Sunday, August 23, 2015

Stepford sisters...

Okay, it's time I quit writing about the Duggar family and moved on to the next topic of interest.  Today, I'm going to write about sorority girls.

It so happens I attended a college where Greek life was huge.  Four national sororities were founded at my alma mater, which is really saying something, since Longwood University is not a big school, nor is it located in a metropolis of any decent size.  I didn't join a Greek organization myself, unless you count Sigma Alpha Iota, which is an international honorary music fraternity for women.  I've always been sort of fascinated by Greek life, though, which is why the below video on Tomo News interested me.


This news video is based on a recruitment video put out by the University of Alabama's chapter of Alpha Phi.

I am not familiar with Alpha Phi, since we didn't have it at Longwood in my day.  From the looks of this video, the ladies of Alpha Phi are overwhelmingly white and blonde with plenty of T&A.  Every school is different, of course, and so is every chapter.  These women look like they're having fun, though I definitely think you'd have to fit the mold to be accepted into their group... and based on the dazed looks on their faces, I get the sense they are a little "Stepford".

I liked the video.  I have to admit it... though I liked the video mostly for the funky music and Tomo News's snarky commentary.  The gyrating blonde women are more than a little creepy to me because they looked a bit like they were from a planet of blonde clones.  Man... I liked the music on Tomo News's video so much that I had to download it.  It cooks.  


The video sort of brings to mind an old Dr. Seuss tale...  I wouldn't ordinarily reference him, since he's Bill's ex wife's favorite author, but it does sort of fit the situation in more ways than one.

I look at the pretty young women in the video and wonder if there are any brains behind the blondeness.  I am sure there are some smart chicks in that sorority, but with all the glitter blowing and strutting around in football jerseys, it's hard to know for sure.  Anyway, at least they have their looks, which sadly counts for a lot in the world.  I'm sure they have a lot of fun in their group.  I hasten to add that not all sororities are like this.  In fact, there are times now when I sort of wish I'd rushed.  But then, I had neither the self-confidence nor the money to take the sorority girl plunge.

Below is a book review I wrote of Alexandra Robbins' 2004 book, Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities.  It gives insight to those who were never initiated into Greek life.  


  • It's not easy being Greek: the truth behind sororities

    Review by knotheadusc
     in Books, Music, Hotels & Travel 
      May, 02 2004
  • Pros: Entertaining expose of college sorority life.
    Cons: Robbins reveals too many secrets.
    I'm a graduate of Longwood College, which is now known as Longwood University, where four national sororities were founded: Kappa Delta, Zeta Tau Alpha, Sigma Sigma Sigma (Tri Sig), and Alpha Sigma Alpha. Greek life, that is membership in a sorority or fraternity, was very big at Longwood when I attended. I have little doubt that being Greek is still a very important part of life on the Farmville, Virginia campus where I got my undergraduate degree.

    I vividly recall the hullabaloo surrounding Greek rush at the beginning of each semester. My freshman year, I lived with a woman who rushed Kappa Delta. Kappa Delta was full of pretty women-- KD ladies, according to my ex-roommate, who were among the most popular women on campus. When she had accepted her bid, her big sisters had decorated our door. Every time I walked into the room, I felt like I was walking through a throne. The whole door was covered in signs and decorations with KD colors and symbols all over it. And then my roommate was a pledge and she constantly went to parties, got involved in philanthropies and fundraisers, and spent all of her free time studying about the sorority and its mission. I witnessed firsthand some of the experiences Alexandra Robbins writes about in her 2004 book Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities.

    I remember wondering at times if being in a sorority would be fun for me. I did join a musical honorary fraternity for women and we did a lot of the same stuff the social sororities did, only our dues were less expensive, membership was based on GPA and the number of music credit hours we had, it wasn't as time consuming, and there weren't any parties (though there was also a men's music fraternity). According to Robbins, being in a social sorority is a major endeavor. First and foremost, there's the significant investment of time and money. Sorority ladies pay dues that generally cost several hundred dollars a semester, and they are expected to attend meetings and ceremonies. If they miss those ceremonies and meetings, they might be fined, even if they had a good reason like work or school. According to Robbins, there's a strong emphasis on looking a certain way and always behaving in a way that would reflect well on the sisterhood. There are mandatory study periods because many sororities have a minimum grade point average that sisters are expected to achieve. All of this sounds pretty positive until Robbins reveals the darker, more secretive side of sorority life.

    In order to write this book, Robbins had to go undercover at an institution she calls "State University", posing as a nineteen year old woman during the 2002-03 school year. She had the help of four sorority members: Vicki, Amy, Caitlin, and Sabrina (not their real names) who agreed to risk their memberships in the sororities in order to help her with this project. Vicki was a member of "Beta Pi" (not its real name) and the other three volunteers were members of "Alpha Rho" (not its real name). Sabrina was the lone black member of Alpha Rho. Robbins writes of Sabrina's experiences of being in a white sorority, where the sisters insensitively made racist remarks in her presence. Caitlin, the daughter of an overly involved mother, was the vice president of Alpha Rho who had been date raped by a fraternity member after a party. Vicki was the pretty, blonde, California girl who looked the part of a Beta Pi sister but had so far disappointed the other sorority members by being too shy and reluctant to socialize. And Amy was another "girl next door" type member of Alpha Rho whose twin sister had died. According to Robbins, Amy was looking for a sisterhood that might help ease the pain she experienced with the loss of her biological sister.

