Happy International Badge Day, sister! As we celebrate our membership in our organizations today, I want you to think about what it is that you treasure about being a sorority woman. What does your membership to your sorority mean to you?
Sorority has come to mean a lot of different things to different people. Some have left our community hurt, disrespected, and misunderstood. Some have always been observers and chosen to generalize our members in a negative light. Some have tucked their membership away into a box with the rest of their college memories, not to be explored after graduation. We have allowed the stereotypes and negative reputations to define what it means to be a sorority member.
The hard thing to accept about reputations is that something about them was once true. An event or story or lived experience for someone held the truth about that reputation that now defines our community. When we look at the associated beliefs with being a sorority woman, we are often discouraged because our organizations were meant for more. We don’t have to let these negative, shallow stereotypes limit our experience by living out membership the way it was intended.
Let's talk through a couple of the common stigmas that accompany sorority membership:
"Pay for Friends"
While the network of sisters to support you through college and into your alumnae experience is unmatched, that’s not what you’re paying for. We pay dues to invest in educational programming, personal development opportunities, and social activities that directly benefit us. The financial obligation of membership entrusts our holistic development to the organization we align with. There is loyalty and demonstrated belief in the value of our membership when we fulfill paying our dues.
While people may always say that you are paying for your friends, you can demonstrate the benefits that come from what you pay for. You can better inform those around you by talking about the inspiring speaker who came to your chapter meeting or professional skills you learned from the resume workshop or the money that was donated to a philanthropy that means a lot to you.
"Sisterhood = Girls who Gossip"
Our sisterhood was meant for more than caddy, shallow relationships. But how often do we hear others accuse all sorority women of being this way? The environment and media representation of the sorority experience makes it easy to focus on the wrong things or speak poorly of a sister.
When you think of sisterhood, I’m sure words like friendship and loyalty with memories in matching T-shirts on Bid Day or in your favorite drive-thru after chapter. Something I don’t think we often associate with sisterhood is accountability ~ the responsibility that comes with reminding a sister of the commitments she made when she became a member! Accountability is not just your VP of Standard’s but every single member’s responsibility to uphold the collective reputation by keeping every member aligned with what she said she would do.
Sisterhood was designed to support, challenge, build up and grow us as members. That cannot happen in an environment that tolerates gossip.
"Racist, Exclusive, Narrow-minded Groups"
For our Panhellenic readers, our membership in historically white organizations has created a wake of hurt and pain for many. We have a lot to overcome in repairing relationships and actively improving the culture of our chapters to create spaces where women of color can find a home. We cannot change the past harm that we have caused that excluded and hurt women who we strive to support. But, we can choose our next steps intentionally on our path to racial reconciliation in our chapters.
Statements that clearly outline your stance on racism in your chapter are a place to start but not enough. We have to move our anti-racism efforts from our words to our actions, educating ourselves on the past history and productive efforts to engage in now. We cannot be complacent in allowing subtle exclusion to continue in our chapters if we want to experience the fullness of sorority.
Accepting or tolerating these understandings (and many others that we didn’t explore here) of our experience diminishes the power sorority can have in our lives.
So if you haven’t thought about it in a while, I want you to consider today WHY you wear your badge. What does it mean to you? What are you doing as a member of that organization that you wear proudly over business casual to lean into the intended membership experience, not the limited one we see portrayed in the media?
Sorority was meant for more than what our society and worst moments portray us to be. I want to challenge you today to own the reputations that have defined your experience and decide how you want to be a part of creating a different narrative. It’s not just the sorority experience that deserves to be known for something better.YOU were also meant for more than the misconstrued sorority experience we can be complacent to.
You are invited to map out your most meaningful membership path with us!
Our virtual sorority summit, Uncharted, is coming up March 19-21! We would love to have you join us to learn from 10 sorority experts on the most critical topic areas to the sorority experience right now including sisterhood, collegiate skills, and lifelong application.
Can't make those dates? You will have access to the three days of sessions for up to 6 months following the summit!