As a society, we make assumptions about others in order to make sense of them, hence the dominating presence of stereotyping. Yet consequently, stereotyping often leads to prejudice and even discrimination.
By the time I came to college, I had already had my fair share of being stereotyped. I had been a dancer since I was a small child, but when I started attending a high school that lacked any sort of dance program, I turned to the closest program and became a cheerleader, continuing through my freshman year of college. Suddenly, it was as if everyone had an opinion about my extracurricular activities. “Jenna’s too smart to be a cheerleader,” my parents’ friends would say, “you better hope she doesn’t stop caring about everything but boys.” “Don’t think you’re too cool to hang out with us,” my friends would say, genuinely concerned about my apparently inevitable transportation.
Yet despite how much it hurt to be stereotyped, I absolutely caught myself doing it just as much to others. My peers during freshman year were very anti-Greek life, which led to fostering my own negativity toward anyone wearing letters. I assumed all Greeks cared more about partying and popularity than being a good person, and found myself laughing at jokes at their expense. I was the only unaffiliated person in my dorm, so I saw firsthand how seriously my roommates took their sororities, and I honestly thought it was one big joke.
Now, as a second-year, I am an active sorority woman. But why would I join an organization that I had developed so much hatred for? When I was in high school, I became exceptionally close to my church community. Church was my second home, and the people were my second family, leading the aspect of community to become one of my greatest values. Attending Sonoma State, I was not involved in much besides cheerleading, and did not have many friends. I was so miserable and alone that I almost didn’t come back after summer. So when I did come back, I knew something had to change.
There are many different ways to build community in one’s life. Because of how close I was to giving up, trying out Greek life seemed like the best option for me. Now almost a year later, I have a solid group of friends whom I truly love and value, a few of which I legitimately could not imagine my life without.
It is always funny to me when people say that going Greek means paying for your friends, because that is in no way the case. To be completely honest, there is a significant chunk of my sorority with whom I have not exchanged more than a few words. Because here’s the thing: Community is built, not given. Community means intentionally reaching out and working on those connections. Greek life is not a given community, it is an opportunity to build one.
Now, I am not saying that the Greek stereotype, or any stereotype for that matter, is completely unwarranted. All stereotypes exist due to an element of truth, no matter how small it may be. You can’t deny certain statistics, such as the higher rates of sexual assault among Greeks. I myself have undoubtedly met fellow Greeks who are an unfortunate representation of the Greek stereotype. But the thing is, these people make up such a small percentage of Greek life as a whole, yet those outside of the organizations view these actions, which cause the perpetuation of the negative perception.
But is it fair to assume anything about me due to this narrow perception? Absolutely not. Yes, I love sisterhoods, sorority leadership, and even those cheesy poses for pictures. But there is so much more to me than what little you choose to see.
I know who I am. Identifying as a role that traditionally faces extreme stereotyping, such as a cheerleader and a sorority woman, have not changed me into those stereotypes. My wish for society is that we stop judging others by a shallow perception of what they do in their free time, and instead shift the focus on integrity and character. I was a cheerleader, I am in a sorority, and I am a genuine person. Spoiler alert: Only that last part matters.