The other week I was at an apartment party. Upon arrival, a friend of mine introduced me to an older girl in her sorority. The girl smiled politely and shook my hand. Without asking how I was or where I was from, she proceeded to ask me which sorority I belonged to. After I told her, she said, "Oh, but which sorority did you want to be in?" Puzzled, I walked away wondering why she had asked me that.
Another similar instance happened to me this summer. I was at a different friend's house for a get-together. I saw someone there I did not know, but recognized as a student at the University of Richmond. I went over to her and asked whether she went to Richmond. She said, "Yeah, I'm a *insert sorority here*." Again, I was stunned and amazed. I hadn't asked her if she was in a sorority, and yet, she was for some reason or another compelled to tell me. Either that or she thought I cared.
At Ring Dance this year, after the photographers stopped taking pictures of the junior girls aligned in the classic Westhampton W, the young women were allowed to pose with friends, teammates and sorority sisters for more photos. Girls ran like crazed bargain shoppers to get a spot on The Jefferson staircase, where camera-clad parents awaited them, snapping away like paparazzi, hell-bent on the best glamour shot. Young women, myself included, grouped together with their sororities, cheering and chanting our individual songs and flashing the unique symbols that represent our groups.
Not all of the girls could fit on the stairs at once, and therefore, each sorority waited while the one before it got the shot. A girl in front of me screamed to her other sisters to push their way past the other girls: "Go higher, guys. Go higher than everybody else did."
The whole time I just stood there thinking ... why? Why go higher? That will just give everybody a weird double chin that no one can avoid from an angle that drastic. Who knows, maybe it was an innocent request, but from what I was able to infer, the change from standing on par with everyone else, to standing way higher than any other sorority, offered a whole other meaning.
These situations are just three of the many I have encountered during my time here at Richmond. Undeniably, there are stereotypes attached to all the sororities here. I find that unfortunate because, well, what gives someone the right to judge a group of girls, if judging an individual girl is considered cruel?
With that said, I think the stereotypes given to different sororities in some ways enable them to act on the stereotypes they are given. In a way, this excuses certain behaviors and ultimately creates a hierarchy within the system.
Think about it. If one sorority is considered the gorgeous and popular group, the girls everyone is dying to be, the one that causes girls to cry if they don't receive a bid, that's a lot of power. That power of perception the sorority then possesses can manipulate the campus-wide perceptions of what is important to consider. If you want to be pretty, be a ____. If you want to have friends, be a ____. What happened to: If you find this group of girls to be funny and interesting, be a ____?
Ultimately, why does it matter which sorority you choose to be in? What does it matter that you're in one, to some extent? Being in a sorority shouldn't define someone. It should remind you that being a sister is hard, and fun and a continual lesson on growing up and figuring out the type of person you want to be.
If I had thought being in a sorority meant I was going to have to compete for space on The Jefferson stairs of my college life, maybe I would have cut and run while I had the chance.
Contact staff writer Liz Monahan at firstname.lastname@example.org
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