Individuality in a sea of “basic”

how sorority recruitment limits women’s uniqueness

I am a woman in a sorority and i’ll be the first to say that contrary to popular belief, social sororities have more benefits than they do detriments (that is, in my experience). However, when the familiar recruitment season comes around, it seems as if sororities are less about genuine sisterhood and more about conformity.

Saturday marked the first day of in-person sorority recruitment at JMU; thousands of college women lined up on sorority row trying to present as the “perfect woman” to complete strangers in hopes of being able to call them “sisters”. While this in itself seems problematic (which it most definitely is), I am going to talk about the other side of recruitment. So what really happens behind the doors of sorority house during recruitment? Buckle in folks, it’s about to get militant up in here.

Imagine this: instead of being told what you can do, you are told all the things you can’t do. Bold colored eye shadow? No way. Wearing gold jewelry on a day you are expected to wear silver? Nope. Wearing sensible/comfortable shoes? Funny joke. And don’t even think about not wearing makeup. Oh, and did I forget to mention that if your outfit does not meet expectation, you will be sent home and fined? As members of the sorority, we are expected to blend in with the crowd, not only in the way we look, but also in the way we present ourselves. While looking uniform may be aesthetically pleasing to the potential new members and for social media, I believe that it strips members of their uniqueness and individuality.

Photo by Thiago Matos on

In my opinion, sororities are supposed to be based on genuine connections with like-minded people who share the same values. Wouldn’t you think that in order to find new members who can connect with the sisterhood, you’d want to allow each and every woman to be authentically themselves? Yeah, me too. Let’s say that we ignore the issue of potential new members forming connections with the sisterhood: the issue now is that members are being stripped of their identity for “marketing” purposes. College is a time for women to discover and express their own unique identities, and it seems as if sorority recruitment has stunted that process.

As someone whose self-expression was severely monitored before college, I understand the importance of being able to do and wear what makes me feel authentically myself. For example, I love wearing brightly colored eyeshadow. I’m talking hot pinks, oranges and sparkles up the wazoo. I don’t love it because I think it makes me look pretty, I love it because it makes me feel happy. I try to be unapologetically myself, and for me, that looks like wearing a full face of makeup (fake lashes included), spray tanning, and overdressing for any event.

This is who I am and I do it for myself and only myself.

When writing this piece, I was talking to my mom about my ideas and she stated that I seemed conflicted. Once again, my mom was right. I am torn because my self-expression mostly fits the requirements that my sorority sets for recruitment and I abide by them willingly, yet I question if I can consider myself a feminist while abiding by these limiting rules. After some reflection, I feel as if I have the answer: I am writing this piece to bring awareness to the potentially harmful rules my sorority has in hopes that I can let others know that I understand that these rules may negatively affect women. Even though I abide by them, doesn’t mean they are healthy for everyone. I want to advocate for other women even when I am in the majority.

If you are reading this and you are now thinking “wow greek life seems awful” let me try to change your mind. Even though I shared the negative aspects of recruitment, greek life has given me so much: a community, best friends, and a place to be myself. With the exception of the 5 days of recruitment, I feel as if I can genuinely be my weird self around the women in my sorority. This is why I think we need to change the systematic expectations for recruitment.

I will leave you with some reminders you may need to hear:

  • Your authentic self is your best self
  • You are special
  • You do not need to change for anyone

2 thoughts on “Individuality in a sea of “basic”

  1. I love this post! Love how you included those reminders at the end, they are so important to hear!


  2. This is an interesting perspective as I never looked at recruitment as stripping members of their individuality, but rather as making us recognizable as a group. I do agree that seeing women in sororities all dressed the same and trying to exemplify a “perfect woman” persona during recruitment could hinder potential members from expressing their own uniqueness as they may feel pressure to conform to the perceived identity of the group in which they are trying to join.


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