Sorority recruitment tends to get a bad rap, in part because of its high visibility: the lines of freezing hopefuls lined up on the sidewalk and the intense hours it demands. In addition, men seem to have an endless number of fraternities to choose from, while women have only eight Panhellenic sororities to choose between.
The condensed nature of rush adds to the drama of it all. The sting of cuts and rejection, which for men is often spread out over a semester of dirty rush, takes place during a short time frame in a highly visible process.
Rush often feels like something that happens to potential new members instead of being a process where women have the same agency and control as do their male counterparts who also engage in the rush process.
Looking back, there are many things I wish I would have known. Now, the week spent with my sorority sisters is a reminder of why I decided to join Chi Omega in the first place.
I was on Twitter earlier this week when I learned about something called the Shine Theory. At its core, it’s a commitment against society’s obsession with pitting successful and talented women against each other. The idea suggests that when meeting intimidating women, we should work against our instincts and, instead, befriend them. Being surrounded by good people doesn’t make us worse by comparison. Instead, it makes us better.
The Shine Theory gave a snappy name to the most persuasive reason I’ve used to support my involvement in the Greek system. Being around my sisters in Chi Omega — who are intelligent, diverse, involved, passionate, and ready to change the world — has made me better. Most of my closest friends are not part of the Greek system, yet my continued involvement in my sorority reminds me to shake off my complacency, to work harder, and to be better.
Still, the harsh reality of rush remains.
By nature, it’s a selective process. The sheer number of people involved in rush means that it moves at a breakneck pace. People slip through the cracks. In early rounds, it’s hard to move past small talk. Despite the best efforts from sororities to match each potential new member with a great conversation partner and the organizational heroics of the Panhellenic Council, the somewhat mythical "process" potential new members are told to trust fails, and women get cut from sororities where they might have been great fits.
When I think about what words of advice I could give my younger self now after having gone through the process on both sides, it probably would be twofold.
First, don’t freak out about what to wear. Despite the fact that I thoroughly freaked out about what I was going to wear when I rushed, after going through the process as a sorority member I can honestly tell you I didn’t remember what a single potential new member was wearing, nor did I care. Wear whatever you feel most like yourself in.
Second, don’t let the machinery of the process make you feel like you should be selling yourself to the sorority. In reality, the sorority should be selling itself to you.
Listen, there are a million reasons not to join a sorority. As an institution, they’re expensive, selective, and perpetuate outdated ideas about gender. In my experience they’re also really fun, full of cool, thoughtful people, and have given me the opportunity to discover that I have a slightly manic love of crafting.
Ask the sisters real questions about their experiences. Ask them how involved they are. Ask them what surprised them the most about joining Greek life. Try to find out if this is the sort of place that’s going to make you feel proud to be a part of it. Not because you like their merch or think it sounds cool, but because the people make you feel good and the values make you better.
At its core, sisterhood, as hokey and cliched as it sounds, it is all about shine. So if you’ve decided to rush, make sure you find a place that deserves you. If rush doesn’t go the way you planned, or if you decide the process isn’t for you, please remember that Penn is filled with amazing, vibrant communities that are not Greek affiliated.
Shine on, friends. Shine on.
REBECCA ALIFIMOFF is a College junior from Fort Wayne, Ind. studying history. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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