Sororities can be a lot of great things for a lot of people: a chance to make new friends, an automatic social circle, a busy calendar, and valuable relationships that will last a lifetime. However, there is a darker side to sorority life, one that doesn’t earn them as many rushes as they’d like, or a sterling reputation. Instead of formals there are frat parties, instead of sisterhood there’s conformity, and instead of years of memories, it’s years of blackouts and regret. The idea of joining a sorority doesn't sound so great now does it?
Now, we’re not here to knock sororities. We know that some of the items in this article don’t represent every house in the Greek life, and we know that some of these instances are only from certain chapters, and not representative of the sorority as a whole – but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. From the obvious, like partying too much and drinking too much, to the more nefarious, like sorority racism, socially-sanctioned hazing, and sexual assault, the Greek like isn’t all about getting your letters and attending philanthropic events. Sometimes, the experience is a whole lot darker.
15 Dolla, Dolla Bills Y'all
If you thought college and student loans were expensive, wait until you hear about the cost of going Greek! Right when you start, there is the initiation or membership fee, which can run up to $1,000 if you’re at a school where the Greek life is a major thing. Then there’s the regular dues, which help keep the sorority going, and which happen every semester. On average, this will be about $1300 per semester.
If you’re already clutching your wallet, wait, because there’s more: sorority T-shirts, unofficial social events, membership pins, gifts, philanthropy, and housing. Oh, and did we mention fines? Yep, you can get dinged every time you’re late to a meeting, get too drunk at a party, or give a bad impression of the sorority in some other way. The cost of these fines varies, but $20 seems to be a safe bet, and those bills will add up – and fast!
14 Work Hard, Play Hard
To be the ideal, well-rounded sorority girl, you can’t just look good and go to parties. In addition to the pressures of the Greek life, sorority girls are also required to maintain high GPAs in order to enhance the image of the sorority and its members. In fact, the average GPA at many sororities is actually higher than the average GPA of other women on campus!
Since having a high grade point average maintains the prestigious reputation of the sorority, girls often have to find time to squeeze in studying between events, meetings, formals, and other extracurriculars, meaning that there’s a whole lot of pressure involved in staying on top. Plus, if a sorority girl wants to get on the chapter’s board, she needs to hit an even higher GPA than the rest of her sisters. If you fall below the minimum GPA as defined by the sorority? Sorry, girl, you’re outta here!
13 Girl-On-Girl Hate
If you’ve ever lived with a female roommate or a sister, you know that you’re bound to get on each other’s nerves every now and then. Well, it's the same thing but multiplied when you live in a sorority house! Since your sorority sisters are who you’re spending most of your time with when you’re not in class, it’s easy to get on one another’s nerves.
Many girls who are currently in, have been in, or left sororities spoke about resentment and anger among their sisters, especially when a boy was involved. If it wasn’t about a guy, it was usually about little things, like borrowing clothes or nail polish without asking, or being messier than usual. Like all little things, they eventually become big things. Speaking of big and little, multiple sorority sisters reported not liking their designated big or little sister – and still being forced to suffer their company for the rest of their time at school!
12 Social Media Stalking
Like a first date, your sorority sisters will scour through your social media pages to figure out who you are, and if you’re presenting your true self during rush. We’ve all been told that everything lasts forever on the internet, which is why potential employers might give your Facebook a quick look before deciding to take you on. Sororities are no different.
If you, a Potential New Member (PNM), have expressed interest in a sorority, you’d better clean up your accounts well before recruitment. Things that could knock you off the list include any nudity or near-nudity, excessive swearing, drug use or allusions to it, illegal activities, racist remarks, extreme political views, gossip, links to controversial websites, embarrassing photos, politically incorrect rants, and personal conversations (because duh, that’s what direct messages are for). Sound like a lot? It is, but sororities also caution against making your social media too clean, as they’ll wonder what you’re hiding.
