Letters

Readers share their sorority experiences, both heartwarming and horrific, and debate Suzy Hansen's interview with Alexandra Robbins, author of "Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities."


Salon Staff
April 22, 2004 11:41PM (UTC)

[Read "Twisted Sisters," by Suzy Hansen.]

I found Alexandra Robbins' account of sorority life horrifying -- and completely alien to my own experience in a Southern sorority in the early '90s. As painful as it is for me to believe that these things could happen, I'm by no means questioning her. But I do want to point out to the uninitiated (pun intended) that her book is not indicative of all sorority life.

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I rushed as a junior because I had gotten to know and like several women in the sorority I ended up joining. My experiences as a pledge and a sister were great, and there was no pressure to drink or participate in the social scene. Did I drink and date fraternity members? Yes, but no more than I had during my freshman and sophomore years. Overall, I had a great time hanging out with the women in my sorority, several of whom became genuine friends. I remember a lot of laughs -- and never at the expense of any of my sisters -- and no tears.

-- Sherry B.

I'm afraid that Robbins' description of black sororities is not accurate -- some black sororities do unofficially haze. It's crucial that the grad/alumni chapters oversee and maintain contacts with the undergraduate sororities, of any race. The combination of strong grad/alumni chapters, strong service requirements, strong minimum GPA requirements, and strong administrators keep hazing and stupidity in check.

As for the white ones (I am black, but I have white friends who pledged), I believe Robbins' experience as an undercover reporter. The racism of Southern sororities (the white ones -- black ones have accepted white, Latina, and Asian women since the 1980s; white ones have barely started doing that now) is legendary. Northern sororities can be just as bad.

-- Selika Ducksworth

It is unfortunate that such behavior occurs among some college women. However, the "sorority" accused of extreme hazing at Loyola University in New Orleans is an off-campus, not university sanctioned organization. They receive no support from the university and are not a part of a national organization.

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The members of that sorority are aware of this when they join. They also realize that there are no checks on any behavior that might occur as a part of that group.

It would have been appropriate to mention this fact in the interview as to not give a skewed impression of Greek life at Loyola, or at any university.

-- Karen Knapstein

My sorority, Chi Omega, provided me the opportunity to meet other smart women from all over the country, and the world. It was the first time I ever actively participated in community service. When my roommate had trouble paying the dues, Chi O put her on a scholarship program. When my GPA dropped below a 3.0, I was suspended from social activities. My sorority kept me in line and has been a source of my closest friends and professional contacts.

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I'm Canadian, I work in publishing, my husband is a musician, and although I did attend college in the South, we live in Brooklyn, and we're Democrats. Ms. Robbins' bigotry is offensive and her stereotypes are wrong.

-- Michelle Lewis

While I understand that Alexandra Robbins doesn't want to reveal the names of the sorority women she followed or the school they attended, I have to ask anyway -- where did she do the research for her book? Most of that junk would never fly at a public school with any kind of liberal leanings, like my alma mater. Pig runs? Drinking vomit? Are you kidding me? Any house that tried that stuff at my school would get their charter yanked faster than you can say "beer bong."

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I have news for the Greek-haters: Those people would be acting this way even if they weren't in a sorority or fraternity. It's called being a college student, people. I had done binge drinking and been date-raped before I joined my sorority in my third year. Joining a house actually slowed down my partying (but didn't end it), made me a better student and gave me friends I'm tight with today, 11 years after graduating from college.

Ms. Robbins is right that some sororities pressure their members to conform in looks and behavior. Lucky for me I wasn't in one of those "popular" sororities. Mine was a mix of many races, religions, sizes, income levels and political leanings (meaning two or three Republicans in the group). We were a sorority full of people who didn't look like they'd be in a sorority. Yes, I passed candles, sang dumb songs, drank too much and wore those stupid white dresses every week for our meetings, but I would change very little of my sorority experience.

-- (Name withdrawn)

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In college, I figured out who I was by joining a sorority -- and by realizing that most of my sisters were exactly the kind of women I never wanted to be. Although some of my sisters were wonderful, too many others were bitchy, critical, exclusionary and shallow. One hazing ritual made us stand, one by one, on an overturned milk crate while all the brothers of a neighboring fraternity made lewd comments and criticisms about our appearance. It took years for me, emotionally, to finally get off that milk crate.

I applaud Alexandra Robbins for exposing the potential dangers of a system that is built on conformity, labels and exclusion.

-- Kim A. O'Connell


Salon Staff

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