Greek (Life) Mythology
I am a woman and a member of the collegiate Greek system, and I’m going to justify that decision today.
Pause for eye roll.
I am one of those aggravating people who says they are not a "typical sorority girl" with great fervor, but it isn't because I’m trying to separate myself from blonde girls who love Lily Pulitzer. I believe that even those supposedly stereotypical girls aren’t what the public perceives a “typical sorority girl,” because there is no “typical sorority girl” anymore.
Let me back up. Initially, I wasn’t interested in sorority life, even when it seemed like every girl I met those first few weeks wanted to talk about Rush with a capital r. My parents, who were both active in Greek life in college and actually met at a frat party (giving hope to starry-eyed freshmen everywhere), encouraged me to do it for the sake of at least meeting people. I never thought I would actually sign a bid, but now here I am about to make the case for Greek organizations, so the recruitment process seems like a good place to start. The best thing I can think of to compare it to is, in all honesty, the Sorting Hat. Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin all have their strengths and attract different personalities, but don’t you keep taking all those quizzes because you’re just so curious to find where you belong? To see what group embraces you and makes you the happiest version of yourself?
We are all told to go in with an open mind (which can be hard to do when Yik Yak is a thing) but Morgan Ratner, a sorority alumna, also emphasizes the importance of letting your guard down. “I wish girls rushing would know to go into it as their own person, and that they'll end up where they are meant to be,” she says. The Sorting Hat can read you as soon as he touches your head; humans cannot. Because of the way sorority girls are typically typecast, I didn’t expect to find anyone like me when that first door magically swung open and prepared to fake a bubbly personality for three hours. At the end of the night, I was shocked that I was actually considering this sorority thing, and even more shocked that none of the girls seemed rude, shallow, or disinterested in me as a person.
I ended up in the perfect organization for me; the girls I call my sisters understand and accept me without effort, allowing me to settle into the most “me” version of myself I feel like I’ve ever been (which means a lot more deadpan humor and painful puns than most people would ever withstand). Our values allow us to grow individually while working as a force to be reckoned with when together. I honestly find it difficult to explain the impact that my sorority has had on me because it isn’t a clear outline that I could list in some “Open Letter to My Sisters And Also Brothers Across the Row.” It’s a gradual shift in relationships and worldview that often gets overlooked in the quick judgment handed down to fraternities and sororities. Greek organizations catch a lot of flack for their exclusivity, and in turn, their perceived conformity. The truth is that we are just people. I can’t really think of a better way to put this. We aren’t a cult of Stepford Wives and Husbands sectioned off into one corner of campus, we’re members of the same diverse community you are. We support each other in a way that only a brother- or sisterhood could cultivate; we’re a microcosm of different races, religions, opinions, and yes, sexualities. “A well-organized fraternity,” says current fraternity active Aaron Ragsdale, “strives to achieve academic and social excellence by cultivating the best qualities of an individual, giving them the support and social structure they need to thrive in the workforce and in life. Some of my best friends are LGBTQ, some of my best friends are in my fraternity, and I’m ecstatic that I live in a time in which I have those same LGBTQ friends in my fraternity. Everyone stands to gain from the sense of comfort a community gives them, fraternities [and sororities] are no different.”
That’s really what it comes down to. As someone who formerly viewed this community as a status symbol or a group of cliques, I know that there will always be people who will see it that way. But what they can’t see is the bond of trust I have been able to build with sisters that I will never be able to replicate, or the strength an empowering and affirming group of women grants me. They will never see these groups as the simplest form of the human experience, of connecting and growing because of people eager to connect and grow with you.
What they will see is how many damn Comfort Colors shirts I own, and I’m only a little ashamed of that.
Common Greek Life Myths Debunked
1. All Greek men and women do is party all the time. I mean, we party as much as any college student; we get really excited to go to college parties freshman year and want to go to sleep at 8:30 p.m. sophomore year. (Almost all of these myths could be debunked with “we are normal humans.”)
2. If you want to join a fraternity/sorority, you’re going to have to get hazed. The National Panhellenic Conference, the North American Interfraternity Conference, and the National Pan-Hellenic Council have all addressed the elimination of hazing in their bylaws. We in the Greek community do everything we can to be sure we aren’t complicit in making new members (or any members for that matter) of our respective organizations feel ashamed, threatened, or embarrassed at all, much less in order to uphold some arbitrary rite of passage. Are there still idiots who feel the need to bolster their superiority complex and make national news every now and then? Yeah. Do we agree with them?
Is every Republican thrilled that Donald Trump is representing them?
3. If you’re in one Greek organization, you can’t be friends with members of/support any other Greek organization or hang out with anyone that isn’t in a Greek organization. I’m gonna go back to my Hogwarts example for this. Each of the four Hogwarts houses represents a different type of personality or set of traits, but what really brings out the best in their abilities is that they all work together. They may engage in friendly competition, but at the end of the day they’re all wizards who love the magic community. This is how members of different fraternities and sororities interact; we always have the utmost pride in our own organizations, but we are equally proud and supportive of the Greek community as a whole. This sense of community doesn’t make us reject those who choose to remain independent of any affiliation, though. Again, we are just people. Some of my closest friends are in different organizations or not a part of Greek life at all; that only brings new perspectives to the table and enriches our bond.
4. Greek men/women are some of the dumbest humans you will ever meet, have the lowest GPA ever, never go to class, etc. Most (if not all) Greek organizations implement some sort of study hours for their members and encourage academic success across the board. My sisters are the first to get excited with me over an awesome paper or test grade and constantly challenge me to push myself academically. At the end of the day, we go to school to learn JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER STUDENT.
5. All Greek guys/girls wear _______, ________, and _________. We wear clothes. Typically whatever we feel like wearing that day. If it’s raining, maybe a rain jacket too. Hive minds don’t dictate our wardrobes any more than your friend group dictates yours; friends often have similar tastes in style, yes?
feature photo via Unsplash