11 Pressure to Interact with Fraternities
Instead of being all about sisterhood, a lot of sororities pressure their girls to spend a lot of time with the guys in their neighbouring frats. While a lot of young women join sororities to make friends and create special, life-lasting bonds with other women (their “sisters”), this pressure to attend parties and mixers with frat guys takes a lot more priority. The reason for this is that sororities and frats are usually paired up, and to keep the interest of the male members, sorority girls are ordered to attend parties, get drunk, and hang out with guys they’d probably rather not know. The themes of these parties are probably familiar to anyone who’s ever been to a college party: Bros & Hos (or some other version, like CEOs and Corporate Hos), ABC (Anything But Clothing), and no-pants parties. So, not only are these young women forced to make conversation and have a good time with random guys for the sake of the sorority, but they’re supposed to do it while undermining themselves as well.
10 Dress to Attract
Part of the all-important attraction to fraternities is the prerequisite that sorority girls dress to impress them, by donning sultry, seductive clothing. The idea is to present these girls as a prize to be won by the frat guys, or as an enticement that this is the sorority where all the hot girls are – something of vital importance in order to maintain sorority funding, popularity, and rank.
While many sororities claim to be dry during rush (and many are), the frat parties they attend are definitely not, which is why more and more women end up getting drunk at the mercy of these hormonally-charged strangers in a new place. And, while slut-shaming is horribly pervasive in environments like sororities, these women are still often encouraged to seduce the guys, to appear alluring and promiscuous so that they can continue to be invited to the best parties and associated with the best frats.
9 Pressure to Party Hard
While sororities often claim that they want to attract the best, brightest, and most well-rounded of students, they also want those who can keep up with their rate of partying. The need to be social is one of the main reasons many girls join a sorority, because they see it as a chance for automatic friends. This means that sororities are more likely to put partying ahead of studying, as being a fun sorority is a lot more popular than being a smart sorority.
Pressure to drink, go out, and party takes priority because sororities need frats to continue to interact with them to keep up appearances, and that kind of heavy drinking can’t just be written off as a good time at college: studies have shown that Greeks drink and party more heavily than non-Greeks in the same school system. No one wants the geeky girls who would rather enjoy a quiet night in; if The House Bunny taught us anything, it’s that they want the party-hard sex kittens.
8 Drink Up, Buttercup!
With all the partying that is such a vital part of living the Greek life, it’s not that shocking to learn that sorority girls are more likely to binge-drink than other college girls – 62% to 41% to be exact. This is mostly because the opportunity to attend more social events presents itself more frequently than it does to women who are not in a sorority. Even the smallest event can warrant a crazy, alcohol-fuelled party! Plus, with the increased pressure to drink as mentioned above, the binge-drinking statistic is not all that shocking.
While those of us who lived in dorms had the supervision of resident advisors, those in sororities don’t have the same type of babysitting, which allows them to be as wild as they want. And, if they are checked on, officials are more willing to turn a blind eye because of the money that sororities and fraternities bring in!
7 Nepotism Rules
You’ve probably heard it before, but a girl who’s angling for entry into a specific sorority definitely has a better chance if she has a mom, sister, aunt, or grandmother who was a member before her. This is because the sorority has an idea of what they’re getting in their new member, and the show of loyalty to a "legacy" almost guarantees a loyal subject in this new generation.
It works outside of school, too. Former sorority girls have claimed that, upon a potential employer learning of their shared Greek background, an immediate bond was created, which usually led to a job offer. Of course, like with much else we’ve said here, sorority girls are often required to maintain a high GPA, engage in extracurriculars, and explore philanthropy and other social events. So, while they may in fact be the best candidate for the position, you can’t deny that it smells a little like nepotism in here!
6 Look Hot Always
Again, we’re back to the all-too-necessary popularity required for a sorority to be viable. If a sorority is full of hot girls, it’s more likely that a fraternity will want to pair up with them, because they think that they have a better chance of hooking up with their “sisters”. (Ew.) Rank among the Greek life is based on appearance, both physically and within the Greek world.
A lot of sororities have rules about dress, hair, and makeup, but many sororities will also take in women who simply fit the mould they’ve set out. Often, this can mean that girl-next-door, all-American hot girl, she of blonde hair and tanned skin, perfect teeth and a slim body. There are some totally arbitrary rules to this as well, but like most things on this list, they vary between sorority chapters. For example, no scrunchies, dangly earrings, chokers, or eye color-changing contacts are allowed, hair should never be in a ponytail or bun, tattoos must be covered, and piercings removed, to name a few.
