As a recent graduate from a small southern private university, I have frequently toed the line between two very different identities throughout my four years. I grew up playing competitive softball, was a Women’s & Gender Studies major, and am a proud (and loud) feminist who played a significant role in my school’s LGBTQ organization. I am also a heterosexual, sorority girl who likes to attend fraternity parties and shamelessly flirt with boys. If you find yourself confused by these two very different persona, welcome to my world. I am too mainstream for the hipsters, academics and hardcore feminists, but too opinionated and self-righteous for my sorority sisters. This is the life of the Feminist Sorority Sister.
I know what many of you are thinking: “How can she call herself a feminist? She’s such a sell-out!” or “I had no idea they had lesbian sororities in the south.” Before you jump to conclusions…hear me out. I did not plan to be this walking, talking Zeta Tau Alpha Feminist Conundrum. And yet, despite the monumental contradiction that I refer to as my life, I would never have done it any other way. I am here to tell you that with some courage, strength and a healthy dose of early onset dementia, you can be anyone you want.
Greek Life is a prime example of the patriarchal subjugation of women. While fraternities and sororities are age-old traditions, much of the sexism that died during the first-wave feminist movement has been resurrected by Greek organizations and is thriving on campuses all over the U.S. Gender inequality is illustrated through tradition and, believe it or not, university enforced rules and regulations. On my campus, all-female Greek Life organizations (sororities) are not allowed to host parties, while all-male Greek Life organizations (fraternities) are permitted to throw ragers complete with kegs and a dance floor. Now I could go on for days about the inequalities, prejudices, and all around other horrible things Greek Life promotes, but that’s not why I’m writing this. At least I don’t think it is.
I joined Greek Life my first year of college because I wanted to make friends. After two very rough years of post high school soul-searching, I discovered myself in the feminist voices of bell hooks, Judith Butler, and Betty Friedan. With my new feminist agenda I was ready to run for office and become the first female feminist president. At that moment, however, Madame President was getting dressed for a “Golf Pros and Tennis Hoes” themed party, excited at the thought of the pastel-clad fraternity boys I would see that night. For some reason, Madame President was uncomfortable with that. Go figure. How could I be such a hypocrite? A woman dressed as a tennis hoe, trying to ensnare a golf pro for some private lessons in the clubhouse, couldn’t possibly be a true feminist. Or could she? The conclusion I came to may be a little controversial, but it was at that moment (dressed in high heel sneakers, fish net stockings, purple eye make-up and a tennis skirt so short a hooker might get embarrassed) that I found my center. As long as I spoke up about my beliefs there was no need to feel ashamed that I was in a sorority or that I was a feminist. I can almost hear them playing Hail to the Chief right now.
I got quite a bit of grief from my feminist friends because I was in a sorority. It became exhausting defending myself to the very people I associate myself with and define myself as. I realized, however, that there was no need or requirement that I lead a one-dimensional life. No need to abandon my principles or my fish net stockings. I could stand a little taller on the combined platforms of my beliefs and my high heels. And so I chose to not limit myself to being just a sorority girl or a feminist: I could be both. By doing so I not only bridged a much-needed gap between two seemingly disparate groups of people, but I changed their opinions about what it means to be a feminist and a member of a sorority. I was able to host and facilitate numerous discussions and events involving the LGBTQ club and Greek Life and brought activism to the fraternity and sorority houses of my campus. A plethora of sorority sisters sought me out about sexual health advice, domestic violence, and even a close friend who finally felt comfortable enough to come out of the closet.
As feminism promotes, I am a woman and I will choose to do what I please with my time. That in itself is empowering. No one will bully or shame me into being one or the other, why not be both? And why not be awesome at being both? Feminism is not anti-male, anti-sorority, or anti-femininity; it is the vehicle with the potential to break boundaries and tradition. Being in a sorority does not mean I am dumb, apathetic, or necessarily heterosexual. Being in a sorority involves true sisterhood, life-long friendship, and a lot of fucking fun. Just as political beliefs, gender, and sexual preference all fall on an overwhelmingly large spectrum, so does your choice of the person you want to be.
So if I’ve been able to give you any advice it’s this: choose both, choose everything, do it all even when there is adversity, especially when there is adversity. Do this and you will never have to be limited to just one definition of yourself.