Sorority beauty standards are worse than we thought
If you haven’t read the disturbing sorority recruitment email from the Alpha Chi Omega chapter at the University of Southern California that leaked last week on Jezebel, then you’re in for a shock. An anonymous alumni shared the demanding tome and said that while she was no longer at the school, they were definitely still practicing its standards, which include wearing contacts (because “poking your eye is worth it just this once, promise!”), strict dieting, and no “crazy ombres,” for real. Actually, if you’re planning to change your hair color, like, don’t do it until after recruitment (what if it turns out ugly?!). Also, for the love of all that is holy: Spanx are a must, “even if you’re very thin.”
Also, according to this leaked email, if you forget to put on makeup before you leave the house, they will stop you in your tracks and apply it for you. And they’re serious, because they wrote it in all caps.
Turns out, these types of rigid guidelines are not uncommon during rush weeks, especially in “top tier” sororities. With all the progress we’re making with self-image and movements like #EffYourBeautyStandards, it’s sad that these practices still exist. And it’s getting worse, according to a report out today from Yahoo Beauty, which takes a deep-dive into the problematic, racist, size-ist beauty standards pervasive in certain sorority cultures. As one anonymous Arizona State alum actually states in the article, ““If you’re black or Asian, you should be the hottest, smartest, richest, and most well-connected representative of your race if you want to get in [to one particular sorority].”
We also learned from the article that some hopeful members pay people to “coach” them through rush season, and the lessons they’re learning are a little heart-breaking. There’s a company called Rushbiddies based out of Birmingham, AL that will tell you—for about $100 an hour—that if you gained a few pounds over summer, you’d better lose it. “My clients come back from summer vacation with a few extra pounds,” Rushbiddies co-founder, Pat Grant, tells Yahoo, “and I have to tell them, ‘You might not squeeze into that sundress.”
And if you’re “plus size”? According to Grant, you can still land a spot in that “top-tier’ sorority of your dreams, but you’d better “counterbalance [your] weight with impeccable wardrobes, excellent references, great social skills, and have a legacy,” meaning a direct relative was in the same sorority at some point. Ugh.
On a popular Greek life chat board, the question “Am I pretty enough?” has been posed by a presumed freshman—signaling the insecurities the rush process brings out, and the unacceptable standards that are reinforced. In response to the question, one anonymous user wrote: “What is going to really affect her rush is: who she is, who she knows, and especially how she looks. And if she does not have any recs, but looks like a Victoria’s Secret Angel, then she is probably going to get a full list of invites each round.”
Another thread on GreekChat titled “How much is appearance weighed during rush?” involves a young girl asking for advice about how much she should worry about her looks being judged when she was rushing. The advice varies, and some of it is good (one member says, “do not be a slave to numbers on clothing!”), but most agree that standards are harsh when it comes to Greek Life.
The real question is, what’s this mob mentality doing to young girls that rush a sorority? How can they grow and develop true friendships and self-worth with oppressive, offensive group-think mentalities. Why are supposed sisterhoods sending damaging messages to hopeful members, how is it possible that accepted college communities are perpetuating racism and body-shaming? While it’s not fair or accurate to implicate all sororities as embracing these upsetting ideals, there’s clearly a problem that extends beyond one college, one email, or one sisterhood. And it needs to be addressed.