“I wear Gucci sunglasses. I have a Kate Spade purse. I fake bake. I binge drink. I don't go to class. I shack. I have lots of different guys' boxers because I shack. I drink lots of hard alcohol…I’m a sorority b*tch.”
Or am I?
Any woman involved in a Greek organization today is likely to face these stereotypes. We’re often regarded as shallow, exclusive and not academically minded. It’s not only Greek women who fall victim to these sorts of stereotypes. Today there are approximately 9 million Greek-affiliated men and women on college campuses, each of whom must deal with the negative connotations associated with the Greek community.
The Association of Fraternal Leadership Values (AFLV) recently hosted its annual central conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. This year, my university took a delegation of 32 Greek community members and advisors to represent Fraternity and Sorority Student Life. The conference focused on growing and developing Greek community leaders from across the nation, and empowering them to make positive change within their councils. In order to best accomplish these goals, AFLV invites presenters to speak on topics ranging from social excellence, inclusivity within the Greek community, and how to best brand our organizations. For me, this conference provided an opportunity to reflect on my own experience and to recognize that I, as a proud member of a Greek organization, have the power to combat negative perceptions associated with the Greek community and educate those around me about the value of “being Greek.”
The testimonial at the beginning of this post comes from David Stollman of CAMPUSPEAK, who read the piece, as well as one targeted at fraternity men, to begin his conference session. Each of these pieces incited audience disapproval, but proved enlightening. After much discussion, we agreed that we in the Greek community fall victim to many stereotypes, and that such stereotypes can force even the proudest member to hide their letters when on campus or in the community. Stollman told us what many already knew – that the actions of a few can affect many. When it comes to the Greek community, when one chapter at one university sets a standard, it can drag every Greek organization through the mud.
The solution? We, as individual members and as a community at large, must actively work to counter such stereotypes, to pursue opportunities to improve our chapters through co-curricular and community involvement, and to spark conversations with our fellow community members and non-affiliated peers and adults. We should acknowledge the issues and be ready to provide evidence of the positive impact our organizations can have on members and universities. In his powerful presentation, Stollman challenged each of us to bring about change within our communities and to become active rather than reactive. Because the truth is, being a member of any Greek organization is not just a privilege, but also a challenge, and a time to grow unlike any other.
No, I’m not a sorority b*tch. Most members aren’t either. We are young women who, because of our Greek affiliation and involvement in our university’s Greek community as a whole, have had opportunities to network with leaders from across the nation, help program efforts to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for philanthropic causes, and serve hundreds of community service hours while excelling both academically and in co-curricular activities.
I would be lying if I said that the entirety of the Greek community is perfect. Students at my university especially know that that isn’t the case. Body image, alcohol and substance abuse, and concerns regarding diversity and inclusion are all issues that Greek chapters are working to combat daily. Our communities and governing bodies recognize our responsibility for ensuring that the reputations of our organizations are intact and that we are making the kind of positive change that our founding values are based upon. Because that is the true purpose of a Greek organization – to surround yourself with men and women who can best shape you into the person you want to be and to make a positive impact on your campus and community while doing so.
I am thankful for the opportunity to be surrounded by so many incredible women from whom I have and will continue to learn. The Greek community as a whole has empowered me to be the best version of myself by offering me the chance to grow as a leader, a friend and an all-around productive member of society. And though there is much work to be done, I believe whole-heartedly that Greek affiliation offers a platform for students to excel and to make a positive impact on their campus and in their community.