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Your New Pledge Class Is Beautiful – But What Else?

by: Melissa McCleery

Sorority Bid Day was Tuesday. Hundreds of young Penn State women (“girls,” as many in Greek life refer to young college women) opened envelopes, read which sorority felt they were the best fit, and sprinted from the HUB to Old Main Lawn to greet their new chapter. For so many of those women, it was an exciting time, a chance to meet the women that would become their families.

Although I didn’t have Bid Day like this (I did Spring Recruitment and got my bid in my dorm on a March afternoon from two women who went on to be some of my best friends), I get the excitement. I was so excited that the women I had met at dinners and through friends, who were so friendly and down to earth and fun, saw something in me. Most of all, I remember thinking that these women reminded me of me.

Now, as an alumna, I look at Fall Bid Day and see and feel something very different.

I had a link sent to me last night by a non-Greek friend of mine: “I swear no day makes me sadder than bid day. For some sororities, it’s all about how you look. Read these comments.” The link went to a chapter’s Instagram page, where a picture of their new pledge class (“babies”) had a slew of comments celebrating their new class for just one thing: their looks. “HOT.” “Amazing.” “So hot I’m obsessed.” “*fire emoji* *fire emoji* *fire emoji* *fire emoji* *fire emoji*” And so on and so forth.

I can’t speak for the rest of my Greek sisters, but I am so tired of seeing sororities represented in this way. One-dimensional. Beautiful, but what else? Valuable for their looks and sex appeal, but what else? What else?

Now let me be clear: I am not blaming one particular chapter. There is not just one sorority on campus that posts about how gorgeous their new pledge class is. This is certainly nothing new. It’s an American tendency: we focus on women’s looks. It’s an easy way to compliment a woman, to say, “You’re so hot.” Who doesn’t love to hear that? But for me, the problem is that by and large, that’s all we hear.

What does that say about what we value? What sororities value? What about what we “recruit for” in our sorority suites? What about our “chapter values?”

Let’s celebrate our sisters for their minds and their souls and their hearts. For what they bring to the table.

Let’s celebrate our sisters who are snarky, who are brilliant, who are funny. The sisters who have an ambition for greatness that drives you to be your best. The sisters who buy you flowers when your boyfriend breaks up with you. The sisters who are generous, and caring, and kind. The sisters who plan a trip to Punxsutawney in February for Groundhog’s Day. The sisters who stand up for other people, who fight for what’s right.

My sisters are all those things (seriously, we really did go to Punxsutawney) – and I’m sure yours are too. So why do we boil them down to their faces and hair and makeup and bodies? We’re so, so much more than that.

I love my sorority so greatly. They helped me grow into the person I am today. But being Greek, and being a feminist, and wanting to be valued for all that I am and all that my sisters are and can be; that challenged me to be critical. I was challenged to look a Greek system that gave me so much love (and let’s be honest, a hell of a good time), and say, “But what else?”

It’s a challenge, I think, for Greek women. We can and should do better than the status quo of valuing beauty above all else. Let’s celebrate our sisters for everything they are. Because while yes, your new pledge class is beautiful – they’re so many other things, too.

Melissa is an Onward State alumna who graduated in 2015.

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