Known for its over-the-top parties, beautiful mansions and sometimes elitist attitudes, the greek system at USC and other universities is no stranger to criticism. There seems to always be a story in the news about a fraternity’s dangerous hazing practices or a sorority’s harsh and demeaning emails. Most recently, critics have claimed a recruitment video from the University of Alabama chapter of Alpha Phi shows a lack of diversity. However, the recruitment video itself is not what’s wrong with the system. The problem is that, as a result of a stereotypical portrayal of greek life in the media, sorority recruitment videos are forced to target a very specific type of girl — hindering the chance at diversity.
The four minute recruitment video, which was deleted from YouTube shortly after going viral, showcases beautiful white, blonde girls and not much else. It opened up the doors for a bigger debate about the exclusivity of the greek system — an important issue on every college campus that sustains greek life. Many young girls at college campuses across the country who have gone through sorority recruitment have seen videos almost identical to Alpha Phi’s. By showing off the most physically attractive girls in the house, the videos are used as a marketing technique to attract new members.
The greek system is almost always portrayed the same way in the media and in pop culture, ultimately limiting the types of members sororities and fraternities recruit. For example, the popular television show Greek, which aired a few years ago on ABC Family, based its plot off the premise of beautiful college girls meeting beautiful college guys, both of whom care little about their academics or futures and more about “Greek Week” and social mixers. And in the iconic movie Legally Blonde, Elle Woods and her gang of blonde sorority friends seem to lack substance and intelligence, a portrayal that contributes to the stereotype that all sorority girls are superficial beings who have little to offer on their campuses, let alone in society. Rarely in these movies do we see the thousands of dollars women in sororities raise for philanthropic causes or the prestigious internships they land. Much like the Alpha Phi recruitment video, glitter and bikinis are the only things featured when sororities are mentioned, but in reality, the girls that make up these houses are much more than that.
Therefore, when a girl moves in to her dorm and her new roommate says, “Hey! Are you planning on rushing?” and her only exposure to sororities is the one portrayed in movies and on television, these stereotypes come to mind. If she is not gorgeous, skinny, rich or overly feminine, she may fear the process and the system as a whole, believing she won’t fit in. As one type of girl rushes sororities and other girls believe the greek system has little to offer for them, the cycle that limits diversity sustains itself. The poor portrayal of the greek system in the media is only one piece in solving a much more complicated question about diversity in sororities, but it constitutes an important perception for potential participants in the system. One cannot expect a more diverse greek system until the media more accurately represents the diverse aspects of real-life members.
With all of this in mind, there is one more vital thing to remember about the greek system: Sororities are not marketing toward the general public, but rather toward people who they think would be interested — which is no different than any other club or group on campus. The problem is not the sororities’ marketing techniques, but rather that the media has forced them to only have one target audience. The Alpha Phi chapter at University of Alabama shouldn’t be judged for doing this, nor should any other chapter. Rather than put down the members of these greek organizations for lacking diversity, we should focus more energy on figuring out how to get Hollywood to move away from these harsh and lazy stereotypes.