Real Sorority Women, Join Me

by Jessica Gendron Williams

Let me begin by first saying that I believe that sorority, when done right, can change people’s lives.  I believe that sorority, when done right, can empower women to be better versions of who they currently are.  I believe that sorority, when done right, can save lives – the lives of its members and the outside world.  I believe when sorority is done right, it has the power to change the world for the better, to greatly impact humanity.  I believe that in order for sorority to be done right, we first have to put the right women in those organizations.  I believe it all begins with recruitment.

I’ve spent most of my early fall, including the entire month of August, working with sorority women across the country, primarily to help them prepare for formal recruitment.  Phired Up’s formal recruitment preparation programs however, are not what many people might first envision.  We actually focus a large majority of our formal recruitment preparation training on helping sorority women understand how to be Socially Excellent in a formalized recruitment process:  How to have meaningful dialogue, how to be confident, how to be authentic, how to be curious, how to be the best version of themselves.  Above all, the actual process matters very little to what’s at the core of what recruitment is really about – building meaningful friendships, identifying high quality women, and turning those individuals into members.

I’ve had great responses from the undergraduate women that I’ve worked with and countless examples of great successes these chapters have achieved as a result of putting the emphasis back on what is important in sorority recruitment: building meaningful relationships through authentic dialogue.

However, all of this gleaming success and praise for our programming has coexisted alongside several disheartening incidents.  During a few encounters this fall, more than I’d like to admit, I have talked with sorority women who don’t seem to understand the value of better conversations during recruitment.  They can’t make the connection as to why they should care about anything other than physical looks, clothing, etc.  They don’t understand why it would be important to discuss, among other things, the values of the organization and the expectations for membership.  They only saw their organization as a social outlet and an environment that could provide for them prestige – because of the name or assumed stereotype of the organization.

I found myself, especially in those incidents, frustrated and disheartened – feeling as though we will never make any forward motion if we continue to allow this mentality and behavior. So I wrote this blog as a way to demonstrate my commitment to that forward motion… I want to make clear my personal commitment to unapologetically putting my foot down and calling out this mentality and behavior when I see it. And I commit to changing it.

What I am saying and am about to say may upset, offend, or shock some of you.  Be certain that I am, myself, upset, offended, and shocked as well.  However, I feel it’s important to draw light to this very real, very scary reality.
I, as a proud sorority woman, understand that being a member of a fraternal organization comes with extra responsibilities and expectations.  That when I took my oath to be a life long member, I promised to hold myself to a higher standard every day.  That being a sorority woman does not make me better than you – it makes me better than who I was.  I take my responsibility of being a sorority woman seriously and I get upset when others do not.

Now to the part that might offend some of you – especially those select women I’ve worked with recently that realize I am talking directly to you:  If you want to be an organization that is a bunch of pretty girls who party – great, more power to ya.  Be a group of pretty girls who party – but don’t call yourself a sorority – be a club.  Don’t be a sorority if you don’t want to live by the values your founders intended when your organization was created – be a club.  Don’t be a sorority if you want get wasted, party hard, break rules, and act foolish – be a club.  Don’t be a sorority if you don’t care about your academics, making an impact on the world, or being a leader – be a club.  Being a sorority comes with extra responsibility and higher standards – if you can’t get with that – then don’t – no one is forcing you to – just be a club.  Seriously, if you are not being a sorority woman (what they are supposed to be), but find yourself in something called a sorority… please quit.

If you want to be a true sorority woman, then I welcome you to join me on the front lines of recruitment to find more women like us – women who want to be in a sorority, not a club.

*If you don’t really know what it’s supposed to mean to be a member of your sorority – we recommend you look in your ritual book – your founders left the answer there for you.