Sara Ariav Molly Daniel ENC1145 2 May 2013 The Reality of Greek Life College gives many young adults the opportunity to start fresh from high school, beginning their path to a dream career, and discover many new things about themselves they never knew before. As many years have passed, the enrollment of college students is increasing, and the number of young women going through sorority recruitment has increased as well. Women looking to join a sorority are seeking socialization, leadership opportunities (Allison, Clark 1) and ways to give back to the community through philanthropy events. The view of Greek life differs from the outside looking in, and the inside looking out. Both sororities and fraternities are misperceived, and will face the challenges of upholding their high standards. Many Greek life students are thought to face body image disruptions, develop lower-self esteem and depression, and increased pressure for upholding and maintaining a stereotype within the Greek life community, which originates from innovative modern day technology and gossip. When most people think of a sorority, some think life long friends and others think that you are paying for your friends. There are pros and cons for both the sorority route and the nonsorority route in college. For the ones who choose to go the sorority route, many will go through a process known as formal recruitment. Formal recruitment is practiced nation wide across many college and university campuses. Some hold formal recruitment only in the fall and others will hold it only in the spring, depending on the decision the panhellenic board, a national conference composed of 26 international and national women’s sororities, chooses at a school. Formal
recruitment is a “week broken into four rounds of events; Scholarship, Service, Leadership and Sisterhood” (FSU Panhellenic). Beginning at the first round, each potential new member (PNM) is required to attend each house know as “ice waters”, or the scholarship round, where there are two five minute conversations with two different members of each sorority. This gives the PNM an opportunity to get a feel for what kind of girls the sorority is made up of. After this round, the PNMs will be given a maximum number of houses they must rank, beginning with number one and so on. The ones they do not put on this list will be on their “drop list”, houses they wish to not go back to the next day. Just because a girl ranks their favorite houses they would like to go back to, does not mean that they will always go back. Sororities have the ability to drop girls as well. As the rounds go on, most girls will attend a maximum of three houses on their final round. After this final round the PNM will then rank these three houses one through three and hopefully receive a bid, a formal invitation to join the sorority, on the final day. Bid day is said to be one of the best days while being a member in a sorority. From personal experience, I can agree with that. It is a day full of meeting new girl who will soon become your best friends and the start of an amazing journey in Greek life. Although, many may think each girl will always get their first pick and dream house, this is not always the case. Just because a PNM wants to go to a house the next round does not always mean that house will want them back. Many girls will be “dropped” or not being asked back to the house. Being dropped can then lead to decreased self-esteem and increased depression because of this rejection (Rolnik, Maddox, Miller 7). Since this is a very short process, averaging at 7 days, research has proven that the “intense focus on physical appearance is what makes sorority rush a potentially objectifying process for its participants” (Rolnik, Maddox, Miller 8) causing many PNMs to create a fear of rejection or even drop out of the
process. In Dr. Michaela Meyer’s article “Women Speak(ing)”, she examines how women are viewed today through feminist analyses and that “understanding the contributions of all women is an important step toward cultivating media literacy” (11). Meaning that one must view women by understanding the feminine style and can be interpreted as weak. Increased depression and lower self-esteem begins before, during recruitment and continues throughout sorority life on campus. Research also proves that once a member of a sorority, self-esteem does not increase, and can potentially decrease as the years go on. Young women who joined a sorority were proven to not have a higher mean self-esteem rate than those who did not join a sorority (Saville, Johnson). Since student body populations on college campuses are increasing across the nation, this means that female population is increasing as well. With more females on college campuses, this allows for young women to be surrounded by more body types and lower self-image when comparing themselves to others. Increased depression and lower self-esteem are precedents which lead to eating disorders and body image disruptions, and vice versa. College is a new environment most young adults have not experienced. With this being said, students are forced to cope and adapt to this new environment that could potentially have an effect on their personality, social skills, and self-image. Before conducting experiments, research believed that sorority women would have reported a higher level of eating disorders than non-sorority women. For example, “A cross-sectional study found that sorority women reported higher levels of body dissatisfaction and fears of becoming fat” (Allison, Park 355). But the real question was, do women who pursue the process of recruitment and joining a sorority have more disordered eating attitudes than women who do not? But after experimenting this theory it was proven that
Disordered eating did not differ between the groups before women joined sororities. By Time 3, sorority women reported higher Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI) Drive for Thinness subscale scores than non sorority women, but the EDI Bulimia and Body Dissatisfaction subscales did not differ. (Allison, Park 354) This study specifically was broken up into three time frames. One survey was given the second semester of freshman year, the second year and then their third year as a college student. Both sorority and non-sorority girls were surveyed and the results were compared. The drive for thinness between both experimental groups was highest during time 1 and both decreased as the years went on (Allison, Park 357). These experiments prove that eating disorders and body image disturbances are interrelated with depression and lower self-esteem. Although many would believe that girls who join a sorority are at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder and having a lower selfesteem, this is not always the case. Research has proven the opposite because girls who seek to join a sorority already have a steady and balanced diet going into college and join sororities based on their morals and values. In contradiction, girls who do not expect to join a sorority are more likely to change their normal diets that could lead to an extreme eating disorder. In the United States today, social media, popular rumor, and stereotypes influence gender roles and expectations for the modern day college student. With the growth and innovation of technology, these sites are more accessible than ever before. Some are for the good of people and others are not. When students are faced with the option of joining a sorority or fraternity, many are well educated on the subject while others are not. The ones who are well educated may be a legacy, where a relative of theirs was affiliated with Greek life on a college campus, or have a past personal experience with a sorority or fraternity event. Since Greek life and technology is
