Do you want to hear my really bad sorority joke? OK, here it is: I asked a girl in a sorority what region of Greece she was from. Turns out she’s from the northern “Uggs” region, but I could have sworn by her accent she was from “Northface.”
Buh dum, chhh! I know, I won’t try stand up any time soon.
Especially since my corny joke pales in comparison to the very real email sent from a former executive board member of a University of Maryland sorority to her sisters that was picked up by Gawker. The email, targeting the sorority’s sisters for not participating enough in social events, might be better read by the drill sergeant from “Full Metal Jacket” than a 20-something female college student in yoga pants.
Among other things, the email asks the sisters if they are “mentally slow,” threatens to physically assault them through means normally reserved for a football and tells them all to “go f— themselves.” The funnier bits I don’t dare try getting past my editor, so make sure to check out the whole article at Gawker for context.
The same girl who sent this frightening email has now deleted her Twitter account, which was exposed by the website Jezebel, where she made offensive remarks about Mexicans, Helen Keller and LGBT rights.
And as if that wasn’t enough damning publicity for Greek life, the Huffington Post reported last week on a sorority at Indiana University that threw a homeless-themed party, which surprisingly is even more offensive than it appears on face value when you take into account that homelessness is one of the biggest social problems facing Bloomington, Ind.
Trust me, when I heard all of this, especially as a writer, my mouth started drooling. Oh the joy it could bring me to rip mercilessly into Greek life and the stereotypes that these examples display.
But I have friends in fraternities and sororities. They’re not crazy, offensive or particularly arrogant. Sure, I’ve met those in Greek life who fit that characterization to a T. Yet I also know some people who are just as awful who have never even been to a frat party.
Lawrence Watling, one of my good friends and co-hosts for WHIP, Temple’s student-run radio station, made the point to me that the problem with Greek life is that the actions of a few reflect poorly on the whole.
Watling, a member of AEPi at Temple, noted that it’s easy for just one person to make the entire Greek community look like a bunch of Neanderthals. He expressed frustration with this considering all the good things frats and sororities do besides shenanigans.
If anything, the stereotypes we use for Greek life made apparent by these recent events is simply the manifestation of things we can all relate to. Who hasn’t been irritated at a friend for being shy at social events you brought them to? Haven’t you ever made inappropriate jokes within your circle of friends?
This isn’t a defense of the sometimes insufferable behaviors and attitudes that can be seen by some donning a T-shirt with Greek lettering on it. But, to be honest, it’s not hard to find the same level of pretentiousness within hipster, jock and even honors student circles. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad.
For example, I have a stupid flippy haircut. If another guy with another stupid flippy haircut posted something really racist on Twitter, I’d hope people wouldn’t think I’m a racist too. The difference is Greek life is an easy target. It has a history and is more clearly defined.
Of course this email is hilarious. And I’ll admit the sororities that scream incessantly at people on Liacorous Walk for money drive me up the wall. But hey, at least they’re raising money for something, which is more than I can say for myself. So enjoy and mock the colossal idiocy of some all you want, but try not to lump them all together. I know no one would want anyone to do the same to them.
Dan Craig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Ohh_Danny_Boy.