Let’s play some word association. When I say “sorority,” what words come to mind? Well, when you ask Google, you get words like “uppity,” “materialistic,” “high-maintenance,” “designer clothes,” “parties,” “shallow,” and even harsher words like “bitchy” and “slutty.”
Throughout cinematic history and in general, sororities haven’t exactly been portrayed as impressive or influential. In movies, from Sorority House (1939) to Sorority Wars (2009), amongst many others, sororities are seen as a house full of girls, obsessed with their appearance, boys, and parties. And we eat that stereotype up.
We see things like this:
But stereotypes are dangerous entities within the human mind. So I sat down with two sisters (not actual sisters – it’s sorority terminology I learned from the aforementioned movies) from Delta Phi Epsilon, or DphiE. At first glance, they were probably what you would expect: big bags, talkative, beautiful, dropping frat party references…etc. But then they started speaking about philanthropies and initiatives and non-sectarian safe havens, and BAM, the stereotype disintegrated.
Part of the reason the sorority-girl stereotype still exists is that society, in general, is shallow. But these girls are doing the same thing that corporate America does and taking advantage of that shallowness. And they use shallowness to make a difference.
That may sound weird – using shallowness to make a difference. But it’s definitely possible. For instance, every year DphiE hosts a male beauty pageant called Deepher Dude which simultaneously encourages guys to flaunt what they’ve got and raises money for the Cystic Fibrosis Fund. It’s one of their most esteemed events because it challenges gender stereotypes, is fun and entertaining, and raises money for a good cause. If you’re interested in joining this year’s Deepher Dude competition, or just watching/supporting, it’s taking place November 10, from 7:00-9:00 pm in the SU Ballroom!
In the Spring, the sisters at DphiE capitalize on society’s shallowness once again by hosting a fashion show, but it’s unlike normal fashion shows. The girls at DphiE dedicate an entire week to ANAD (National Association of Anorexia and Associated Eating Disorders) where they raise money for the association, encourage body positivity, and reenforce the importance of inner beauty. The fashion show that they host is called “Comfortable in your GENES Fashion Show” and the goal is to make everybody feel good about themselves, no matter what size or type of clothing they wear. These are just their two biggest events, but throughout the year, the sisters work on raising money for philanthropies, raising awareness about issues, and encouraging positivity.
Well, even if this all sounds dandy to you, you might be worried that the superficial recruitment process (and dare I say it: hazing) that goes down in sororities still taints their image. Sorry to destroy more stereotypes but the recruitment process that most sororities use is actually pretty neat. Yes, while some horrible sorority hazing rituals exist (or are possibly just urban legends) like those mentioned here, most of the time the recruitment process isn’t shallow or abusive at all.
The head of recruitment of DphiE told me that she specifically tries to approach girls who are by themselves or look like they could benefit from sisterhood. It’s not about who has a boyfriend, clear skin, or a trust fund. It’s about creating sisterhood with your fellow students. The sorority is extremely diverse, running the gamut of different ethnicities, races, social classes, and religions. The mission is to form sisterhood amongst a group of individuals who want to make a difference on their campus and in the world (lofty-sounding, I know).
As one sister told me, “When people get [stereotypes] from movies, it’s much more drastic. There will be always party girls, drunk girls…that kind of thing, but that happens with the workplace too. There will be those but that happens with everything.”
The best part? DphiE’s motto: Esse Quam Videri-To be rather than to seem to be. And no, this isn’t talking about having real boobs or wearing less makeup. It’s about being their authentic selves, members of a shallow society, just looking to make a difference both in their sisters’ lives, and in the lives of others.
For more information on Greek life, feel free to check out the different sororities and fraternities that Queens College (or your campus) has! And please, leave any comments/questions about Greek life or this post in the comment section!