    As Robbins acted as a "fly on the wall" watching these four women over the course of the school year, she found out that most of the stereotypes surrounding sorority were actually true. Robbins claims that she witnessed eating disorders, racism, drug and alcohol abuse, psychological abuse, violence and extreme promiscuity. Worse, the abuses were inflicted by attractive, intelligent, otherwise successful women. Robbins balances these sordid stories with interludes about related news items related to sorority women, articles about hazing, date rape, and drug and alcohol abuse. She interviewed several hundred sorority members from campuses across the country, emphasizing that Greek life is most important in the South. It's taken so seriously that some parents hire rush consultants in order to guide their daughters through the rush process and into the "right" sorority.

    Robbins includes an interesting chapter on black sororities, comparing them to the white sororities-- one institutionalized part of college life that is still quite segregated. She also includes information about local sororities, that is sisterhoods that are not part of a national panhellenic group. One black woman Robbins wrote about started her own sorority having been twice rejected by the white sororities. The woman claimed that she wouldn't have fit in with the black sororities and that had she become a member of a black sorority, the sisters wouldn't have accepted her because she didn't "act black"; yet the white sororities wouldn't accept her because of her skin color.

    After I read this book, I found myself glad that I didn't join a social sorority. I had, and still have, a lot of friends who were members of sororities and I witnessed what happened to some of them after they joined Greek organizations. Most of the women were very nice, but as they became more involved with Greek life, they were a lot less involved with their "independent" friends. It was interesting to read Robbins' accounts of the peer pressure she witnessed. Robbins also includes a lot of information about so-called secret rituals. If you've always wondered about sorority passwords, secret ceremonies, or symbolism, you may really enjoy the section of the book where Robbins removes the shroud of mystery.

    The fact that Robbins does include secret passwords and information about secret rituals may be very offensive for those women who are members of sororities. Part of what makes the sisterhoods "special" is the emphasis on secrecy. Robbins destroys that secrecy with her expose, although I have to admit that I found the information interesting. On the other hand, I did wonder why she felt the need to include it in this book, especially since those secrets are part of what makes sorority life attractive. It was almost sad for me to read about the secrets that are held sacred by sorority women. Robbins also didn't make it clear how she got away with being "a fly on the wall", since she obviously didn't join either of the sororities she wrote of. I would think that the sisters would have gotten suspicious, even if most of the contact Robbins had with the four sisters she was keeping track of was via instant messenger.

    Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities is well written, thorough, and fairly well researched. For those who are not familiar with the great deal of jargon associated with Greek life, Robbins includes a glossary, but she also does a good job defining the elements of Greek life in the book itself. I found Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities an interesting read, although I doubt I'm a more enlightened person after reading about the sordid affairs that go on in sorority houses across the country.

    Robbins concludes this book by writing her suggestions of how national sororities could change for the better. I was glad to see this, since so many expose type books write only of the negatives and yet don't include any information about how the negatives could be made positive. She emphasizes the need for more "adult supervision", something I found curious since college students are supposed to already be adults.

    Robbins also believes that all women who rush should get into a sorority, a suggestion that I fear would defeat the purpose of sororities. After all, many people join Greek organizations so that they can be a part of something "special" with people who are like them. While I understand the reasoning behind this suggestion and actually agree with the sentiment (that Greek organizations are elitist), I doubt this suggestion would go over well. Robbins writes that the national offices are always interested in making more money and yet they are particular about who can be a member. This is another reason why she believes that sororities should be more open to all college women.

    This book wasn't entirely negative.  Robbins does include information about some of the positive aspects of sorority life, such as forming enduring friendships and business connections outside of college life, although the overall emphasis in this book is the negative side to Greek life.

    I believe that Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities might be useful for high school senior girls and their parents, however I also believe that what is written in this book should be taken with a grain of salt and balanced with other sources. If you aren't looking to go Greek but just want to read about sorority life, you might enjoy reading this book as well. Go to Amazon.com to order this book, though, and you will see many negative ratings contributed by indignant sorority members who are upset that Robbins has attacked an institution that they hold sacred. Still, I believe her account was fair, even if it was shocking.


Bill is on his way to Uganda this morning.  He will be there until Saturday.  Then, I can plan in earnest for our next trip.

5 comments:

  1. greek life was in full force at my undergrad school, though they were pretty heavily derided by anyone not associated with the system. the sorority sisters were bigger snobs on campus, but the frat rats wreaked more havoc off campus interms of the damage they did at parties. A close family friend was drugged and raped at a frat party at my school. Shebehaved in a naive manner and should have looked out for herslelf a littl more capably, but no one deserves to be raped. The perp was never caught, but if he is caught at anything and his DNA comes up later in the system and he's wealthy, she will be wealthy, too. GThe stature of limitations here is much longer in civil suits of this kind than in criminal prosecution. all things considered, she'd just as soon seek revenge by gaining wealth at the same time, though she's nnot holoding her breath.As she was drugged, she doesn't remember it.

    The girls were incredible snobs on campus, but they were outnumbered and tended to be put in their place.

    ]I don't exactly relate to why they would choose the greek life.

    I for one do not mind if you write more about the Duggars. They're deserving of any negstive publicity they receive as long as what is written is true, and what you write is definitely true.

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    1. Well, since Bill is not here this week, I have plenty of time for mischief.

      The Greeks at my school were pretty tame for the most part. It was a small school with a very nice community feel. Most everybody knew everybody else, at least in my day.

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  2. P.S. I own most Dr. Suess volumes. The Star-bellied snetches is a particularly applicable story to Greek life. I know you're not overly fond of the works of the good dr. because Bill's ex treated them like scripture, but he really hit the mark in a few areas.

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  3. Oh, I think Dr. Seuss was a genius and I enjoyed his books very much when I was a kid. However, my reading tastes eventually evolved to more challenging reading, unlike Ex's.

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  4. Besides, even though Ex liked Seuss's books, she didn't appear to learn much from them.

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