Don’t ask me about fraternities
Why the conversation about Greek life has gotten stale
To put it simply, talking about Greek life has already gotten painfully old.
I’m someone who has always had qualms with the Greek system. I listened to other first-year girls stress over the woes of rush week — what to wear, whether straight or curly hair would be better suited for this outfit and oh my god what if my name tag doesn’t provide a witty and well-crafted conversation starter? — and made no effort to conceal my indignation.
I was adamantly skeptical and vocally concerned about the shallowness of the whole thing. And, in a way, I guess I still am. Admittedly, there are many parts of Greek life which strike me as inherently shallow, and I have a hard time justifying how I ascribe to them only partially.
Of course, I love my sorority sisters. There’s no part of me which regrets making the decision to partake in the srat-stampede to Nameless on Bid Day. But that doesn’t change the fact that many of my concerns haven’t been extinguished after having experienced the system from the inside. In fact, one of my more significant fears about Greek life has become a frightening reality: it’s all we ever talk about.
Too often, an unrecognized name which comes up in conversation is met with the question, “Is he in a fraternity?” I’m usually struck by how shameless people can be in classifying others based on the letters they wear. At a certain point, like when a complete and valid answer to the question, “What’s she like?” is, “Her name is Victoria, she’s in Pi Phi,” I think it becomes important to ask ourselves where our values lie.
I’m uncomfortable with the fact that ever since rush, it feels people are seen through a new, more Greek lens. I don’t want to feel like I’ve gained any insight into a person’s character when she tells me what sorority she’s in, and it genuinely breaks my heart to see people feeling like they have to follow up the statement, “I’m a GDI,” with some sort of justification, like not being able to pay dues or having been sick during rush — as if I were the kind of person who would think less of them for not being affiliated with a Greek organization. Trust me, I wouldn’t.
But somehow, I find the subject coming up in a sizable fraction of my conversations. I’m mildly disgusted with myself for having to actively refrain from asking about a person’s affiliation.
And it almost seems like our capacity for separate, more meaningful conversations has diminished. At dinner last night, for example, my friends actively resigned from a conversation about gender roles in society because it was becoming “too much.” Suddenly, anything that deviates from who’s mixing with what fraternity at which bar on Thursday night has become too substantial a topic for dinner conversation. I need to believe we’re capable of more than that.
To be sure, I’m not disillusioned with talking about Greek life so often because I find it boring. On the contrary, I’ve met extremely exciting, powerful and interesting women through the system.
And it’s for exactly that reason I wish we wouldn’t identify people based on the friends they hang out with. I think you’re all way too cool to be reduced to your letters. I think we all have the capacity to mean much more — to each other and to ourselves — than that. That being said, I certainly hope I never lose sight of the fact I want to make a more significant contribution to the University than having developed an empty group identity.
Victoria’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.