The Modern Sorority:
Sisterhood After Westridge
(left) Claire Voltava and Sigma Delta sisters in front of the sorority house. (right) Maddie D’Antuono and sorority sister holding Pi Phi sign.
By Sophia K. & Jackie Y.
November 1, 2018
Although sororities and girls who participate in them are often negatively labeled, in actuality, some Westridge alumni find that Greek life can fill the gap of girls’ lost Westridge community after matriculation. As demonstrated by Reese Witherspoon in “Legally Blonde,” sororities have the potential to define a woman’s guide to sisterhood. Conversely, though, the harmful components of Greek life, including hazing and cliquey behavior, are an equally defined facet and must be taken into account when deciding to pledge.
As explained by Tulane Sophomore and Pi Beta Phi member Maddie D’Antuono ’17, Westridge sisterhood and sorority sisterhood are analogs. She says, “There is a lot of overlap in terms of female empowerment and community between Westridge and my sorority. I have witnessed the parallels of a strong, connected, socially and politically conscious female populace firsthand.”
For Maddie, Westridge and sororities similarly empower young women to strive to rise in safe, single-sex settings. Originally founded as feminist organizations during the late nineteenth century, the first sororities were created to provide collegiate women a community devoid of hostility, as women were often not welcomed warmly by their male peers and professors.
Nearly a century and a half later, this supportive pillar still holds true. Reminiscing on her time in Dartmouth sorority Sigma Delta, Claire Votava ‘14, states her sorority sisters “made extensive efforts to really change things,” taking part in divestment movements, staging conversations about race and privilege, and demanding more of each other as engaged and politically active young women. Sigma Delta is also a local sorority, which means they are unaffiliated with a national chapter, making Sigma Delta exempt from many traditional sorority rules and benefiting their practice of social activism.
D’Antuono found that her sorority’s sisterhood extends beyond campus walls, giving members access to extensive networking opportunities and, at times, a competitive edge. As explained by Maddie, “One girl put Pi Beta Phi on her resume, and when she went in for the job interview, her interviewer had also been a Pi Phi and potentially sealed the deal for her job.” This sentiment is, for men, a tale as old as time. Whether it is in reference to college fraternities and secret societies or the “old boys club” that exists in many fields, networking and connection are inherent to privileged male success. Statistically, there are fewer women in major positions of power as well as few entrenched networking systems, so sororities are functionally one of the few all-women networking organizations.
However, the experiences of sororities members often differ. University of Arizona student and Alpha Epsilon Phi member Grace Marchosky ‘18 says, “For some of the houses, sisterhood is entirely fake, and all of these girls are out for themselves. It is about being competitive and gets super cliquey.” In a more traditionally ascribed sorority norm, rules concerning appearance exist to structure sorority life; for example, the “two out of three rule,” which states that out of your hair, outfit, and makeup, two out of three must look good at all times.
Furthermore, hazing, while not being a part of all sororities, is still a significant part of the Greek system. Hazing is the practice of introducing new recruits to Greek life by forcing them to do demeaning or dangerous things. As explained by Grace, “I have not been hazed, but I know for some sororities there is something called the ‘washing machine test.’” According to Grace, the washing machine test is where active members have pledges sit on a running washing machine and circle where the fat jiggles on their body. Before pledges become active members, they have to lose the fat in the circled areas. Such occurrences cause some pledges to turn down membership offers. USC graduate Sha’trice Slaughter ‘10, said she decided not to join after receiving a degrading call from a potential sorority sister, stating, “Part of the reason why I had such an abrupt response to [the call] and a negative response was because all the history of hazing I had heard about, and I didn’t want to be a part of it.”
Voltava further explained that despite moving in a more progressive direction, many sororities have ingrained classist, racist and transphobic practices. She and Grace described how members must pay a certain amount of money per semester (anywhere between $300-$2,000) as well as additional fees for extra expenses and missed meetings. As recently as three years ago, a University of Alabama sorority denied an African American woman entry on the basis of race. While discussions and policy geared towards admitting trans women are taking place at sororities across the United States, such practices are not yet widely accepted. Barriers to admittance denigrate sororities’ diversity, calling into question the validity of promoting sisterhood.
Grace Marchosky and Alpha Epsilon Phi sisters posing with sorority sign.