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Divine secrets of the Yale-Yale sisterhood

Marissa Caan (Jinjin Sun/YH)

If you were in the Haas Family Arts Library on Mon., Jan. 24, you probably noticed that something was different. Passing through the doors of the Loria Center were hordes of girls dressed in their Sunday best—you probably heard the clicking of their boots on the tile floor, or smelled perfume coming in waves through the cracks in the walls. Perhaps you felt the floor vibrating with the high-pitched voices of girls singing, making small talk, cheering. Maybe you came and looked at what was going on in the basement, or maybe you already knew: sorority rush. But I bet you laughed, and promptly turned up the volume on your headphones.

Even if you weren’t there, you probably still know what I am talking about. I’m sure you have seen the groups of girls trekking through the snowpocalypse, and you perhaps asked yourself if they were in some sort of competition for most weather-inappropriate outfit. Maybe you saw nervous faces in Commons this Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. as girls went to pick up their bids. I’m going to venture a guess that you probably saw a Facebook status referencing the “new babies/z” of the three sororities on campus. Chide and laugh all you want—I am right there with you. We tease and make fun of ourselves all the time. But when someone insists, as many people this past week have, that sororities are “meaningless” or “stupid,” I feel the need to first defend the institution, and then to ask why Yalies are so quick to judge.

If you can remember back to your freshman fall, or even your pre-frosh spring, you will remember the activities bazaar. Even if you don’t, you still get emails from one of the dozens of groups you signed up for at those hubbubs of over-enthusiasm. Every person on this campus was once dying to try new things—whether it was the Anti-Gravity Society or the Lit. We were willing to try such varied activities in part because, in doing so, we would meet new people. And maybe we could find some friends.

Joining a sorority was no different for me—but I must admit it was an anything-but-obvious choice. Growing up, I first encountered sororities through film and television and subsequently categorized the entire institution as an exclusive club of stupid pretty girls doing pretty stupid things. Then I watched my sister rush a sorority at UPenn and heard her complaints about her “sisters.” Among my high school friends, I always felt a little on the nerdy side, and if you had asked me then if I thought I would join a sorority in college, I would have leapt down your throat and questioned if you had a brain. No, I was definitely not a sorority girl.

But then I got to Yale, saw that I didn’t exactly have an accurate understanding of what sororities were, and decided to examine for myself. At every point during the process, I almost dropped out of rush. I would sporadically picture myself in a few years, just like the girls I saw in the movies—and that was a path I needed to avoid. Eventually, I got a bid (I still wonder how that was possible)—and at one point even rejected the bid. But then, I sat down to have coffee with an older sister to talk about my concerns. I didn’t want other people to see me differently for joining. She replied, “Some people are going to judge you, but if someone is going to judge you for joining a sorority, that is their problem. Fuck them.”

For me, the sorority has simply been a chance to meet and hang out with 100 new girls, many of whom I would not have met otherwise. No one promised me that I would make best friends that would last a lifetime. Sororities aren’t for everyone, but no one can tell me that my desire to seize this opportunity was stupid. That is, any more than I can tell a member of an a capella troupe that singing in a glass-shattering falsetto is something no man should ever attempt.

Having just been on the other side of the rush process—the formalized ritual of friend-making—I fully admit it is not a perfect system. Even though I looked for that I’d-like-to-have-a-conversation-with-her quality in potential new members, I would still say that the process sucks. You cannot judge someone after meeting them for just five minutes, and people are certainly not quantifiable. But does that mean we should do away with the entire institution? Or write off every person who falls under the umbrella of “sisterhood?” Do we shut down Yale because they have rejected a million A-plus students—and accepted certain incompetent presidents?

It seems to be easy for many Yalies to classify sororities as breeding grounds for vapid social climbers solely interested in superficiality—and maybe a DKE bro here and there. But isn’t this essentially the same kind of hasty, over-simplified judgment for which many chastise us? I’m not asking every reader to sign up for sisterhood. But please, when I say I am going to chapter, don’t give me that look.

  • Gino Bonesman

    “But please, when I say I am going to chapter, don’t give me that look.”

    You joined a semi-formal social group at Yale that openly judges prospects, without shame, based on a 5 minute interview, but you appeal to the world not to judge you?

    Go climb to the top of Harkness tower and shout, “I love double standards” at the top of your lungs.