There exists on campus a common jest, the kind of joke that makes fun of themed parties, big-little reveals, and bubbly airhead women. The word “sorority” has become synonymous with an image of bleached blonde, orange-tanned girls, wearing sequined mini skirts, and jumping to the melody of UCLA by RL Grime. Regardless of where the joke is coming from, be it from a sentiment of jealousy or amusement, an overtone of misogyny prevails.
“You’re in a sorority? You, of all people?” is a common trope all Greek life women hear at least once. In my case, the first time I heard this disbelief in a fellow student’s voice was after I had given a very well put-together presentation on the importance of women-friendly spaces in a history class. All of a sudden, my character was being called into question: somehow I was removed from my reputation as a diligent student to being cast with the role of someone who buys her friends, takes easy courses, and is only in university to get her MRS degree. Being taken seriously in an academic institution through a Zoom call is already difficult enough, but being seen as a woman, capable of balancing her intellectual abilities with the stereotypes posed against her, puts a cherry on top.
There is a notion, one whose roots are entrenched deep in the soil our institution rests upon, that champions the idea that femininity and intelligence are mutually exclusive. It’s as if the general public cannot fathom a woman who can paint body glitter onto herself and manage to present a speech on Locke’s political theory of natural rights. So far, both women and men have looked down upon me and my fellow sisters, as if our membership in a sorority cancels-out our credibility.
There is a notion that femininity and intelligence are mutually exclusive.
To be completely honest, I thought mocking sororities was the most feminist thing one could do. It felt as if I was accomplishing a service through taunting an establishment that defined womanhood with crop tops, pink boas, and blowing glitter into a camera for a recruitment video. Until an epiphany struck: Poking fun at women in sororities perpetuates a demonization of femininity and suggests that feminine expression should not be welcome in an academic environment. Greek life members laugh at themselves all the time, poking fun at the cult-like behaviour associated with their kind. But who can blame sorority women for making fun of themselves? Such outdated clichés are linked to the idea that proper college women are more “easygoing” and less likely to sing songs about sisterhood. Women internalize these obsolete values as a means to mediate their status in a world that already condemns their existence. Gags about sororities appear benign until it dawns that one is contributing to a culture that holds women at arm’s length from power and tenability, perhaps just a VSCO photo or pumpkin spice latte too far from being taken as seriously as their male counterparts.
Poking fun at women in sororities perpetuates a demonization of femininity and suggests that feminine expression should not be welcome in an academic environment.
I’m not saying sororities are perfect; it is important to recognize that the establishment of sororities and fraternities is inextricably tied with classism, elitism, and exclusion. There is no denying that Greek life needs to take oppression as seriously as they do fraternity mixers. At the same time, the criticisms that sometimes disproportionately target sororities are often unrelated to these issues, instead casting sorority women as unintelligent and unworthy of esteem. This is particularly the case at academically-rigorous institutions like McGill, where students who are unfamiliar with Greek life often overlook sororities’ validity as uniquely-female spaces within academic circles that have traditionally marginalized women.
Sorority women have, and continue to be, held to much higher standards than other groups on campus. Many have attacked sorority rules — such as drinking policies, mandatory attendance, and social-media etiquette — as anti-feminist. While such canon can be deemed as archaic, few critics acknowledge that these policies have largely emerged out of a need to consistently and continually prove that women should be taken seriously.
Women internalize these obsolete values as a means to mediate their status in a world that already condemns their existence.
Let us remember that comedy tends to hold deeper meanings than what is fronted; the pervasive ignorance on university campuses towards woman-inclusive spaces only generates more disdain towards women as a whole. Checking unconscious thoughts and continuing a curiosity regarding why we hold the opinions we hold is important for the progression of McGill and society as a whole.