Sorority Girl in the Mirror
Female, blonde, pretty, perfect hair and makeup, fit, campus hierarchy, drunk, partier, judgmental, and boy crazy. These are the most typical words and phrases used to describe a sorority girl. Media is a large source of people’s knowledge on social interactions and human behaviors. The stereotype that I chose to decipher was the “sorority girl,” many of these stereotypes go unnoticed unless someone is watching for them because it seems natural. However, what is natural is the sisterhood that is created and the love of the sisters.
Being in a sorority myself, I have encountered many misconceptions from people that have gained their knowledge from the media. Media doesn’t portray the full truth, it exaggerates everything. Take Disney for example, not every girl is going to be swept off their feet into a horse drawn carriage by Prince Charming yet, some girls grow up with these very thoughts and hold men to these standards. Some people are so quick to judge someone that is involved in Greek life; therefore, in conversation I chose to lead with the topic. People always seem surprised when I say that I am an accounting major, on the Dean’s list, in The National Society of College Scholars (as well as the High School Scholars), work for a bank, involved in other programs at school, and have a generous amount of volunteer hours. I have received numerous types of reactions as far as, “then why are you in a sorority.” Responses such as this feel so disrespectful because I am proud to say I am a sister in Alpha Chi Omega and have hundreds of sisters just from my school that are there for me through everything and countless from all over the United States.
The first piece of media I analyzed was a favorite amongst my sorority, Legally Blonde. While there are many stereotypes embedded throughout the movie it sends an overall uplifting representation of a sorority girl. The main character, Elle Woods, went from being a stereotypical sorority girl to top of her graduating class at Harvard Law. In the beginning, it showed Elle and sisters partying with fraternity brothers, practicing cheer, exercising, getting their nails and hair done, and gossiping amongst each other. Yes, many women participate in one if not more of these activities, but it is not only sorority girls. When Warren, Elle’s boyfriend, broke up with her he said he needed to marry “a Jackie not a Marilyn” and she goes straight to appearance with this reference as if that is all she cares about. With that reference he was saying that she wasn’t sophisticated and classy.
To prove that she could be more than just a sorority girl, she decided to apply for Harvard Law. In the video she uses being president of her sorority to display her values and leadership ability which is also a common way to choose sorority sisters. On the other hand, she was in a bikini for a lot of it and very girly. The acceptance team for Harvard was all men and they decided based on her video. Once admitted in to school, she sticks out due to her appearance and is tested because people are so shocked that a blonde sorority girl is in their class. She ends up winning a spot on a professor’s team representing in a real murder case in court. Turns out she knows the defendant, an alumni of her old sorority chapter, on trial for the murder of her husband. Just when it starts to turn the focus away from the sorority and more into a success story they bring it back in court. She wins the case because of her knowledge about hair because a sister had previously had a perm. With this connection she gains an advantage because Brooke, the defendant, trusts her sister. Sisterly love created a bond of trust and won the case.
Next, I watched House Bunny with a lead character, Shelley, which was a Playboy bunny and later a house mom for the Zeta sorority. I watched the movie prior to this assignment and failed to recognize the true moral of the story. In the beginning, all I could focus on is the sexualized stereotype of a sorority girl. Shelley is in skimpy clothes throughout the movie and always turning boys’ heads. When she leaves the Playboy mansion she is wandering the street and passes by a sorority house and compares it to the Playboy bunnies. I was so shocked by this statement because of how bluntly they focused purely on appearance. Shelley becomes the house mom for the Zeta chapter, the chapter who is considered the losers on campus and was about to be kicked out. Shelley teaches these girls to be attractive to men and get the attention of incoming girls. The girls dye their hair, buy make up, and change fashion styles and quickly transform. The chapter then hosts the largest party with a theme of Greeks displaying many drunk college students. The Zetas become the most popular sorority on campus and they get so many girls that want to join that they have to deny people. The original girls start to judge solely on the appearance and the best qualities. In reality, when choosing who joins a sorority, the chapter decides based on the standards of the chapter, such as academics, and the connection they made and if they would be a good fit. Never is it based on what they look like or financials. The original girls decide to go back to being more like themselves in appearance while keeping some of Shelley’s input. In the end they chose the sisters randomly by picking names and learned that it doesn’t only matter what is on the outside but their character.
Unlike the uplifting views at the ends of Legally Blonde and House Bunny. Sorority Row is pure stereotypes. This movie is classified as a horror because of murders. The first scene is a party that has hazing, drinking, kissing, and drugs. The senior girls pull a prank on an ex-boyfriend because he cheated on one of them. He believes that she is almost dead and he stabs her to fully kill her. There is killer that begins to taunt them and threaten their lives. They decide to keep the death a secret to protect their futures. Every time there is a bad situation they bring up how sisters stick together. It is true that sisters stick together but it is through good and bad and not to be used as a bribing tactic. The victim was a sister too. The main characters fit all the characteristics I stated at the beginning. There are parties the whole time, sex scenes, no true bonds, and a lot of lying. In the, there is no hazing allowed at any chapter and there can be serious consequences for doing so. Sisters don’t want to hurt each other. This movie shows how media exaggerates the stereotypes.
Critics also take into consideration the influence of the media and do studies on drinking habits of sororities and fraternities. A critic, Gary Pike, compared the student engagement in other campus activities and education in the last four decades. He was surprised that there was such bad scrutiny and assumption of negative affects with alcohol and education. He decided to do a retrial of these findings and came up with mixed results. Student engagement and academic challenge were the same between students and Greek life with no change from past results. Thus, showing that the stereotypes of Greeks taking easy classes and just sliding through college is not true. On the other side, with campus support the Greeks have a higher gain in Personal Development. In the end he also points out that there is a large power in socializing and the policies within the Greek system meeting “campus values and sound educational practices.”
There are many forms of media that portray everything in different views and the viewers will take what they wish to believe from each of these pieces. When it comes to sorority life, I believe that sororities are much more than what is perceived in the media whether it is good or bad. These organizations make a large impact in people’s life. I have gained a lot from my sorority and truly believe that it has positively influenced my life. I have learned how to better be a leader, time management, true friendship, and have created a bond with each of my sisters including the sisters in different letters (other sororities).
Elling, Susan R., and Theodore W. Elling. “The Influence of Work on College Student Development.” Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice 37.2 (2000): n. pag. Journal of College Student Development. Project Muse, May-June 2003. Web. Feb. 2015.
Legally Blonde. Dir. Robert Luketic. Perf. Reese Witherspoon and Luke Wilson. MGM Home Entertainment, 2001. DVD
Sorority Row. Dir. Stewart Hendler. Perf. Briana Evigan, Rumer Willis, and Carrie Fisher, Summit Entertainment, 2009. DVD.