When you hear the phrase “sorority girl,” who do you envision? You might conjure up the image of Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods of Legally Blonde, one of the most well known sorority girls in the world.
At the beginning of the movie, Witherspoon’s character depicts many of the stereotypes that exist about women in sororities. She comes from a very wealthy family, is obsessed with clothes and shopping and seems to only care about her perfect boyfriend and his opinion of her. Furthermore, her degree in fashion merchandising does little to convince people that she has a brain.
However, if that movie teaches us anything, it is to never judge a book by its cover. Despite people continually discounting her, Elle proved herself to be a very intelligent and capable lawyer. Additionally, her sorority sisters showed themselves to be true, loyal friends when they did everything that they could to help her get into Harvard.
It is those qualities of Elle and her sisters that reflect the reality of the sorority women here at Hope.
“I think it’s all about women supporting women and building connections that help people grow both now and in the future, really just emphasizing inclusivity and lifelong friendships that you make while you’re here,” said senior Kaitlyn Brady, the current president of the Sigma Sigma sorority.
Brady’s focus on the community aspect of Greek Life is shared by other sorority members as well. Many talk about the trust that they have that their sisters will always be there for them.
“It’s like a support system, I guess,” said sophomore Emily Dirkse, a member of the Alpha Gamma Phi sorority. “So if I’m ever feeling down, I know that if I send a text in the group message someone’s gonna respond. Everyone kind of has each other’s backs. Like if we have a good day, if we have a bad day, everyone’s there to support or celebrate with you.”
According to Brady and Dirkse, these organizations go beyond just meeting you where you are and supporting you there. They also help their members to grow as people.
“I have never been this confident in myself and the person I am, not necessarily just looks, but how I have grown spiritually and also mentally,” Brady said. “In addition to all of that, I think my leadership and communication skills have grown a tremendous amount, and that’s all going to be super helpful in the future, but I’ve also just learned how to better understand and support the people around me.”
Dirkse said that she, too, has gained similar skills. As a member of her organization’s standards committee, the purpose of which is to help work through internal issues, Dirkse said that she has learned a lot about communicating with others and helping people find solutions to their problems. She also said that, like Brady, her sisters have empowered her on a more personal level to break out of her shell.
Junior Elliana Hamilton, a member of the Sigma Iota Beta sorority, has had a similar experience to Dirkse when it comes to getting comfortable with being one’s genuine self around others. However, the confidence that her sisters gave her to open up extends beyond just the sorority.
“Because I was able to just completely be myself in my sorority, it kind of gave me confidence to be myself in other situations, of being in class or being around literally anybody,” Hamilton said.
While all sororities have the potential to empower the women who are a part of them in these ways, the organizations at Hope are unique in ways that can enhance the experience of their members.
First, all of the Greek organizations at Hope, with the exception of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, are local organizations. This means that they only exist at Hope and there are no other chapters at other colleges or universities. This, combined with the small sizes of the organizations, helps to create a tight-knit community.
“I think really just the smaller size helps people develop those connections and grow together even more,” Brady said. “I think with the bigger schools… that can end up being kind of superficial at times, just because of how many girls are in one sorority. So, when you do narrow that down and you have less people in your circle, I think it’s a lot easier to develop those [relationships].”
Another thing that differentiates Greek Life at Hope from that at larger universities is the role that religion plays in it. Hope is an institution that is based in the historic Christian tradition. Seeing as religion plays a big role on campus in general, it makes sense that it would have a place in student organizations like sororities as well.
“We have weekly Bible studies and I love them,” Hamilton said. “I think they’re so amazing, and it welcomes even people who are not Christians or if they’re still figuring out this whole faith situation. Honestly, we’re just there to support and love you, so I think having those weekly Bible studies are absolutely amazing.”
Both Brady and Dirkse said that their organizations either currently have, or in the past have had, Bible studies as well. Additionally, many of Hope’s sororities have the position of chaplain. This is the person who acts as the group’s spiritual and faith leader.
“They’ll kind of say stuff at our business meetings or offer, ‘if you need me to pray for you, I’ll pray for you,’” Dirkse said.
Despite all of the positive impacts the Greek Life has on the lives of those involved, it still faces the challenge of combating a negative reputation. Brady, Dirkse and Hamilton all said that they have experienced people projecting stereotypes about sorority girls onto them. One common thing they have all heard is that they “pay for their friends.” However, they do not view their relationships with their sisters in this way at all.
“I kind of relate it to, if I’m going to go out to dinner with my friends, I’m going to pay money, obviously, to get dinner. I think of it more as like I’m paying for activities and fun things, so I don‘t see it as like, ‘oh, I’m gonna pay for a friendship.’ I see it as, ‘I’m gonna pay for activities to do with my friends,’” Hamilton said.
The idea that sorority girls pay for their friends is not the only stereotypes that they are met with.
“I hear like we’re not really that smart, we don’t focus on school that much or that we don’t really care about school or our grades,” Hamilton said. “But I really don’t see that from my sorority. There’s a lot of smart, amazing, powerful women in my sorority.”
Hamilton said that hearing people perpetuate these stereotypes can be hurtful. However, she and her fellow Greek Life members don’t let these comments affect the positivity that their sororities bring into their lives. The women are far more concerned with the potential for other women to miss out on the experience of being in a sorority because of the negative connotations that come along with it. Brady said that these kinds of stereotypes contributed to her not rushing as a freshman, but rather waiting until her sophomore year.
“I always had a negative view of Greek Life, just from what you hear about, what you see in movies, pretty stereotypical,” Brady said. “But I just realized that Greek Life at Hope is completely different than what everyone else talks about and how it’s depicted. So, I just kept following through with it and I found a home within Hope.”
Overall, Brady, Dirkse and Hamilton all highlight the positive impact that their organizations and their sisters have had on their lives, and hope for the same experience for other college women.