When I first decided to go to the University of Michigan, I knew that Greek life was a way that many people got involved on campus. Both my brother and my dad had joined a fraternity at Michigan, but I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing for me. Movies like Sydney White had taught me that women in these organizations were catty, unintelligent, and focused more on boys than on their studies. Despite this, I was eventually convinced by a few friends I had in the year above me in Greek life to go through recruitment, but mostly because I wanted to know when and where parties would be, not because of sisterhood. Although there is nothing wrong with wanting a social life, I drastically underestimated how much being a part of a sorority would change my life for the better.
I distinctly remember the moment in which I realized I had joined a community of women who genuinely cared about me and were there to support me. I was walking to class to take an exam that I had clearly been stressing out about for a few days, and my friend Ellie was walking with me. She was asking me a few questions about the class and the exam, and at one point I vocalized my fears about not doing well.
She didn’t even hesitate to respond with “No matter how you do, just know that I am proud of you.”
This was a sentiment that I had never heard before, and something that hit me hard. The fact that she was ready to support me, through the good and the bad, made me understand how my sorority had brought me true, sincere friendship.
On top of the supportive group of women I am able to surround myself with, my sorority provides me access to many resources to help me succeed that I would not have if I had not joined the Panhellenic community. One example of this is a committee within my chapter that holds office hours each week to help with anything like friend problems, school issues or if you need to talk to someone about mental health. My sorority also provides me with tons of academic help, like an entire closet of free textbooks that anyone can use and a google drive of old classwork and notes to help others study for tests. Because of my sorority, I have a ton of connections that can help me get a job, like alumnae and women who are in the business school who have helped me craft my resume and prepare for interviews. Finally, being a part of this community gives me many opportunities for leadership such as within my chapter, as an executive member of the Panhellenic board, or as a Panhellenic peer educator.
I will admit, there are still many issues across the Greek community. The majority of sororities in the National Panhellenic Conference are run by older white women who try to push their picture of what a sorority should be based on their outdated ideas from when they were in college. Because of this, some organizations use the recruitment process to choose potential new members based on looks, race, and even wealth. However, it is the women who are currently in chapters at universities across the nation that are fighting this precedent and many other stereotypes.
All in all, it is these women who have changed my college experience for the better. The women in my sorority are the ones who have encouraged me to find help for my mental health. The ones who I can have genuine, challenging conversations with about intersectionality, hegemonic masculinity, and politics. The ones who I can talk to about my emotions without any scrutiny. The ones who have been there for me at my lowest, and at my highest. And the ones who inspire me to question my worldview every step of the way. Empowered women empower women, and I hope that more people get the opportunity to see past the Hollywood stereotype and understand the amazing things that women can do through Greek life.