5 Beauty Rules
Maybe you heard about that insane email that was leaked a while ago, detailing the ridiculously strict requirements of the University of Southern California’s Alpha Chi Omega sorority. If not, the beauty rules it defined were CRAZY. In it, girls were told that they must wear foundation, concealer, blot powder, pinky-nude lips, black or brown eyeliner, mascara, neutral eyeshadow, bronzer, and blush. If they were caught not wearing it, the writer said she would apply it herself. If you didn’t know the first thing about makeup, she ordered you to check out her Pinterest board. (So helpful!) But the pressure to stick to a strict beauty routine is not only presented by this one sorority chapter. Many women who have since left sororities agreed that these dictations are reality, and added that no crazy hair colours, lip colours, or nail colours were allowed, and were to be removed immediately. So much for individuality!
4 Body Image Woes
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that many women and girls will suffer from eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and dysfunctional attitudes around food and eating. However, that likelihood increases when you join a sorority. Since so many sororities rank their success based on their appearance, it’s not a surprise that this would happen, and that more women would hold their physical appearance higher than any other attributes or qualities.
In a study put out by a scholarly journal, new sorority members displayed higher levels of body shame than those who did not attend a sorority, and those with higher body weights were more likely to drop out of rush altogether than their slimmer counterparts. While sororities aren’t to blame for putting these ideas into motion, they are credited with exacerbating pre-existing attitudes and behaviours. So much for that body positivity movement – it doesn’t seem to exist in Greek life!
3 The Harsh Truth
A terrifying, horrifying, disgusting reality of college is that many women will face the likelihood of being assaulted. If you’re a member of sorority, you are four times more likely to face that situation, according to a 2009 study done by Violence Against Women.
Since sorority rush times (when sorority hopefuls pledge their allegiance and desire to join a particular sorority) are usually dry, sororities will have to take up with their partner fraternity, where the rules about alcohol consumption are much looser. Considering the ages of these women when they head to college (think 17 or 18), alcohol tolerance is pretty low, and they have that naïve, hopeful view that their “sisters” will take care of them. However, the Greek system is notorious for their rate of sexual assaults, and frat brothers are three times more likely to commit assault that their non-Greek student counterparts, according to a 2007 study. It’s a lot easier to do the unspeakable when you have so many behind you saying it’s okay.
2 Sorority Racism
That blonde, blue-eyed, tanned girl we mentioned earlier? Not only is she the beauty ideal for many sororities – she is the ideal everything. Particularly in sororities in Southern colleges, women of colour are vastly underrepresented in the Greek life, and that’s because so few of them make it past rush. Despite being just as qualified (if not more so) than their Caucasian counterparts, these sorority hopefuls are turned away for vague reasons like, “You’re just not [sorority name] material” or “We like you, but don’t think you’re a good fit.”
The term “sorority racism” is actually a thing! It’s when the majority group is in a position of power and privilege over those who are outside their group. It actually gets so bad that women of colour are told point-blank to not rush certain sororities because they won’t be accepted. Other times, women who can “pass” for white are let in by mistake. The only mistake here? Rushing a sorority that wears its racism like its membership pins.
1 Shocking Hazing
Stories of sorority and fraternity hazing are well-known for their taste for humiliation and crudeness. However, not all sororities participate in hazing (or “Hell Week”) to the degree that some others do, nor does every sorority chapter use the opportunity to degrade their rushes.
That being said, there are truly some horrific stories of sorority hazing, including ones where girls were forced to drink to the point of alcohol poisoning, where rushes are made to sit naked on washing machines while their sisters circle parts of their body that jiggle, and one where girls were ordered to simulate sex in front of other students. (These are the tamer stories; there are plenty more that are far more humiliating, painful, and degrading, which you can find here.)
While many sorority sisters don’t identify these practices as hazing, because they weren’t physically harmed, the amount of emotional and mental abuse involved definitely qualifies!