When I thought about what my college experience would be like as a high schooler, I never for a second even slightly entertained the faintest thought of joining a sorority. As a self-identified feminist, as someone who thought Chapstick was a full face of makeup, and as someone who had about as much interest in enduring mosh pits of grinding frat boys as she did in microbial taxonomy (read: none) I had zero interest in what I, frankly, saw as an antiquated, possibly even anti-feminist and insulting tradition. Which is why when I pressed “send” on my Columbia University sorority recruitment application last December, nobody was more surprised than I was.
I hadn’t entered college with a clear goal of finding my long, lost non-genetic “sisters.” But my interest in joining a sorority was born from that very concept. As it turns out, one of the hard things about going to school in an admittedly fabulous and exciting city is the tendency for the student body to disappear into it. Becoming a “sophisticated urbanite” was one of the main reasons I chose a college in New York City in the first place, but the lack of cohesive community here started to take its toll on me. Especially in the face of living away from home for the first time, a little loving support didn’t sound so bad.
So I decided to take a chance on joining a sorority. Sure enough, as soon as I opened my mind to the process and became immersed in it, I discovered plenty of other perks. During recruitment itself, I assumed I’d committed myself to a weekend of small-talk hell, full of girls who silently judged me while engaging me in questions about my hometown and major. In reality, I had some really genuine conversations with some awesome girls. I even got into a heated debate about Scrabble v. Bananagrams, which, I must say, may have been the highlight of the weekend. As recruitment drew to a close and I made my final selection, I have to say I was actually excited. When I opened the envelope containing the name of the sorority that, through a process of mutual selection, I would henceforth be a part of, I felt deep down that I had made the right decision.
Since I’ve joined, it’s clear to me that sororities can be considered feminist. After all, the concept of sisterhood is intrinsic to feminism. In the face of a patriarchal society, belonging to a community of women is vital. Knowing you will always have strong women to support you is incredibly empowering, especially funny and intelligent women, like the stereotype-defying young ladies in my sorority. And my sorority is all about support: Columbia University has a strict anti-hazing policy, which the sororities here actually abide by. My sorority’s philanthropy also focuses on raising awareness about domestic violence – a clearly feminist endeavor and noble pursuit.
Of course, I had to deal with a lot of judgmental questions, comments and blatant stares of disbelief when I told my friends that I’d be rushing. Which actually reminded me of another feminist principle at the heart of rushing a sorority: choice. To me, feminism means a person having the ability to make choices that will make him or her the happiest, most fulfilled version of himself or herself. For me, that meant joining a sorority.
I’ve only been a part of this sorority for less than a month and I’m not even a fully initiated member yet. And while I don’t know what’s going to happen down the road, I can confidently say that right now I’m incredibly happy with my decision. I’d love to hear from all readers who are currently in a sorority or who were in a sorority in college. What were your experiences like? Any advice for me and other new pledges?
Want to contact the author of this post? Email her at JulieZ@TheFBomb.org. Julie Zeilinger also edits and blogs for The F Bomb.