big. I think we had the second-most number of chapters on campus of any school in the country. This was 15 years ago so who knows how that may have changed.

    Anyway, I always thought the black sororities were doing much more interesting things. They seemed to actually care about their philanthropic causes and put effort into them, as opposed to many of the white ones where everything was done for show. At least that was how it looked to me as an outsider.

    I work in a setting where just about everyone has at least a four-year college education. Every single American-born black woman is an alumna of a black sorority. Someone is always wearing a pin or necklace or something with her letters, which sparks the conversation among the other women. More than once I’ve been in the room for conversations such as, “You’re a Delta! I’m a Delta!” or “You’re a Delta? I’m an Alpha but my mom was a Delta.” I figure there must be something to say for the black greek system if every black single woman I know, quite a diverse group, was in one of the sororities. Most white women I know don’t talk about their former sorority membership and it’s always kind of a dirty little secret to find out that a friend you’ve had for years was a Kappa Kappa Gamma or something.

    I was in a coed service fraternity. Our rules were if you wanted to be a member and you followed all of the pledge requirements, you were in. The requirements were things like doing 25 hours of community service during your pledge semester and attending a certain percentage of meetings. Things that presumably, if one was to join a service organization, one would want to do. It’s sort of impossible to be too cliquish when anyone who wants can become a member. It was a good experience for me: I did everything from collect cans of food to working on a haunted hayride for Halloween to organizing a dance for developmentally disabled adults in the community. Dues were incredibly low ($20 a semester I believe) and there was no pressure to look a certain way or date a certain person. It didn’t feel like a safe place to be gay, but that may be more a function of being in the midwest in the early nineties than the group itself. The only places on campus it felt okay to be gay were the GLB groups. Back then we hadn’t yet opened up our umbrella to include T as well.

    It was also kind of fun that we had sweatshirts with our letters on them, identical to the kind that the women in the “real” sororities had. I got some enjoyment of walking on campus and having people look at me with slight confusion since the letter combination was not one they were familiar with and of course the campus world revolved around them.

  22. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl February 27, 2007 at 6:44 am |

    Jill — this is totally O/T but this Onion article made me think of you: Former Editor Can’t Believe Shit College Newspaper Is Printing

  23. Equine Shine » And just think; I thought College was about education.

    […] zed 

    I don’t have any time to comment, but Feministe’s article on the sisterhood of the white, the […]

  24. Kristjan Wager
    Kristjan Wager February 27, 2007 at 10:08 am |

    I think that not only is the behaviour of the sorority beyond contempt, but there is something serously wrong when getting thrown out of the sorority leads to some of the students having depression.

    That’s not a healthy dependency.

  25. zuzu
    zuzu February 27, 2007 at 10:40 am |

    I think the Greek system at UConn accounted for about 10-15% of the undergrad population, if that. And I think people mostly joined because you could have kegs at the on-campus houses (at least for a while; I think the school eventually cracked down on that, like they had in the dorms).

    Of course, having escaped college relatively unscathed by the Greek experience, I got to get up close and personal with them at Michigan, where I lived in an apartment next door to a house that had become a de facto frat house when the frat’s national closed down the chapter. To make it even worse, a house across the street was home to a sorority, and at the beginning of the year, the girls would lay out on their front lawn in bikinis and sing their sorority songs across the street to the frat boys sitting in lawn chairs next door, who would sing their fraternity songs back.

    Good times, good times.

  26. bmc90
    bmc90 February 27, 2007 at 11:08 am |

    Where I went to school no organization on campus could have selective membership. It was in the student government constiution. Let that sink in. Sports teams were included. The coach did not have to play you, but if you went to practice you could not be cut. Therefore, no Greek system. If I wanted to I could have joined Hillel despite being Methodist (to my knowledge, no one did that). You also had to run for certain positions like honor board, but no one was disqualified from running. Anyway, theory was, for 80K in tuition, you should be able to be part of anything on campus you damn well please. Problem solved.

  27. zuzu
    zuzu February 27, 2007 at 11:19 am |

    I think that not only is the behaviour of the sorority beyond contempt, but there is something serously wrong when getting thrown out of the sorority leads to some of the students having depression.

    That’s not a healthy dependency.

    Wouldn’t you be a little depressed if you were booted out of your social circle for no other reason than that you were not white, thin or pretty enough?

  28. Kristjan Wager
    Kristjan Wager February 27, 2007 at 11:22 am |

    Wouldn’t you be a little depressed if you were booted out of your social circle for no other reason than that you were not white, thin or pretty enough?

    Of course I would, but I would channel it into anger, not into a depression. The article writes that some of the former members have withdrawn from classes because of this. That’s bad.

