By Taryn Loftus
To say that one cannot simultaneously be a member of a sorority and a feminist would be a blatant lie. Feminist theories have thoroughly evolved, and the word evokes variety of definitions. These working definitions range from the stigmatic “man-hater” to the belief that men and women are equal and should be treated as such.
Feminism is all about empowering women (and other historically oppressed groups), and if one feels more confident and powerful within a sorority setting, then there is no reason to claim that the individual is not a true feminist.
Joining a sorority is not a death sentence to feminism and feminist ideals—there are plenty of young women who participate in sorority events that genuinely serve the community through philanthropic efforts. In some cases, they help members of the sorority to receive a leg-up in employment opportunities.
Even if these young women in sororities did not necessarily become involved in activities intended to promote the well-being of a community or join the sorority to use it as a networking tool, the idea that a young woman cannot be a proud feminist while living in a sorority house is absurd. People in tight-knit communities, such as that of a sorority, should not let the criticism of Greek life discourage them from pledging.
Granted, there are distinct rules that apply to sororities nationwide that do have the potential to seem oppressive, including fining young women who cannot attend all meetings and prohibiting them from serving alcohol at parties, which in some cases gives fraternities more power in determining the social life of any given night. These rules, however, are open to interpretation. In practice, they may not necessarily be as oppressive as some critics of sororities portray them. For example, having penalties for missing a mandatory meeting is not a practice unique to sororities. Missing practices in sports can lead to less playing time, and on a professional level, missing meetings can lead to repercussions within one’s career.
There are some self-proclaimed feminists involved in college Greek life who do see an oppressive side to sororities, but they point out that they are members of the sorority nonetheless and use their membership as a basis for eradicating any potential detriments to the feminist movement.
For example, Jing Qu, a student at Columbia, and Jamie Fass, a Barnard student, were both quoted in the New York Times this month defending their sorority members. Fass described being competitive within the Greek life system as a better use of competitiveness.
As of late critics have been pervasively vocal over female representation in sororities. A 2015 Alabama sorority’s recruitment video drew criticism over the lack of diversity and perceived objectification of women that contributed in their disempowerment. Writer A.L. Bailey said in a statement that this video exaggerated femininity to a level that was “worse for women than Donald Trump.” If the young women of that particular sorority felt confident in how they portrayed themselves within the recruitment video and were satisfied with the results that in itself should advocate for the possibility of women to be both sorority members and feminists.
Regardless of personal definitions of the term, feminism is about empowerment, and with empowerment comes confidence. The claim that sororities reject the possibility of feminism is an outdated belief that oppresses women. It may influence women to believe that they cannot possibly join a sorority if they want to be successful and empower others, thus deterring some individuals from pursuing a place in one of these communities. Feminism does not need to be rejected when a woman joins a sorority, and the opportunity to empower women is not lost within Greek life.
Taryn Loftus, FCRH ’19, is a communication and media studies major from Windsor, Connecticut.