becoming more popular and advanced across the nation, this is allowing sororities and fraternities to be stereotyped through gossip sites and gender roles. Tumblr and twitter accounts such as, TFM (Total Fraternity Move) and TSM (Total Sorority Move) portray Greek life in both positive and negative lights, allowing outsiders to stereotype them as they please through gender roles. Gossip also plays a role when stereotyping Greek life. Numerous universities and college have anonymous gossip sites that allow students to post whatever they would like about anyone they would like. Because the percentage of students who participate in Greek life has been increasing the posts on these sites have been increasing as well. Gender roles and stereotypes are not only looked at outside sorority life, but inside too. In an article titled, “Don’t Be a Whore, That’s Not Ladylike” written by Lisbeth A. Berbary, the author examines the question: How are such discourses of femininity disseminated and disciplined? Looking closely at the Zeta Chi sorority, which is a large university in the Southeastern region of the United States in an active college town (Berbary 607), researchers observes “the processes of covert discipline through which members of the sorority monitored one another’s gendered behavior” (Berbary 608). After completing four different observations about social functions standard meetings, the final thoughts were stated as The women of Zeta Chi were disciplined through hierarchical/lateral observation, normalizing judgment, and social examination in order to fulfill those expectations of gendered subjectivity enabled by the disclosure of ladylike within the sorority. (Berbary 623) The performative acts of gender roles and performances in sororities are created from the stress of Standards/Nationals and powerful girl talk. Standards and Nationals keep a close watch on chapters across the nation making sure they are following ritual and abiding by all of the rules.
This close watch can create stress on the executive board of sororities, because they need to remain in good standing with their Nationals. The impact of powerful girl talk amongst sororities creates judgment and stereotypes, which result in maintaining strict gender roles. When comparing and contrasting gender roles and stereotypes with eating disorders, a research study that examined two different sororities showed that In one sorority, those women who binged a “moderate” amount were the most popular, and those women who binged “too little” or “too much” were less popular. In the other sorority, however, the most popular women were those who binged the most. (Alexander) This shows how stereotypes and gender roles differ between sororities and not sororities as the whole image. Looking at the opposite side of the spectrum, fraternities are stereotyped much differently than sororities and exemplify a different gender role. Since fraternities are composed of males, researching male gossip language plays gives readers an insight of the male gossip world. According to “Male Gossip and Language Play in the Letters Pages of Men’s Lifestyle Magazine” by Benthan Benwell, “The alternative subject of “male gossip” is those men who don’t fit the desired dominant mould of masculinity, e.g., gay men, new men” (Benwell 22). This shows the stereotypes men label themselves and others who are not “inside” their group of masculinity. Both sororities and fraternities use terms one would only know if they are part of Greek life. This is what separates the outside from the inside and even further into Greek life as a whole. It is what keeps sorority and fraternity rituals unknown by others and a secret society. Examining deeper into the purpose of sororities and fraternities, sorority life more specifically, one can agree that there are many pros and cons from pursuing this life style and college experience. Sororities offer young women the opportunity to become part of a long-lived
sisterhood, leadership opportunities, and make larger universities seem smaller. Although sororities have many opportunities, they were also found to have some disadvantages as well. It was thought that women who join sororities are more likely to encounter body image disruptions and eating disorders, but sorority women weren’t the only ones, non-sorority women are just as likely. Since most young women know if they will go through the recruitment process, many already have a balanced diet and workout schedule, while ones who do not pursue sisterhood are the ones who are more likely to obtain these disorders. After researching eating disorders within sororities and outside sororities, it was proven that depression and lower self-esteem are other side effects of an eating disorder among college women as a whole. Once in a sorority or fraternity, the stereotypes do not end. Many hold members accountable for their actions because they are now representing the chapter as a whole. This then leads into gender roles and performances among sororities and fraternities. Overall, becoming a member of Greek life on a college campus is a personal decision based on stereotypes, gossip and gender roles. Although many disadvantages have been proven through research, many young adults still choose to become a part of such a large organization across many college campuses in the United States.
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Works Cited Alexander, Laurel A. "The Prevalence Of Eating Disorders And Eating Disordered Behaviors In Sororities." College Student Journal 32.1 (1998): 66. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. Allison, Kelly C., and Crystal L. Park. "A Prospective Study Of Disordered Eating Among Sorority And Nonsorority Women." International Journal Of Eating Disorders 35.3 (2004): 354-358. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. Benwell, Benthan. "Male Gossip and Language Play in the Letters Pages of Men's Lifestyle Magazines." Journal of Popular Culture . Web. 20 Mar. 2013. Berbary, Lisbeth A. "“Don’T Be A Whore, That’S Not Ladylike”: Discursive Discipline And Sorority Women’S Gendered Subjectivity." Qualitative Inquiry 18.7 (2012): 606-625. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. Finney, Tricia. "Recruitment." Panhellenic Florida State University. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <http://www.fsupanhellenic.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&It emid=4>. Rolnik, Ashley, Renee Engeln-Maddox, and Steven Miller. "Here’S Looking At You: SelfObjectification, Body Image Disturbance, And Sorority Rush." Sex Roles 63.1/2 (2010): 6-17. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. Meyer, Michaela. Communication Quarterly. N.p.: Routledge, n.d. Print.