  29. zuzu
    zuzu February 27, 2007 at 11:26 am |

    You’re a guy, though, right?

    Maybe you don’t realize how devastating something like that can be for a woman, given the already-enormous pressure to be pretty and thin. These are people they thought were their friends stabbing them in the back.

    Not to mention, they lost their housing as well and a not inconsiderable sum of money.

  30. Kristjan Wager
    Kristjan Wager February 27, 2007 at 11:39 am |

    You’re a guy, though, right?

    Maybe you don’t realize how devastating something like that can be for a woman, given the already-enormous pressure to be pretty and thin. These are people they thought were their friends stabbing them in the back.

    Not to mention, they lost their housing as well and a not inconsiderable sum of money.

    Yes I am a guy, and it’s true that I might not be able to understand their reaction in the proper context.

    However, wasn’t it strangers who stabbed them? Or are all sorority members supposed to be friends, even if they haven’t met? I must admit, I don’t really understand how this system works at all.

    I realized that they lost their home (though it wasn’t too clear from the article – I guess they assumed the readers would know that), but what money did they loose? Again, I think I lack the proper set of references to understand the issue fully.

  31. zuzu
    zuzu February 27, 2007 at 11:51 am |

    However, wasn’t it strangers who stabbed them? Or are all sorority members supposed to be friends, even if they haven’t met? I must admit, I don’t really understand how this system works at all.

    These women all lived in the house together and belonged to the same organization, which calls itself a “sisterhood.” While the people who actually made the decision were from the national organization, they’re still supposedly “sisters,” and that relationship is part of the package sold to them as a big reason for joining.

    As for the money lost:

    Good on the six women who quit the sorority after the less desirable sisters were asked to leave. Joining a sorority is a big financial and social investment. The fact that half of the remaining members were willing to give up their housing, their primary social group, and a significant sum of money they had already paid to be a part of the house demonstrates that at least some Delta Zeta members have figured out what “sisterhood” means, even if the national chapter hasn’t quite caught on.

    They had to pay for dues, for housing, for activities, etc. It’s not cheap to join a sorority, and a lot of the costs are paid up front. I’m sure the women who were dismissed didn’t get a refund.

  32. BStu
    BStu February 27, 2007 at 1:31 pm |

    Its very inappropriate to presume that the women who withdrew from classes were depressed because they were dependant on the sorority. I think you are grossly disregarding the impact of what was done here. These women were made to parade themselves around for the approval of others and then were told that they weren’t good enough for the home that some of them had kept for years. That’s an extraordinarly demoralizing experience and the fault lies not with the women who were demeaned for not being “pretty enough” or “popular enough”, but with the national chapter of the sorrority who saw fit to treat adult women like cattle. Its easy to say that YOU would channel that experience into anger and not depression. And indeed, most of the women did just that. But self-esteem is a sensative issue, especially for young women in our image-obsesses culture. Sadly, depression is an understandable response to being evicted from your home for not being properly attractive. I fail to grasp what about that is confusing you into blaming the sisters who did not respond as you think they ought to have under this kind of immature and insensative pressure.

  33. Kristjan Wager
    Kristjan Wager February 27, 2007 at 2:56 pm |

    That’s an extraordinarly demoralizing experience and the fault lies not with the women who were demeaned for not being “pretty enough” or “popular enough”, but with the national chapter of the sorrority who saw fit to treat adult women like cattle.

    Did I say that the fault lay with them? Did I blame them? Not at all.

    I just expressed concern over the reaction, and said that it indicated an unhealthy dependecy on the sorority. Obviously I can’t really judge if it’s unhealthy or not, especially not when I don’t know much about the sorority system, however given the fact I find the reaction worrysome.
    This doesn’t mean that the women are to blame – their reaction might be completely natural, given what happened and how college life in DuPauw is in general. However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t want it to change, so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen in the future, and if it does, that it has less impact.

    Hope that made it a little more clear.

  34. Kristjan Wager
    Kristjan Wager February 27, 2007 at 2:58 pm |

    This doesn’t mean that the women are to blame – their reaction might be completely natural, given what happened and how college life in DuPauw is in general.

    This is not said the best way – it still sounds like I am blaming them for their reaction, which I am not. I seem to be unable to express what I think properly…

  35. Mister Nice Guy
    Mister Nice Guy February 27, 2007 at 4:23 pm |

    I’ve read more than one porn novel that depicted a sorority as basically a whorehouse for the boys of their “brother” frat.

    Gee, and here I always assumed that was just a fictional convention.

