Before I began college, I thought of Greek life with the distinctive feeling of abhorrence and disgust washing through me like a bad flu. Sororities? No, thank you. Paying for my friends? I’ll pass. I was not going to fall victim to the hordes of squealing girls in one of America’s worst and most practiced collegiate traditions. My initial impression of Greek Life had been influenced deeply by television shows, horror stories, and rumors of brutal hazing that resulted in either death or years of therapy. I would be damned if I willingly signed myself up to participate in such an elitist, expensive, and decidedly overrated girls’ club that worshipped bad flower prints and their fraternity counterparts. I set my college goals on universities that had minimal Greek participants, thoroughly convinced that I wouldn’t be missing out on anything worthwhile. Little did I know, a couple months later, that I would be one of the girls going through recruitment and pledging my allegiance to my very own sorority.
I thought that my preconceived notions of Greek life made them true but in my haste to judge an entire culture off only the negatives, I forgot to give it the benefit of the doubt. I went through rush with an open mind and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, despite my initial dislike. I’m not writing this to persuade you to go through recruitment yourself, or even to change your opinion completely. I’m writing this because an optimistic human being who took a chance on something that she loathed, I came out of the other side for the better. Without further ado, here are a couple of things that I would have told my younger self about Greek life:
1. Sororities aren’t perfect, but it can get there.
It’s no secret that Greek life has a terrible streak of being homogenous and selective with their members. In a recent controversy by the University of Alabama, Alpha Phi came under attack after it released a promotional video that was almost exclusive in conventionally beautiful, white blondes. As someone who is neither white nor blonde, I distinctly remember being disgusted by the idea that there could be groups on college campuses that picked out women like some sort of white supremacy cult. Thankfully, that’s not the case for every chapter. Sororities have the potential to become a powerful force to be reckoned with. Imagine a group of women accepting girls of all ethnicities, sexualities, and backgrounds. Greek life is about sisterhood: what could send a stronger message than to acknowledge that sisterhood comes in all shapes and forms?
2. There are amazing women in sororities.
A huge part of why I decided to rush is because a former sorority girl that had made such a positive impression on me that I immediately thought, “Wow. Maybe I should give this a try after all.” As former president of University of Kansas’ Gamma Phi Beta chapter, Paige Martindell had all the qualifications of a terrific person who just happened to be in a sorority. Welcoming, confident, and a leader to boot, Paige was someone that all women should aspire to be. Thanks to her position in her sorority chapter, she was able to become a role model to not only her chapter, but everyone involved in Greek Life. Tons of truly terrific people have gone through Greek Life and come out for the better, all of whom are special in their own way. Chances are, you’re bound to meet someone just as equally bright and inspirational in your own chapter. Most of them are on incredible paths to becoming successful women. You could even be one of them.
3. You’re not paying for friends; you’re paying for an experience.
A lot of mockery goes into the idea that you’re paying a whooping fee to “buy” friends, or so they say. I disagree. Think of a sorority like every other club and organization that you’ve been part of: you’re paying for something that will benefit you. It would be ridiculous if you could literally buy your friends, and that is not the case. However, you’ll be surrounded by people with the same values as yourself. These women are each individuals and together, you’re bonded by something greater than just you. In the short time that I’ve been in a sorority, I’ve never felt once obligated to befriend someone just for the sake of our sorority. Between events and philanthropy and study hours, you’re bound to get your money’s worth in being around like-minded people that you might’ve missed out on otherwise.
4. You define what kind of “Greek” experience you’ll have.
I won’t deny that there are issues within Greek Life. There are many: some of them trivial and some of them painstakingly horrifying. I would be lying if I said they didn’t scare me when I went through recruitment. But as a close friend once said to me, that’s why more people should join Greek Life. In order to solve these issues (such as lack of diversity and rape culture and elitism), we have to acknowledge them. I’m a proponent of fixing the issue from the inside out. Why not reform Greek Life for the better as a sorority girl? If you’re passionate about equality and justice, then you belong in an organization where you can have an immediate impact on the culture around you. I’m a believer that things can, have, and will change. In order for evolution to happen, we need people willing to stand up for their beliefs in order to better a system that impacts so many people. Be the Greek you want to be and others will follow in your lead.
5. Greek Life isn’t for everyone and that’s completely fine.
Being in a sorority is time demanding and it requires an unusual amount of energy and willingness to socialize nearly 24/7. That being said, Greek life can be exhausting and perhaps not for you. Even if you’re not interested in being an active member of a sorority, understand that it’s a culture undergoing constant change and what you know about Greek life might not be an accurate representation of what it is now. It’s a testament of true character on both parties to recognize that everyone has different taste and interests and being in a sorority or not being in a sorority shouldn’t be a defining factor for relationships in the first place. I actually think it would be pretty cool if we all came to accept each other as human beings of all spectrums and varying personalities.
I was wrong to assume that Greek life was nothing more than a collection of insipid women banding together to design t-shirts and reign terror upon outsiders. I won’t say that my fears of exclusivity and maliciousness weren’t warranted by an abundance of horror stories, but I was surprised and amazed to discover that Greek life itself wanted to change for the better. Why not be part of that new chapter? At the end of the day, the choice lies with you. If there’s a part of you that thinks that Greek life just might be for you, then go for it. Decide the type of person you want to be and find a chapter that helps you become that person. At the very least, go through recruitment with an open mind because you might be surprised with what you experience.
Featured Image via Twitter.