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5 Reasons Why Sororities Are Misunderstood

The Lambda Mu chapter of Chi Omega participated in the Relay For Life fundraiser spring semester 2011.

Parties, alcohol, hazing, poor grades, superficial friends, no values. These are just a few things people think of when I tell them I’m in a sorority. But for the two years that I’ve been in Chi Omega, I haven’t found any evidence to support these negative stereotypes.

Actually, according to the most recent study done on sororities, the “2009-10 Fraternity and Sorority Assessment” conducted by the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (AFA) and Educational Benchmarking Inc. (EBI), the results show that participating in a sorority has overwhelmingly positive impacts on students.

Why is it, then, that sororities are so misunderstood? The following five reasons may help explain why.

People look to affirm stereotypes

Often, people wear blinders when they judge sororities. “If you view the sororities on your campus looking to affirm the stereotype, you’re more likely to see only that type of behavior and to overlook the positive benefits,” says Casey Potter, advisor for the Lambda Mu chapter of Chi Omega at Loyola University Chicago.

There are many favorable aspects of sorority life that people ignore by wearing blinders. According to the AFA/EBI 2009-10 Fraternity and Sorority Assessment results, “Sorority participation positions students for success in the post-school world, with improved leadership and social skills and, mostly likely, a completed degree in hand.”

Some other benefits, according to the WhyGoGreek website, include:

  • Sororities contribute to the $7 million raised and the 850,000 volunteer hours given each year by undergraduate Greek life for charities
  • Sororities are required to have an average GPA that is higher than their campus’ all-women average

Sororities are misrepresented in the entertainment industry

Movies (like Legally Blonde) and TV shows (like Sorority Life, Greek, and Sorority Girls) often add to the misunderstandings of sororities. Potter says, “In the entertainment industry, information is only valuable it it’s shocking, provocative or unique.”

The industry isn’t interested in showing a documentary about Chi Omega raising $2 million for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Where’s the entertainment in that? They want high ratings, so they make “juicy” and drama-filled movies and TV shows that highlight extreme sorority stereotypes.

“The entertainment industry makes sorority life extreme… It doesn’t applaud Greek life for its best parts: values-based organizations that teach leadership, accountability, service, long-term commitment, time management and interview skills, while providing life-long friendships,” says Potter.

Chi Omega members set up a fundraising table at the Relay For Life event to raise money for their national philanthropy, the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Sororities get unfair news coverage

Potter makes an analogy between the type of sorority behavior that’s covered in the news and the type of driver behavior that’s noticed on the highway. She says an out-of-control speeder on the highway is similar to a member of a sorority who drinks too much and parties.

While drivers only notice and remember a speeder who cuts them off and behaves erratically (disregarding the others who drive at a normal speed), Potter says the same is true for news coverage of sororities. The media only cover the out-of-control, thrilling behavior portrayed by few women in sororities (and disregard the majority who act normal).

She says, “There are lots of average sorority members doing good things, staying out of trouble and not causing a scene. But you don’t hear about or remember them. The media make it seem ‘normal’ to be the out of control member.”

Sororities are an easy target

Sometimes colleges, themselves, reinforce misunderstandings by disregarding the positive facts and statistics about Greek life and instead use sororities as a scapegoat for problems that are occurring on campus. Potter says, “When there are problems on campus, such as underage drinking or binge drinking, sororities are an easy target – they are a defined group of people who socialize together. It’s much easier to point to them.”

Sororities, themselves, promote misunderstandings

Recently, the YouTube videos Sh*t Sorority Girls Say and Top Reasons to Join a So-RAWR-ity have become very popular. Each of these videos is of a person stereotyping sorority members, but doing so in a way that’s meant to be funny, not harmful.

They make comments that portray sorority members as dumb, shallow, materialistic partiers. Some of the comments include:

  • “I did like eight shots in an hour…I’m so drunk.”
  • “When you’re in a sorority, everyone has money.”
  • “We do not let fat girls in our sorority because, let’s get real, we need to focus on what our image is.”

Even though these comments may seem funny and harmless, when women in sororities “like” and post these videos on Facebook, they are telling others that it’s okay to believe these stereotypes.

Potter says, “I get very frustrated with Greek students who tolerate and promote this type of entertainment. I think sometimes we forget that these videos reflect negatively on the entire sorority experience, and instead we just think, ‘Well that’s not our chapter’ or ‘our member.’”.’”

Photos by Emily Study

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.