While Ohio State Starbucks locations are overrun with online orders from clumps of women wearing matching clothes and long lines of freshmen dressed in their unique versions of "snappy casual", I feel like now is a good time to share why I left my sorority last spring.
Shout-out to this hot new president who I know will take the chapter everywhere I wanted to.Madi Task
When I went through recruitment my freshman year of college, I wasn't entirely sure what I was looking for in a new "sisterhood". Neither of my parents graduated from a 4-year college so Greek life was going to be something that was entirely my own. Here were the thoughts going through my head during recruitment: 1) I'm a huge feminist, so what could be better than surrounding myself with a group of women that supported each other's diverse academic and career goals? 2) I'm a first-generation college student, so I figured that being a part of a group that had annual dues meant the majority of my peers had good familial career guidance when it came to post-college job prospects. 3) I love knowing everybody in my immediate community, and upon leaving my close-knit high school, I craved a similar feeling of knowing at least 200 people in a single given place. Making up 13% of the student body, Greek Life was a part of campus I wanted to be a part of in order to get that "classic", holistic college experience.
The question I remember throwing me off the most during recruitment was, "So have you found your family yet at Ohio State?" I knew they wanted me to express some kind of stress in finding the people who really got me, so they could flip it back on how their chapter could fulfill that for me, but the truth was that I had already found my home. My theatre organization (Off The Lake Productions, hey kids) gave me the friends I was picky about finding that first semester away from home. I was still in the honeymoon phase of that by the time I went through recruitment.
This genuinely made it hard for me to make personal connections with the girls I was talking to. You get older and sometimes, to be brutally honest, meeting new people can feel more like a burden than an exciting new friendship. Especially when you just left those best friends from home you've had around for years. I was looking for the copy of my best friends in these sororities, and I noticed that even if I found them, we didn't click just right. Or I saw them from across the room and didn't actually get to talk to them.
It wasn't until I talked to more women in Alpha Chi Omega that I realized what I wanted out of my sorority experience. I saw a chapter filled with diverse personalities. Every time I came back to the chapter I wasn't just talking to someone new, I was talking to a completely different set of personal goals, a unique but positive outlook on life, and a fiery, engaging personality. The thing I found in common with the women I talked to was their genuine interest in my personal story and the shared level of passion we had about completely different things. I talked about feminism and we were able to apply it to a variety of different fields. I talked about personal goals and growth and learned that some people experience growth in more painful or professional ways than others. I knew this chapter would be the one that packed the classic sorority experience (social events are included in any chapter you join on campus) but that pushed me to be whoever I wanted to be, as long as I kept that fire.
I knew I had room to grow in Alpha Chi, and in other chapters, it almost felt like I would be working just to keep up with the rest, or align myself to their structure. I learned a lot about leadership during my freshman year of college, and the women in Alpha Chi were some of the first people to ever tell me I would be good at leading something. I ended up becoming the Vice President of Recruitment for my sophomore and junior years at OSU.
It was being on the executive board that made me think critically about what it meant to be in a sorority, and what it meant to be in a sorority at Ohio State, specifically. I traveled to conferences and met with every other VP Recruitments for Alpha Chi in the country, and I learned more about our national rules as well as the variance in local rules from campus to campus. I was completely aware of the double-standards universities held for their fraternities vs their sororities. I am still very upset that fraternities can throw parties in their own homes and sororities can't even enjoy a glass of wine in their room, even if they're 21. But that's beside the point, and on the shallow side of my list of grievances.
The sheer amount of hypocrisy I saw in a system that treated its members like children, when the women in the chapter I knew were some of the most responsible, life-preserving, ambitious, respectable, and passionate women I've ever met, was frustrating beyond all belief. Being off of the executive board for the first time and hearing decisions being made that people felt like they couldn't push back against bothered me to my core. I've always been progressive, I've always been craving innovation and creation, and good old fashioned recreation, and it seemed like no matter how good of an idea a chapter member had, there was some kind of meaningless red tape in the way that stopped these ideas from happening. Members of my chapter, it seemed to me, found their freedom outside of the chapter in leadership opportunities elsewhere on campus. We were all over-involved in other things besides the sorority itself. Some sororities have members that commit to the sisterhood, they commit to the fun, to the community, and to each other. They will go around the rules, dig under them and hide there, or outright play along. My sorority rode the line of trying to make every change we could without pushing buttons or self-crucifying ourselves, and I was not ready to be placed back into captivity.
I constantly compared my experience to those of fraternity men I knew, on or off campus, who had fun unapologetically and lived a strikingly different life from the women in sororities though the two are supposed to work hand-in-hand. I couldn't be a part of a feminist organization that was so strikingly different from its male counterparts, when I knew from conversation and observation that we wanted to have the liberty to do much of the same things without such juvenile oversight.
I never left because I disliked the sisterhood, I left because my morals were competing with each other and I didn't want to spend my senior year feeling trapped in a system I knew from the start I wanted to be a part of changing. (I felt this way since freshman year when I joined, as did many of my pledge class sisters. We even shared around this New York Times article a couple months after joining, and yes, I did scroll back all the way in the GroupMe to find it in 2016.)
I still agree that sororities today have worked their way back to their feminist roots, but they're not entirely there yet. Being a part of a group that I knew I was too busy to contribute to my senior year (I have two jobs, an executive board position in OTL, classes, and a newfound decision to spend whatever free time is left on myself and my closest friends, one of which is an Alpha Chi), so I left to avoid causing friction and being the main source of pessimism in the chapter. Looking in on the women in the chapter now, I know they are still making progress. And I know I still made the right choice 4 years ago, my time to move on just came earlier rather than later, and I learned that your mental health will thank you when you take the pieces you know you want to keep (the people) and lose the pieces you know were causing you stress (the system).