  36. Luna
    Luna February 27, 2007 at 7:29 pm |

    Neither of the universities I went to had any sort of sorority or fraternity system. I think this is a better thing than I originally thought.

    What a nightmare.

  37. Jasmine
    Jasmine February 27, 2007 at 8:04 pm |

    Nice to know your boyfriend approved of your sorority. Just thought I’d call you on what women do all the time. “My husband says…” “My boyfriend says…” as if somehow our experiences and views need the man-stamp. They don’t.

    Neither do women in sororities, which is such a disappointment as I have high regard for education and the opportunity learning gives to broaden one’s potential for positve personal and social impact.

    Guess I’m just a stupid idealist, seems the patriarchy still has a strangle hold everywhere.

    I kind of resent that. I don’t see it as looking for his approval. I asked him a question because I brought this story up and he responded. It’s not anti-feminist to value your significant other’s opinion, just as he values mine. And because these girls were by best friends, it’s important to me that we all get along with each other’s significant others.

  38. Priya
    Priya February 27, 2007 at 10:04 pm |

    “look, you’re both white, blond Farah Fawcett hair, tons of make-up on your faces, and you come to class in sweatpants with greek letters plastered on your asses! Of course I’m going to mix you up!”

    I’m sorry, I don’t know if perhaps you’re a well respected regular, in which context this comment somehow isn’t rude, dismissive and prejudiced, but really, consider this in any other context:

    “look, you’re both black, dark Mariah Carey hair, tons of make-up on your faces, and you come to class in with gold jewellery plastered all over you! Of course I’m going to mix you up!”

    “look, you’re both gay and overtly camp men, spiky studio-styled hair, some make-up on your faces, and you come to class in designer label clothes with tight jeans plastered on your asses! Of course I’m going to mix you up!”

    It doesn’t make any difference what you think of the people on the recieving end of this kind of comment, it shouldn’t ever be acceptable.

    P ~ Sorry, for jumping in mouth flapping wildly on my first comment!

  39. shannon
    shannon February 28, 2007 at 12:33 am |

    I respect black sororities more too, although I haven’t joined one. (I used to go to their activities in undergrad, but never pledged). I’m not saying that black sororities are totally against lookism or black frats have no sexists ever, but it’s a different vibe there.

    One annoying thing that happened in undergrad was one of the white frats got kicked off campus for fighting(they were rumored to have videotaped brothers having sex with girls and showing those tapes to the pledges, so basically they were dicks), and one striking thing was that all the sorority girls were vying to get save pike shirts…*shakes head* Even if you’re a nice person beforehand, it’s hard to escape the pressure to be a dick I think.

  40. bean
    bean February 28, 2007 at 7:19 am |

    These women have proven that real sisterhood is at cross-purposes with greek life, so why not chuck the whole sorority thing?

    I agree. I also have to wonder, since one of the most common (and usually first) defense of Greek life is the social/community service work they do, why does anyone need to belong to a social organization in order to take part in social/community service work. Hell, I volunteered an average of 10 hours a week at the local DV hotline when I was in college, and I didn’t need to belong to any sort of group in order to do it. I also joined clubs (many of which also contributed to the community), so I go the social aspect. And yet, never had to be a part of the Greek system. Never had to pay any money to do any of that. (I’m not trying to argue whether anyone should or should not join a sorority/fraternity. I’m simply saying that the community service aspect as a *reason* for joining is, IMO, bullshit.)

  41. MDtoMN
    MDtoMN February 28, 2007 at 9:09 am |

    My undergrad had a minimal frat scene. Now, I’m at Michigan for grad school, and I sometimes envy the frat guys. I know I would have hated it at 18, but now it seems much more appealing . . .

    A couple of my friends were in black sororities. It sounds like a great experience to me, though I certainly would hesitate to say that they weren’t image conscious – all of them suggest that the institutions were heavily image conscious. Of course, the term they use most often is “lady” which I find fascinating. There seems to be a real emphasis on being sufficiently adult and mature, academic and sophisticated. At the same time, they all report significant focus on appearances, looks, and presentation. I guess I would summarize by saying that the black sororities sound much more pleasant than the white ones, but still like a mixed bag.

    My fraternity brother friends seem to have had a REALLY varied experience – I suspect that frats run a broader gamut, possibly because of more pressure for boys to join a frat and more socially acceptable roles for boys allowing more diversity in frats.

    Personally, I wish I had been in a left-wing or gay fraternity. If only . . .

