Last week, a recruitment video from the Alabama chapter of Alpha Phi was shared across the country, talked about in the news, and posted on social media. In the beginning, the girls were being bashed for a lack of diversity. Truthfully, there are no women of color visible in this recruitment video. The tone shifted when author A.L. Bailey wrote an article titled: 'Bama sorority video worse for women than Donald Trump. Bailey filled her article with descriptive language, commenting on the girls' flouncing hair, bouncing bodies, and comparing them to "Girls Gone Wild"and "The Stepford Wives" at the same time. Bailey said this video makes it hard to take the women seriously; it lacks substance and is something Bailey would never want her daughter seeing or emulating. Bailey feels like the girls have turned themselves into a commodity, selling themselves short of their full potential.
It may have been unknowingly, but by insulting the (amazing) hair of the Alpha Phi sorority women, name-calling, and doubting their intelligence, Bailey derailed the conversation from a much needed discussion about diversity, and instead, made it about her own willfully ignorant views and understanding of sororities.
Diversity in Sororities
It's no secret that sororities are predominantly filled with white women. The question we have to ask ourselves is, if we want to improve our chapters and be more open and inclusive, why are we lacking diversity?
Exact statistics of diversity in Greek Life are hard to find, but a study done by Princeton in 2013 showed that 77 percent of the sorority women on their campus were white, compared to the 47 percent white student population. The answer to the lack of diversity in sororities is long and not so simple. A major contributor is the fact that minorities were not allowed into many universities until "Brown vs. Education" in 1954, and even then, many schools were slow to integrate. After desegregation, many fraternities and sororities still had white-only membership rules, barring minorities from joining.
Because of the hostility felt by minorities at universities, many different multicultural fraternities and sororities were created for students to join. This list includes historically black, Latino, Asian-American, Muslim, and Jewish sororities and fraternities, just to name a few. These organizations were made to serve the same purposes as NPC and IFC organizations, but had added cultural elements and an emphasis on civil rights. These organizations thrive all over the country, but their existence does not excuse the lack of diversity in NPC sororities.
Another reason why Greek Life may not attract a diverse membership is because of the almost yearly occurrence of racist-themed parties or other scandals like the SAE bus chant that leaked in March of this year. They're an embarrassing occurrence that shame every Greek by association.
A lack of diversity in sororities hurts everyone involved. Sororities bring together strangers and unite them over shared values, turning the women into lifelong friends. By missing out on entire minority groups, sorority women miss out on meeting people from different backgrounds with different opinions, life experiences, and stories. If we want our sororities to leave a lasting and positive mark on the world, we need to make sure we are being inclusive to people from all over the world.
Feminism in Sororities
When author A.L Bailey wrote “It's all so racially and aesthetically homogeneous and forced, so hyper-feminine, so reductive and objectifying, so Stepford Wives: College Edition. It's all so ... unempowering,” what she didn’t realize is that sororities are some of the most empowering organizations that young adult women can join.
Modern day feminism is about empowering women to do what their mothers and grandmothers would have been shamed for. Feminism lets college women dress how they want to dress without receiving backlash, drink as much or as little as they see fit, and have whatever kinds of relationships they’re into—serious or casual.
For the most part, the average college woman can go to college parties, wear her short dresses and flirt with whoever she finds attractive without being judged by her peers. But there is a divide. Sorority women are judged harsher, made to feel like they have to avoid being a walking stereotype (heaven forbid you get Starbucks while wearing letters). If a sorority woman is drunk or with a boy, she is seen as trashy, unlike women who are not in sororities. Sorority women are judged for having perfectly curled hair while other women would be complimented. Sorority women are made to feel unintelligent by people who aren’t aware that they have to meet strict GPA requirements every semester. Hyper-feminine or not, every kind of woman has just as much of a desire and right to be respected and taken seriously as any other person. It’s sexist and misogynistic to encourage one group of women and shame another over the same activity.
Sororities are about women uniting together, pushing themselves and each other to achieve goals, work hard, and be their best selves—and what’s more feminist than that?