With rush finished, pledging is well underway on Binghamton University’s campus, and many freshman and sophomore women are currently experiencing the more unsavory end of Greek life. Pledging is the formal process new members must go through to become a full-fledged member of their organization. It is intended to educate members on history, rituals and philanthropy, but can sometimes transition into hazing: the humiliating, unpleasant and demeaning tasks attached to initiation. Although every sorority recognized by BU claims to be hazing-free, it is naive to believe there are no instances going on under the radar. It could be as simple as mandated library hours or adhering to a certain dress code, or something more obvious like cleaning or being verbally degraded. Even though this process is only a few weeks long, it is strange to think how many women choose to put themselves through something like this.
Pledging is just a singular example; sororities are full of unattractive stereotypes. The leading (and, frankly, hurtful) consensus believes these women to be disingenuous and shallow, fueled by the toxic culture of binge drinking and hookups. This, in my opinion, is ultimately systemic from the rampant and unchecked expressions of internalized misogyny throughout sorority culture. Internalized misogyny is the use of learned sexist behaviors and attitudes toward people of your own gender, and includes but is not limited to acts of body shaming, slut shaming and reinforcing gender norms. Internalized misogyny is already a strain on most female relationships, but when placed in the context of a sorority, it can have disastrous ramifications. Therefore, as a self-proclaimed feminist, should I be embarrassed to be a part of a sorority? Can I even call myself a feminist among all of the current stigmatization of Greek life? Sorority women can do little about how others perceive them, and frankly shouldn’t care much about outside opinions. However, I believe that if we as a community recognized the greater threat at hand, we could not only form stronger bonds of femininity, but also alter how others perceive and treat us.
Sororities didn’t always have this problem. In fact, they arose from the necessity of belonging and inclusion. The first sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, was founded in 1851 at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. These sororities represented the first generation of women allowed to attend universities and receive higher education. Pioneers, these women defied expectations of what a Victorian female should be and strove to prove the capability of an educated woman. These organizations contained the first feminists and abolitionists who strove for emancipation and suffrage. They created a safe space for collegiate women to freely think and express their ideas while providing one of the few social outlets these women had.
So what happened? What changed over the past 150 years? It’s a hard question to answer, but perhaps it lies in the drastic shift of a woman’s place in society. Being such adaptable and complex organizations, sororities most likely adjusted their images to better suit the changing definition of femininity. Whatever the case may be, one thing is for certain: Greek life as a whole has stood the test of time and clearly is doing something right. All types of girls flock to sororities; their alluring energies prove that something within them is still desirable. Even with their negative connotations, women seem to embrace it all: the good, the bad and the ugly. As a woman in Greek life, I ask my fellow sisters that we be more cognizant of the issues that arise in our type of organization.
College women should absolutely question if sororities morally align with their beliefs before they consider Greek life. If you can recognize the pitfalls and weaknesses of a sorority, you can reflect on these and work on improving them. Ask yourself if you really want to be involved in an organization that doesn’t talk about these topics or refuses to acknowledge their existence. Recognize when someone, or even yourself, is displaying internalized misogyny and work to amend it. Refuse to be put through hazing, and denounce your sisters who wish to continue the practice. Sororities are powerful and influential institutions on our campus — imagine what these female-forward organizations could do if they chose to build up women and create an environment where every individual grows and thrives.
Grace Kent is a sophomore double-majoring in history and philosophy, politics and law.