As stereotypes go, nearly everyone is painfully aware of the stereotypes placed on groups of people, especially when the stereotypes apply to themselves. The stereotype I want to address today is the expectation placed on sorority girls to be, well, “sorority girls.”
Alexandria Wilson, a member of Zeta Tau Alpha of Kansas State and a senior in Mass Communications, states that many of the stereotypes of sorority girls come in the shape of socially driven and privileged women.
“This is probably most common because it’s easy to showcase this stereotype on social media. We post about date parties, mixers and sisterhoods. What’s hard to showcase, though, is the leadership and drive that is seen in each of these women,” Wilson said.
Sophia Thuenemann, a Sophomore in Human Development and Family Sciences program and a member of Alpha Delta Pi, agrees with Wilson’s stated stereotype.
“I think one [stereotype] that I’ve heard a lot is like, just in it for partying. One person last year made the comment to me that I was paying all this money to get into social situations and go out and party through COVID when I wasn’t even partying very much… I feel like not having any substance is one that people stereotype. Like, sorority girls are just sorority girls and are not capable of anything else and can’t reach for better,” Thuenemann said.
Thuenemann has also experienced difficulties in clubs, organizations and friendships due to her membership in Alpha Delta Pi. Last year in the dorms, many of the people on her floor stereotyped her because she was happy and outgoing, and immediately placed her in the box of a “sorority girl.”
“Sometimes it’s been hard becauseI feel like I have so much more to me than the stereotypical sorority girl. People I’ve worked closely with have had negative feelings towards sororities and sorority girls and I feel like they’ve limited me in my positions, and with a lot of social justice work I’ve done. Stereotypically, sorority girls are not the most social activist, so sometimes I feel like I’m too quote “normal” to fit in the box of sorority stereotypes for social justice people to take me seriously,” Thuenemann said.
Wilson has had similar experiences with stereotypes limiting her life in certain areas, particularly as Director of Primary Recruitment for the Panhellenic Council. In her position, she has seen many prospective Greek Life members turn away from joining sororities due to their portrayal, which prevents the women from philanthropic service, career development and academic development.
Both women believe many of the stereotypes originate from portrayal of sororities and Greek Life in movies and television. Thuenemann also states a history of exclusion within sororities as a reason for the stereotypes as well.
In order to combat such stereotypes, Wilson suggests changing from the inside out.
“The ability to change sorority stereotypes has to start from within. Many chapters and Panhellenic Council’s nationwide have taken on more responsibility to intentionally shift the sorority narrative. On our campus specifically, we feature monthly women through our Sorority Woman Spotlight, sharing the academic, leadership and professional wins that our community should be proud of. We also typically have thirty plus community philanthropy and service events throughout each semester across campus in our sororities,” Wilson said.
As for Thuenemann, she believes not placing people in boxes before you know them is key to ending the stereotyping, not just for sorority members but for everyone.
“I think that just having an open mind, just being inclusive to everyone and knowing the boxes people put others in doesn’t define them [can help end stereotypes]. Like with diversity and inclusion as a society, we are trying really hard not to stereotype, and I think that goes both ways and everyone needs to remember that,” Thuenemann said.
In order to end the stereotypes, people must recognize everyone’s individuality and value in the world, and not placing people in boxes is one of the first steps.