The Gawker published an article by Allie Jones about sorority girls and their attempt at defying stereotypes, which they believe showed that these girls don’t actually defy stereotypes, but play into expectations of what a sorority girl would and should be.
Picture: A screenshot of the article from Gawker, with the title: “The sisters seem similarly confused about how best to deny the mean rumors society is supposedly spreading about them. The second part of this sentence doesn’t negate the first.” The picture of is a blonde woman in a woven cap and a shirt with sorority letters, staring straight into the camera. The words “Society says we marry lawyers, but I’m going to be one.” is handwritten in the upper left.
It’s easy to take something like this at face value. Haha, sorority girls don’t know how to make friends without paying for them, and marry successful men! Let’s laugh at them! They’re an easy target for criticism – privileged, usually white, cis women who don’t experience “real problems” and don’t understand the challenges of the real word.
But when you examine why we find that funny, the reality is startling and rather uncomfortable.
Women are constantly presented with expectations of what they should and shouldn’t be, and a lot of those expectations drive women away from what society views as “intellectual” and “successful” and towards those which are a prime target for mockery. This is a statement that has been proven time and time again. The solution to that problem is a lot harder.
Take, for example, the photograph above. Yes, marrying a lawyer and becoming one are not mutually exclusive. But lawyers who identify as men are never presented with that criticism if they marry someone equally successful. And if you’re a successful lawyer, why not marry someone who is equally successful, in your field? You’d certainly have a lot in common. The criticism is lukewarm at best and strikes me of the worst form of misogyny, in which even women who decide to do things that will bring them towards success are still criticized.
Picture: A screenshot of the article from Gawker, with the title: “At best, the project illustrates that the Delta Gammas have been mishearing what society has been saying about them. Does ‘society say’ that sorority girls don’t get internships in New York City?” The picture of is a black-haired woman in a long-sleeved shirt with sorority letters, staring straight into the camera. The words “Society says we aren’t going places but I had an internship in New York City after my freshman year.” is handwritten in the upper left.
Well, yes. Society doesn’t say specifically that sorority girls don’t get internships in New York City, but no matter what sorority-affiliated women achieve (whether it be volunteer hours, or higher GPAs) it’s discounted because they “pay to be in a club.” Like many men and women who participate in social activities on campus that require fees.
I think the best way to prove this is to see who you’re laughing alongside when you talk about these things.
Let’s look at TotalSororityMove.com, and their list of stereotypes that sorority women say they’re trying to combat.
“People like you are the reason that men are afraid to tell women ‘you look nice today’ for fear of sexual harassment accusations.” Reading that itself made me wince, mostly because it’s patently untrue. If you’re making someone so uncomfortable with your comments that you’re the target of sexual harassment accusations, you have a problem with your ‘compliments.’ It’s not the person. It’s you. You’re not entitled to make comments on how someone else looks. Even if they’re nice ones.
And what’s wrong with people being upset about being constantly reduced to their looks, while having their other achievements swept under the rug? I can’t imagine a single person that wouldn’t be annoyed at a lack of recognition for their hard work, regardless of what gender they are.
I could spend pages writing a response to all of this, but I feel like photos speak louder than words. As a response to some of the criticisms of this photoshoot, I’m going to post some of the highlights here.