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Sororities Should Return to Their Feminist Roots

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Alabama chapter.

Generations of American women before me have fought to earn the right to vote, own property, and work outside the home. When sororities were first founded, families sent their daughters to college to find a husband, and the number of career paths they could pursue was limited. Banding together in the face of the various obstacles they had to overcome was noble, even essential, back then. Even though we have made progress, we still live in a patriarchal society where women experience inequality daily, and joining a nationwide network of women who support each other in college and beyond is still useful. However, in practice this support system is far from perfect and the love between all sisters is far from unconditional. I was in a sorority for three years, and since I was dropped I have reflected on that period in my life, what it meant to me and to my sisters, and what the difference between our reasons for its personal significance says about Greek life today.

The difference in the rules of fraternities and sororities is the biggest roadblock preventing Greek Life from achieving gender equality. Every semester there were new rules about how we could dress, who we could vote for in campus elections, which girls we could extend bids to, and even the number of boys in a fraternity we could date. It doesn’t make sense to me how behaving in fear that some fraternity won’t party with us empowers women at all. We were told not to eat at philanthropy events, not to post pictures of food on social media, and even not to get raped because those actions would “make our house look bad.” Survivors of eating disorders and sexual assault constantly felt shamed and isolated by these rules, and they sometimes quit because they were made to feel like their traumatic experiences were not aligned with the image of our chapter that our executive council wanted to portray. There is nothing feminist about that.

People get so caught up in “tradition” when it comes to Greek Life. We practice rituals in the same way that every chapter has for the past two hundred years, which is meant to draw us closer in bonds of sisterhood. Rituals are one thing, but when “tradition” is used as an excuse to impede social progress and autonomy, we are straying from a sorority’s true purpose. Thanks to major advancements in technology and civil rights, the world today looks almost nothing like it did at the turn of the 20th century. They say we hold the same values as our founders did, but I don’t think they would recognize the organization they developed if they visited the chapters at a lot of schools. These women didn’t found a sorority so girls could throw weekly themed parties and get blackout drunk, then abandon their sisters if they act in a way that is not the accepted norm. Sure, each sorority has a philanthropy, but the focus of Greek Life has largely moved from its original intent of self-improvement to socializing.

I am not saying that every chapter of every sorority and fraternity reflects what I just wrote about, but I am expressing my opinions based on my experiences, and in my experience many of the negative stereotypes about Greek Life have some truth to them. There are benefits to joining Greek Life and I know it has transformed thousands of people’s lives for the better, but because of how much pain it has caused I sometimes wish it would be abolished completely. Since the alumni of Greek organizations are often the biggest donors to their respective universities I know that will probably never happen, but I wish these alums would keep their chapters accountable too.

Alabama Contributor
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Helmi Henkin

Alabama '18

Helmi is a senior at The University of Alabama from Menlo Park, California studying psychology and French. She has been to 78 countries on seven continents! Her favorites are Finland (since that's where her family lives), Bali and Antarctica. When she's not in class or traveling she loves reading, singing and songwriting, and hanging out with friends.