February 26, 2007

Sorority Purging Scandal (it’s not what you think)

A friend of mine e-mailed me a link to an article in the New York Times that reported a recent purging scandal at a college sorority. I figured it was about an eating disorder epidemic.

But that’s not the case.

The article is about a sorority house at DePauw University in Indiana that, in an attempt to increase membership, weeded out the girls they did not deem appropriate as a face of the sorority. Members who were Asian, Black, or overweight received letters from the sorority’s national chapter, offering them early alumna status. The classically beautiful girls, the slim ones, and those that were popular with the fraternity boys, did not receive such letters. A mere twelve girls remained in the house after the downsizing. Six of those dozen, quit. Amen, sisters. What the hell is wrong with the other six?

I am appalled and disgusted to hear about this discrimination and assholery (I think I just made up that word). But I am also angry and terribly sad. The sorority in question is the same one I was a member of when I attended a state college in California.

Had this happened at my chapter, two of my best friends would have been asked to leave. In fact, if the article is not exaggerating the facts, I would have been invited to take early alumnaship as well. I was one of the “fatter” girls in the house and I doubt there is one fraternity guy from my university (1986 to 1991) who would know who I was, either by name or face. Last I checked, sororities were a place to make friends, lifelong friends who would be there at your wedding, at your kids’ graduations, and sadly, at your funeral. It wasn’t about making friends with beautiful, rich, popular white people, it was about finding kidred spirits. I did not join a sorority to be popular with boys, or get shit-faced in musty rooms and pass out in my own puke. I’m not saying all sorority girls do, or even that any of them do, I’m just saying that those types of activities did not appeal to me. I did drink, and I did get drunk, but it was with my GDI (god damn independent) boyfriend and our friends. I didn’t join the sorority to do all that. I joined because my closest high school friends all spread out, and I missed that closeness when I attended a commuter school for college.

I was not considered pretty by anyone. Cute, maybe, but in the way a pot-bellied pig is cute. My daddy was not rich and he didn’t work in a fancy office where he dressed in a suit and tie. I didn’t drive a fancy car, but an orange 1976 Chevy Monza with doors that had been dinged repeatedly. During rush week, I was asked to park my car somewhere other than in the front of the sorority house. Well, duh. The Jag obviously gave the house a better image, even though most of the girls drove beat-up hand-me-down cars. (The Jag owner was gorgeous, by the way. And genuinely nice too.)

I am so furious with this organization that I am considering yanking my alumna status with them. Why do I want to be associated with a group like this? Racial discrimination is vile and hateful and wait…isn’t this 2007? What the hell? But the most idiotic thing about this is that they ousted the exact types of girls that drew me (and probably many of the DePauw girls) to join the sorority in the first place. Back in 1987, I visited all the campus sororities during rush week and at more than one, I encountered cookie-cutter Barbies with several carats of sparkly diamonds in their ears, but dull personalities. (Oh, but their boyfriend was captain of the football team! and This one over here was Miss Pageant Winner of 1986!) I chose my house because I was comfortable the minute I walked in. The girls were normal looking, approachable and fun. They were short, tall, skinny, chubby, and, I fit in there.

The girls at the Depauw University sorority house who are looking to increase their membership numbers are going to have a bit of trouble finding enough appropriate recruits to make their quota, as it is. But this negative publicity they’re getting will make it even more difficult. Maybe they’ll even have to close that chapter due to missed quotas. Good.

To the girls who were asked to leave, I am terribly sorry. I am sorry that something that used to be so near and dear to me, has hurt you. You do not deserve to be treated that way.