Ok. This is my post about being involved in Greek life and being a feminist. It’s taken me forever to write it, and it’s gone through a couple drafts, and I still don’t know if I’m really saying what I want to, so I’m going to try not too be too rambly.
My experience is a bit different than most people’s in Greek life. I belong to a professional, co-ed organization. The small liberal arts college I attended had a very small Greek life and during my time there the few social organizations were all locals. No one lived in a house (most groups, including my own, had a designated hall in a dorm). And while being in a professional group is in some ways very different than being in a social group, in a lot of ways it’s actually pretty similar. Especially in my situation, where we functioned in many ways like the social groups; mixers, formals, rush, pledging. We just also had the added professional purpose and a lot more service projects.
It was bizarre that I even considered joining any Greek organization in the first place, as I went into college (and remained throughout my freshman year) rather anti-Greek-everything.
As with most people, my picture of Greek life was preppy, fratty dude bros who pretty much used the snobby princess sorority girls.
Most of my previous social experiences were in mixed-gender groups (mostly music groups) and my group of friends was pretty split between guys/girls. I had yet to learn the value of women-only spaces (in fact it’s only been the past few years I’ve learned to value them). If my fraternity weren’t co-ed I don’t know that I would’ve chosen to even look into it.
Most of the people I know always have to add a caveat when they tell people about our fraternity and state “but it’s not like what you think”. I stopped doing that after a couple years. Because I started to value what Greek organizations are and do for their members.
I have to stop here to acknowledge that, YES, there are definitely the dude bros and princesses. There are many times that college students affiliated with fraternities and sororities make bad, bad choices.
There sometimes is a disconnect between the purpose of an organization and how the members carry out those purposes.
The founding of Greek life was rooted in academic clubs. For sororities, especially, it was about supporting other women, who were ostracized from most of their peers.
From conversations with people, and especially women, in Greek life, while they may have joined “for the parties”, they find a lot of purpose in their organization’s mission(s). Sororities drive sisterhood, hopefully eliminating some of that girl-on-girl hate that is so prevalent in our culture. Women can find confidence among peers. There are some good values in general that can come from sororities.
There are also some fraternities that have programs designed to make their men better. I’m not familiar with the programs, however, I support the goal of developing better people. I also think that, done properly, mens-only spaces can be valuable to men, too.
While I initially felt kind of weird about joining into a system I always thought I hated, I’ve actually gained so much from my own fraternity. I’ve met people (mostly women, as we were an all-women’s group until the 1970s) who have done amazing things professionally. I’ve had a ton of leadership roles and gained lots of those intangible skills through them. I’ve made some really great friends. I’ve recently been introduced to several members who I really feel connected to, despite only just getting to know them, because of our shared history in our fraternity.
Most importantly, I’ve never been in a situation where my being a feminist has been in question, or where my stance on women’s rights have been challenged. I’d venture to say most of the members I’ve known would identify as a feminist if asked.
I can’t imagine what my college experience would’ve been like without my fraternity. Or even my life experiences after college as it’s remained a big part of my life. So no, I’m not the type of person you might expect to be in a fraternity, but actually there are a lot of people just like me who are in fraternities and sororities.
The ask box is always open if you have questions or comments.
P.S. My alumni group is raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation right now. You can donate here to help!