Three years ago, when I called my parents to tell them that I had joined a sorority, my dad didn’t even know what the word meant. Is it a club? No. It’s a pre-professional thing? Well no, not really. It’s called what? Wait, say it again. What does that even mean?
There’s no word for “sorority” in Spanish, but my father’s linguistic unfamiliarity with the term doesn’t mean it is easy to define. “Sisterhood” is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but for me, that’s what being in a sorority boils down to. It’s meant finding a group of like-minded, passionate individuals who both inspire and support me. That happened, and it can happen for any woman who’s willing to open herself up to new experiences.
I’m from Texas. I get it. I used to practice complete apathy — not even skepticism — toward the institution of Greek life. Back home, rush means getting to campus a week early, letters of rec in hand and finding your pledge class before you find your first lecture hall. It’s not my immediate idea of fun. It can also be incredibly hurtful for anyone who doesn’t find a home in the Greek community. There’s a culture of exclusivity that can be harmful for young women, especially that early in their college careers.
So I understand why Greek life is the subject of scrutiny on a sort of cultural level — not to mention why it’s the butt of so many jokes. It is one of the many easy targets of pop culture.
But as a woman, and as a sorority woman, I am done hearing about what’s wrong with Greek life. It is easy to point out the flaws. It’s not new. It’s not interesting. And I’ve found that many of the things people will say about sororities are just untrue.
When you join a sorority at Penn, you don’t just make 50-something new friends: you meet campus leaders that break ground in everything they do. That’s not because they’re Greek; it’s because they’re Penn students. Forget letters — think back and remember how we all got here. We wrote essays detailing where we wanted to get involved on campus. I guarantee you no one wrote about fraternities or sororities.
So why do we join? More importantly, why do we stay? There must be something of value, something interesting and important and big that helps us make the decision to go Greek.
For me, I’ve found that joining a sorority allowed me to get truly inspired by my peers and to realize my own potential. So often at Penn, we are competing against each other. In my sorority, I’ve found friends who support me no matter what. I’m constantly inspired by the example of the high-achieving women I’m proud to call my sisters.
I’ve seen my sisters act and direct in the Vagina Monologues, teach classrooms of middle schoolers in the city, break records on the field and much more. Ask every girl in my pledge class where she sees herself in 10 years and you won’t get two of the same answers. But every one of them, no matter where they’re headed, makes me feel a little more confident about blazing my own trail.
I love my sorority. I love the friends I’ve made and the experiences I’ve had and the moments that have taught me more about myself than I ever expected. I love how smart all the women in my chapter are and how well they carry themselves on campus and in life. I’ve seen how confidence and joy can be contagious, and just how important those things can be to college women.
Joining a sorority has allowed me to grow in my feminism. It actually feels like one of the most supportive, feminist spaces I have found at Penn. I love mixers and Bid Day as much as the next girl decked out in letters, and those may all be good reasons to join a sorority. But the reasons that I’ve stayed in mine point to a richer experience than that.
Frida Garza is a College senior studying English. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @fffffrida.