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Negative Body Image and Greek Life

So many of you know that I am the Chapter Advisor for my sorority at University of Colorado - Boulder.

I really love:
  1. My girls (even though they aren't always nice to me)
  2. My volunteer role (even though it isn't always easy)
  3. My sorority & our international team of volunteers (no even though here...)

For me, joining Gamma Phi Beta was an incredible experience. I had gone through almost 2 years of university being a GDI (g-d damn independent) and hanging only with the theatre people before I realized... I needed a broader social circle. I am by no means a "stereotypical" sorority girl but I don't think anyone at my school was. The women who are now and will always be my closest friends are the women I graduated with and were in my Gamma Phi chapter (go Epsilon Zeta at JU!).

Becoming the advisor at CU was definitely a culture shock. My chapter had 30 girls, this one has 180... It's a big school with a big football team, and when I got here, a big drinking problem. Not our chapter necessarily but the school as a whole. We had so many barriers to success over the past four years but I am SO proud of where we stand today with the university. Now I know what it took to get here and I know that a lot of my women think I forgot what it was like to be a college student (HA! That's funny... I remember it all and I remember saying the same things about my advisors) but the reality is that I've grown up and seen the affects of that lifestyle on women and I want to help every woman I come in contact with.

So I was fairly disturbed when I read this article - Sororities and Negative Body Image - what struck me the most was that the women more attracted to Greek life were women with a lower self esteem and body image to begin with. AND that instead of empowering these women, this study found that they actually perceived themselves worse. That's not what we are here for.

Sorority women are empowered. We are creating our own networking opportunities. We are making a family where none existed. Our founders were strong women, pioneers and our ritual and ideals have changed little since our founding (in GPhi's case - in 1874). So why does this study show the opposite affect?

I don't know. Don't have a clue. Wish I had an answer. I just know that I love and truly care for all 180 of my women and would do anything for them (that would promote the highest type of womanhood).

Comments (5)

Well said, Talia! I hope that you are doing well.

i think greek life is highly misunderstood and misrepresented in nearly all studies of it...

Greek life is highly misunderstood indeed!!! This article is frustrating because it makes it seem as though only sorority girls fall prey to negative body image/eating disorders. I think people associate negative body image with sororities because there are so many girls in one space, and of course then it makes the issue more visible, but eating disorders are equal opportunity disease and can affect anyone -male or female for that matter- and this article doesn't really seem to address that. Of course when you have that many females in one space it is going to seem more prominent - do the math! When people only think of sororities in terms of looks and weight it only makes the issue of negative body image worse! Start focusing on all the amazing aspects of greek life and maybe some of the stigma and pressue will disapear! What a frustrating article!
-Elizabeth Wolf

Thanks ladies! I love my strong sorority women!! I agree that we need to focus on the positive. I just wish the public would too.

Recently, my women we terrorized (and I use that word since they were made to feel uncomfortable in their own home by no fault of their own) by a predator. He sat outside the house and watched the girls and masturbated. The comments on the article from Boulderites? That GPhis were ugly, they deserved it because they were sorority women, or that they were probably drunk anyway. With that type of attitude, how are we supposed to support the community?! If these were their daughters or sisters, I am positive they would have been as outraged as I was. Disgusting!

I thought it was hilariously ridiculous to make a direct connection between BMI and the girls' perception of rush. Interesting? Yes. Makes you think? Maybe. Relevant? Fat chance (no pun intended). It makes me sad that the tone (and headline) of the article so blatantly propagates the bias surrounding Greek life, but from the "GDI" side of the spectrum, let me share why I think there are still aspects that support the bias and legitimize its persistence (illustrated - though somewhat vindicated - by the last paragraph of the article). Feel free to call me out if I'm exposing my ignorance. :-)

I remained a "GDI" throughout my college career because I resented the stereotype of the sorority girl. Admittedly, this was a personal prejudice fueled by Hollywood and word-of-mouth, but the University didn't do much to change my opinions. During rush week, I didn't see the opportunity to be part of a community and develop lasting relationships with other women, I saw a terrifying audition process. What if I wasn't pretty enough or smart enough or committed enough to hack it? Worse yet, what if I WAS? I would be a sorority girl, and I'd never live it down.

My point being: I wish now, more than anything, that I would have been a part of that community. All I got out of college was a degree. I can't help but wonder if things would have been different if the University (or sororities) employed an alternative recruiting method. Maybe some did, and I missed it, but all I remember is a campus full of beautiful girls with Greek letters on their butts and shirts cut above their belly buttons, and none of whom seemed genuinely friendly. I don't truly regret many things I've done in life, and not rushing comes very close to being one of those things, but from where I was sitting, what choice did I have?

I suspect there are so many like me who were/are secretly jealous, but who failed to take advantage of the Greek community for 2 reasons: The failure of the community to appeal to what I considered important, and the outright fear of adopting that shallow stereotype (however unfounded it is). So there's a full-on "GDI" perspective, just in case you're wondering where in the world those prejudices come from ;-)

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