Some of you may feel this topic does not apply to you: You never joined a sorority you life was not affected by sororities, you are now out of college and life went on, or you are a male. However, for the sake of every young woman you know, daughters, friends’ daughters, nieces, neighbors, babysitters, and the like, this can be considered your pre-primer to the world that does not seem to have changed over the last 40 years. While a lot of my information comes from Alexandra Robbins’s book “Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities” (like the “last 40 years” statement), a lot comes from my personal experience as well as the numerous mothers and college students I talk with in and outside my office.
While the topic of sororities is not a big one in my office, the summer before leaving for college and the week during sorority rush (when the sorority houses and interested girls meet each other and make their choices/selections) is a time of high anxiety , emotional ups and downs, and sometimes even depression.
Why do girls join a sorority? Reasons include an instant network of girlfriends, being part of a group, philanthropies, and it can even “enhance a girl’s college experience, boost her self-esteem and better her character” (Robbins, p. 11). However, it seems there are also some studies showing it can “crush confidence… and lead to problem behaviors” (p.320) all in an effort to fit in and be a part of a group.
People feel very strongly about the rush process, and I have yet to hear from anyone who honestly enjoys it and feels good about it. Ms. Robbins offers some suggestions on truly reforming it so that it is not a quick, judging, popularity contest but rather a process held all year long (as African American sororities have been doing for years). I know a girl who dropped out of her sorority during her first year on the other side of rush because of the “restricting” rules and “silly” behaviors, along with the mean discussions they were forced to have listing pros and cons of prospective pledges. A parent recently called it a “ridiculous process” citing an incident where a parent got so involved campaigning for her daughter to be “let in” to a particular house that she sent in a cake with her daughter’s photo created in the icing. A college freshman who had the fortunate experience of being pursued by multiple houses said to me “I am really uncomfortable with the message rush sends” and discussed instances where “great, funny, cool” girls were cut from selection lists in what seemed to be judgments on their looks. And what about those girls who don’t get accepted to their choices? It’s not so easy to move on when most girls in your dorm are wearing new Greek letters and going to sorority-invites and you feel like the only one who wasn’t wanted.
I have worked hard with some girls helping them process what just happened during the whirlwind of rush, and how it is not a defining moment in their lives. Why aren’t some of these great, funny girls getting selected? Some have speculated that diversity is frowned upon and if you don’t fit the “type”, you’re not in. And what if you do “fit the type”? Is that good? Are your Greek letters your new identity? For some yes, others no. But one thing is for sure: After having completed the college experience, nobody really cares.