  42. twosoakers
    twosoakers February 28, 2007 at 10:03 am |

    Of all the nasty things I heard frats requiring their pledges to do (Sigma Chi showers, or the “ookie cookie”, for example), when I was at the University of Rochester, I was apalled by what some sororities did to their pledges—they were just like a pack of animals. One sorority—with their black BMW’s or Cherokees, and “EAT” (what their letters reminded me) stamped to their asses, would get their pledges to strip down to their bras and panties, and would be individually scrutinized by the sisters, and marked with their “problem areas” with black permanent marker. Hair on your lip? “Lemme fill that in for you.” Tits too small, tits too big, thighs, tummies, butts, not fake tanned enough, knobby knees… You hear these things from people you meet that drop out of the system, but nothing gets done because of shame, or fear of reprisal. It’s just like rape/sexual assault—you hear of a case here and there, but how much more actually does happen, and goes unreported becuase of the same reasons (shame, guilt…) Get me out of this midwestern state!

  43. twosoakers
    twosoakers February 28, 2007 at 10:28 am |

    Then again, the good ol’ “U of R,” rumoredly, would hire “hot chicks” to wander around campus with books and university apparel, posing as students, to lure prospective students to campus, because of some men’s “magazine” poll that decided that Rochester’s women undergrads were some of the ugliest around. I didn’t believe it at the start of my freshman year, but it was true! You’d see these women strolling about during “Spring Open Campus” weeks, but if you’d follow them, they’d never go into a classroom, and after these weeks end, they disappear!

  44. bmc90
    bmc90 February 28, 2007 at 12:54 pm |

    I am so glad I spent at least 4 years of my life in a place where no one cared if you wore makeup or the same sweatshirt for an entire week. When I went to law school at a big state university with a greek system, I lived in grad apartments on greek row. The women going in and out of those houses had to have spent hours on their hair and makeup each day, and that’s just when they were on their way to the gym (which was state of the art, though the library hadn’t been remodeled since my parents attended the same school). Now that I am in the corporate world, I have to look the part, but at least I got a break at some point.

  45. micheyd
    micheyd February 28, 2007 at 1:04 pm |

    One sorority—with their black BMW’s or Cherokees, and “EAT” (what their letters reminded me) stamped to their asses

    That must be SDT (yes, unfortunate jokes abounded). I heard they did the same humiliation technique at Cornell too. Hmm, must be an upstate NY thing.

  46. twosoakers
    twosoakers February 28, 2007 at 1:50 pm |

    Not sure about it being an upstate thing—these girls were mainly from NYC/Long Island and the rich ‘burbs around New England.

  47. Erin
    Erin February 28, 2007 at 2:18 pm |

    Where I went to college, all organizations had to be inclusive, but there was a grandfather (hmmm) clause for any organization that had been in existence before 1970 – which was the first year that women enrolled at the school.

  48. micheyd
    micheyd February 28, 2007 at 3:02 pm |

    Yeah, I was kidding about the upstate NY thing – it’s definitely a “dark side of Greek life” problem. We had an excellent discussion or two about the body-marking ritual in our campus feminist group though.

  49. Morgan
    Morgan February 28, 2007 at 6:31 pm |

    huh. i went to The College of William in Mary (which was in a small southern town, and somehow we carved out an alternative), and the Phi Mu sorority did the dame thing when i was a jr or sr. nationals kicked out all the original girls and recruited conventionally attractive ones to take their place. this was in, say, 1997, 1998.

    the majority of women at my college were sorority women, so i encountered them from time to time. many of them were very sweet girls, if somewhat culturally bland, who wanted a way to meet friends, meet boys, and drink beer. however, they were often forced to overlook horrible things. my roommate was a closeted lesbian who lived in terror that her openly homophobic sisterhood would learn the truth about her and kick her out. you can imagine the effect this had on her psyche and her alcohol consumption. and yes, a lot of them do the fat circling thing and blatantly reject girls based on $ and race. so as for it being a feminist, or not-anti-feminist experience, i don’t know. that’s a lot to sign off on.

  50. bmc90
    bmc90 March 1, 2007 at 11:21 am |

    I don’t see how women who have been in these sorts of environments for 4 years come out with any kind of self esteem – maybe a very fragile one if they fit the bill, but I’m guessing they end up getting very stressed about aging. One of the more fun things about my school is that those who had been floating by on their looks and male attention for years suddenly got that rug pulled right out from under them. Some could not handle it and transferred, which was good riddance as far as I was concerned. But if you stayed and made it (the academics were brutal), you realized you can get by without all that stuff if you have to, and let’s face it, I don’t really want to be worrying about whether I am still “hot” in my 70’s. The women who went to these schools just had the looks thing reinforced for 4 years while they were struggling to form their identies as grownups. Yikes.

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