I’m a member of a sorority at a large public university; a house that, like most others, is gearing up for recruitment 2014. Many girls are of the opinion that recruitment is the best, most fun time of the year. The time of the year during which we get to be proud of our sorority, share everything that makes it special, and welcome a new pledge class into our house. For me, however, recruitment is easily my least favorite activity of all time (excluding cavity fillings and funerals).
Don’t get me wrong, I love being part of my sorority, I have made friends I know will be by my side throughout my entire life and I won’t pretend like having a social calendar full of events with free alcohol isn’t one of the more appealing aspects of Greek life. But as judgment day approaches, my sisters talk of nothing but their recruitment week outfits and share the occasional TSM article they feel applies to their life. As I read through each of these (my curiosity is too much to overcome my disdain) and feel my eyes gloss over when someone speaks of their “PERFECT” shade of mint dress, I wonder why I’m in a sorority in the first place.
I question my support for an organization that expects young women to plaster fake smiles on their faces and be polite to peers that in 20 minutes they will be hurriedly reducing to a number and a short comment like “so awkward”. I cringe at the fact that women have to spend one week adding members based solely on numbers 1-5 while the fraternities spent all summer hanging out with potential new bros deciding which ones fit in. This injustice is almost too much to bear when I think about dudes bonding on rafting and camping trips while I struggle to assign a number to a woman that has spent no more than 35 minutes with any one of my sisters.
I look back (not fondly), on my memories of recruitment last year, during which one of my best friends and I were shouted at in front of the whole chapter whilst trying to explain our feelings about a potential new member. I remember feeling frustrated, misinterpreted, uncomfortable, and most markedly, that I did not belong. This feeling is the exact opposite of what recruitment is supposedly trying to achieve. The recruitment process is about finding other young women who share your sorority’s values, and here I was sitting in our grand dining room on the verge of tears being reminded that my values and my opinions weren’t important.
I realize that my experience may not be the same as everyone else, and I partially attribute this to my general social awkwardness around people I don’t know. But I refuse to overlook the inherent flaws of the recruitment process. We are expected to invite new members into our house based on a rushed (no pun intended) week of peculiar social gatherings. In no universe is a forced juice and cookies rendezvous with a stranger going to foster an authentic connection. On top of that this encounter usually takes place after watching a depressing video about our philanthropy, featuring a past member who lost her mother and all of her aunts to breast cancer.
The point is that for national organizations that pride themselves on seeking out the best and brightest young women to take part in a network of support and friendship, the recruitment process makes absolutely no sense. There is no way to effectively find these women through one week of time-constrained house visits and after hours debates on whether or not you could see yourself hanging out with someone you’ve never even met. It’s time for a system that doesn’t create bonds and friendships based solely on first impressions. Because when this happens we only further gentrify the stereotypes of our sororities. Adding members based on their answers to shallow conversation starters and if their outfit was cute or not doesn’t create a network of strong, driven women. It perpetuates a system of immature, inconsistent judgment that more often than not welcomes people who can fake a smile and a friendship right back to us. Are these the members that we really want?
If your answer is no, maybe it’s time you tune out your recruitment chair and your chapter adviser for a few minutes and think about what you want to see in a new member. Think about why you joined your house in the first place, and promise yourself and all the girls that will be walking through your front door in a few short weeks that you will be honest. Because I will not be faking anything this year. I may even swap in the generic and recommended “what’s your major and why?” topic for one that I actually care about. Maybe it’ll be “so have you heard about what’s been happening in Ferguson?” or perhaps “do you like taking bong rips?” Either way, it’s going to be me. All these girls didn’t sign up for recruitment to join a national panel of old women stringent about regulations and national values, they signed up to find real friends. And that’s what I’m going to be: real.