by KJ McNamara
We all have people who see us at our best and worst. Who is the person in the world who sees you at your worst? Is it one of your parents? Your best friend? Your long term boyfriend or girlfriend.? The person who sees me at my worst is my husband… man alive he sees me when I have not showered for 5 days, when I have the stomach flu and when I just got done with a massive sweaty run… gross.
Brendon also sees me at my other worst, when I am mad, angry and pissed off. We all get angry at different things, we get angry at the person who parks terribly and takes two spots in a crammed parking lot. We get angry about the way the toilet paper roll is supposed to hang in the holster (the roll should always be over), or even worse when there is no toilet paper at all (how hard is it really to replace it or spend $2.14 to buy a new one!) And they see us get mad at the real things in life. The unfairness we see, the judgment and seething parts of our community.
This month, after our 5 year facebook–aversary (check it out on insta @The_Steenbergens) Brendon saw me at what he calls ‘the most angry he has ever seen me.’ For those of you that know me, I am slow to anger. I look for the positive and I try to never pass judgment without putting myself in their shoes. But this time y’all… I. Was. PISSED.
I read an article in light of the challenges we face as Fraternity & Sorority from Salon.com entitled “You can’t ban douchebaggery: Kill the frats, sure, but you can’t stop entitled bros.” The article recounts a number of negative instances of bad behavior on campus by fraternities, and discusses whether banning fraternities would do anything to solve the problem. But in the article’s concluding paragraph is the one that KILLD ME. It sated this, “There’s no denying that frats and sororities are often a particularly grotesque expression of the problems that plague the rest of the country.”
I walked away with a bubbling, explosive, volcanic anger that I could only articulate with one simple thought… “What did we do?”
What did we do? What did we as sorority do to get thrown into the end of that article? What did we do to get the title ‘douchebaggery,’ associated with us? WHAT DID WE DO?
I asked around. I have actually spent the last month of my life chewing on this question. I have asked what do we do wrong? How did we get the title?
This is where I started to hear it, ‘The F Word.’ I heard over and over again, ‘The girls are all … FAKE. They are so FAKE, they are not real they are fake, Fake, FAKE.
I know more sorority women then I know non, and I have one honest message to tell you. Sorority women are the most, driven, well-rounded, motivated, beautiful, multi-faceted, dynamic, and accomplished women I know. We are a lot of things, but we are not FAKE.
We still live in a world and in a society who thinks it is impossible… JUST IMPOSSIBLE that a woman can be, talented, smart, motivated, beautiful and well dressed! IMPOSSIBLE. Not even possible. Never happened.
So the non-sorority women meet us, or the non-fraternity men meet us and think ‘no freegin way.’ Nope. In their minds smart, talented, motivated, capable, beautiful, kind women belong in the same file as the tooth fairy and super hero’s. Fiction.
The F word is killing us. It is the one thing that is stopping us from being the massive, powerful, force that we are… our reputation of being Fake. Authenticity matters NOW MORE THEN EVER.
Authenticity is not about being the perfect version of yourself you think the world expects you to be. Authenticity is about finding out who you really are and being comfortable with your greatness and your weakness. No one can do it alone in this world and we have to stop pretending like we can. It is killing the thing we love so much… sorority. So…
Recruitment Directors – Stop telling your members to be perfect and start giving them permission to be ‘the best version of themselves.’
Presidents – Who you are is good enough! The chapter will not fall apart if you have a bad day or a weakness. Appreciate each of your leaders for their strengths.
Member Educators – Love your new members, you all picked them and you believe in them. Teach them what it means to be authentic. Hold them to the standard of your sorority, because until they understand standards they will never learn self respect.
VP of Standards/Judicial – Remember the point of this thing called sorority is to help people become the best version of them selves. Help everyone identify who they authentically are. We do not punish people for making poor judgment calls, we help remind them that who they are is better then that.
Alumni Advisors – Stop saying ‘when I was in the chapter,’ or ‘these girls don’t get it.’ You are there to help them get it. Teach them the values of your organization and give them an example of a fulfilled, authentic, confident woman. Remember to meet every person where she is and help her become a little brighter or better because of you.
Finally, Headquarters – We can all do our part to not encourage competition between our sororities and others (especially during recruitment). This is not about us being the best on any campus but rather attracting the best women into our loving circle.
Lastly, as far as recruitment goes… I have never heard a woman say. “I joined my chapter because they were pretty, perfect, had great food, or had awesome decorations.” I have heard, “I joined my chapter because I could be myself there. I joined my chapter because those girls felt like my best friends. I joined my chapter because they saw me for who I authentically was.” People join us because of Authenticity. People like us because of Authenticity. And most importantly we will not cease to exist if we all practice Authenticity.
Sorority was founded to give women a support system and a safe space to learn who they authentically are. We still continue to attract the highest quality women on the planet into our ranks, but we can never reach our full potential if we seem, behave or act fake. Be authentic. Who you are is good enough.