If you told me two years ago I was going to be in a sorority, I would have laughed in your face. There would have been nothing you could have said to convince me that sorority life was for me. I was driven; I was extremely academically focused. I had a social life, but I also had goals. Big goals. And I wasn’t about to let anything get in my way.
My plan when entering Northeastern University as a pharmacy major was to join one of the co-ed pharmacy fraternities. I could build professional connections this way and get to know my peers. When that fell through, I found myself face-to-face with National Panhellenic Council Recruitment. Five short days later, I received a bid.
My life has changed dramatically because of my involvement in Greek life. The biggest thing I have learned is perspective. Greek life comes with a certain reputation that is depicted in movies and social media. Crazy parties, dangerous hazing, binge drinking, just to name a few.
But the more I learned about my chapter, the more I fell in love. The more I fell in love, the more these stereotypes really started to bug me.
One in particular that stuck out to me was the stereotype of body image. I think, in most of our minds, the phrase “sorority girl” immediately depicts a skinny, beautiful, preppy, blonde girl.
Sorority girls emphasize the need to be beautiful. Image is everything to them. And skinny is the image they promote. They care about their body image so much that they starve themselves, barely eat, and dictate their life with dangerous eating habits.
And that is just so, so wrong.
Yes, there are severe cases of fat shaming. A study conducted by a Northwestern graduate student, Ashley Marie Rolnik, followed 127 girls at a midsize, private university who were rushing sororities. The study determined that “the mean score on the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT), which measures eating habits and opinions, was well below the proposed cut-off score that indicates a clinical level of eating disturbance.” The study went on to point out the direct correlation between body mass index (BMI) and joining a sorority.
Some serious reports of fat shaming in sororities have made headline news over the years. An anonymous source at Montclair State University reports being forced to sit on a running washing machine while naked. This allowed older sisters to “circle their jiggly fat.”
Stories like this are absolutely horrendous. But luckily there are so many more truly amazing organizations that will accept girls of all shapes and sizes; these sororities promote the true meaning of sisterhood. That is the kind of sorority I found myself in.
I decided to go around and poll some of the girls involved in Greek life in Boston. Of nearly 120 girls, an overwhelming 73% agreed that there were misconceptions about eating habits in sorority women. Common statements from participants in the study were: anorexia, diets, eating disorders, starving themselves, and obsessed with weight.
Of those same 120 girls, 28% claim they eat more than the average person, while 60% say they go back and forth between eating healthy and not. One of my fellow sisters even said, “We generally eat a lot. I feel like I eat more junk food with my sorority friends than my non Greek friends.”
While sororities may have traditionally been known for promoting poor eating habits, there has been a positive shift throughout the country. Recently, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority out of Miami, Florida paired up with community sponsors to promote healthy eating by holding a healthy breakfast in the community. Several sororities have also developed Health Committees within their community that develop programs and educational events for members of Greek life.
This trend towards a more accepting and open sisterhood is why I am so proud to be a member of Greek life. Greek life may not be perfect, but nothing in life is. I certainly do not lack in the eating department and I know that goes for a lot of my friends in sororities as well. Some of our most memorable times are spent over late night pizza and last-minute dates with our two favorite guys, Ben and Jerry.
Sororities have long been developing a negative reputation. But to me, sisterhoods that will circle the fat on a naked new sister aren’t a sisterhood at all. Sororities are built on the foundation of trust, love, and eternal sisterhood. How can you look someone in the face that you love and tell them they are fat?
Luckily, there are so many sisterhoods like my own that truly embody the exact meaning of a sorority and promote positivity through all its members.
For all those potential sorority girls out there, don’t be discouraged. Just be smart about the chapter you decide to join and know what your boundaries are. Make sure you know what you are looking for in a sisterhood. Stand up for yourself and trust the process.
It was the best decision I ever made.