With sororities come stereotypes; it is the unfortunate reality of the community. This being my third year in the Greek Community, I have encountered my fair share of Greek stereotypes and have adopted the “take the good with the bad” mentality. Not all sorority women are the gum-popping, hair-twirling, bra-stuffing, sloppy partiers as seen on the big screen. But I am willing to live with the stereotype as a vapid, shallow and hard-partying college girl if it means participating in what I believe to be a wonderful organization.
Many people are unaware that the first sororities were not founded as 19th-century organizations, in envy of fraternities, but as part of a social movement to engage women intellectually as well as socially. At the time, sororities allowed women to talk openly about topics such as philosophy and politics, which were taboo for women to discuss and merited a secret society. That being noted, I would never “Go Greek” if it was merely a willing submission to objectification, as some outsiders tend to assume.
Admittedly, recruitment tends to involve matching outfits and loud chants, but it is the farthest thing from glorified pageantry. Each sorority is founded on its long-standing values and recruitment is a time to find friends to share these values and traditions with. Not having any Greek-affiliated family members, I was clueless as to what to expect during formal recruitment, but knew it would be an easy way to meet a lot of people. To any friendless, out-of-state freshman, it sounded appealing (for the record, my leggings and Northface were owned prior to joining a sorority.) It wasn’t until I lived in a chapter house that I fully realized the true benefits of joining the Greek Community.
Eager to escape the watchful eyes of their parents, most high school seniors are anxious to live on their own in college. But then why do so many freshman women commit to living in sorority houses with a house mom under a roof of rules and regulations? What is so appealing about living in a house full of young women? Well, the impeccable cleanliness, homemade meals and bus boys are benefits to name a few — but these are not the main selling points. Having lived in a sorority chapter house for a year and a half here at Michigan, I can testify that “living in” is an unparalleled experience that has undoubtedly taught me more than just how to share a bathroom with dozens of other girls.
As an executive board member, I lived with 60-plus women who were not only my friends but also women with whom I worked to make decisions for the betterment of the entire chapter. I had to learn to seamlessly transition from my leadership role at formal chapter to my peer role during playful nights in the kitchen. This unique environment allowed me to flourish interpersonally as a leader and also as a member of a larger community. The atmosphere of a chapter house is rich with opportunities, often influencing members to join more clubs or attend campus events to support their sisters. However, the best part about “living in” is not the leadership or extracurricular opportunities but having hallways filled with your best friends.
Of course, living among such a large, diverse group of women requires considerable amounts of cooperation, patience and understanding, but this diversity gives the house a culture of its own. Arguably, the residence halls provide the same diversity. But unlike other forms of housing, the women who occupy a chapter house share the values instilled in the tradition of their sorority. Despite the stereotype of being a locale for partying sorority girls and midnight pillow fights, chapter houses are ideal environments to strengthen character, with a support system for the women who occupy them. While I’m happy to finally have a kitchen and my much-desired own bedroom in an off-campus apartment, a part of me will always miss living in a sorority.
Sororities aren’t perfect institutions. Like any other organization, they have their flaws. Among other things, our inherent competition and self-perpetuated stereotypes are areas in need of improvement. But then again, like other organizations, sororities allow their members to develop leadership skills, foster campus involvement and, most importantly, make friends who make college the best four years of our lives.
Lauren Hartstein is the Panhellenic Vice President of Recruitment Internal.