About 19 years ago, I followed a herd of women around the Bradley University campus on a steamy day, unsure of where I was going or if this whole “Greek life thing” was for me.
It was my second full day on campus and I was still quite doe-eyed.
Granted, some of the chapters lived up to the stereotypes people have had about sororities for decades–in one house, they had a series of photos on the wall called the “Love Train.” It seemed like the only way to be accepted was to have a handsome, athletic boyfriend.
So, I was pleasantly surprised when I walked through the doors of Phi Sigma Sigma. The girls didn’t all look alike (note–they did dress alike purely for recruitment).
The first girl I met was named Melissa–she was from New Jersey originally. She was so nice and down-to-Earth. It was an usual experience, especially after a day of girls asking what my father did for a living or if I had a boyfriend (at the time, I did not).
On the second day, I was called back 3/7 houses, meaning I was perhaps not cut out for this at all. Reluctantly, I went through the second round.
At Phi Sig, I was introduced to Lisa. She was a junior from outside Toledo, Ohio. We hit it off discussing marching band and I regaled her with my story about driving from northern Indiana to Ontario for kicks as a high school senior.
On day 3, I met Christina. She was from the Los Angeles area, loved the “world famous KROQ,” and had a boyfriend in what she called an “unconventional fraternity.”
By the end of day 3, I knew there was something different about that house. There weren’t as many people as the other chapters on campus, which put me at ease as I worked through my on-going battle against social anxiety.
On Bid Day, I arrived at the Fieldhouse. My pledge class was six. The other houses had 25-30. It didn’t phase me–I knew I’d made the right decision.
As I graduated, the national office associated with my chapter revoked our charter and shut us down. They reasoned we did not have the “proper sorority experience” because we didn’t have 80 girls. They seized our assets and told us our friendships and experience amounted to “zero” because we didn’t fit a mold.
Nearly two decades after putting on that navy blue Phi Sig t-shirt, I see articles like this and wonder why these stereotypes are still promoted. This is the 21st century.
I gained such valuable leadership experience from my four years in Greek life, including serving as a Recruitment Counselor senior year. I’ve stood up in five weddings since 2000 for girls in my house. I was never looked down on for having close friends outside the Greek system either.
So, you’re not tall, thin, and blonde. A lot of people aren’t, myself included. Beauty is in how people treat each other, not how someone looks in a mini-skirt or what the scale says.
Now, as I close in on 40, people are surprised when I mention that I was in a sorority for four years. I am proud of the majority of the women I met through the house and the friends I made through the Greek system at Bradley.
To the chapters still open, don’t perpetuate stereotypes. Be open-minded and remember that amazing women come in all shapes and sizes.