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North Meet South: Sorority Style.

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It’s easy to make fun of sorority girls. I come from a long line of them myself, and as I grew up among them, I realized it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Collegiates love to pick at the stereotypes of sorority women — your typical boozehound sluts who jump around in naked pillow fights. At the same time, we rarely consider the positive things sororities represent, like friends for life, philanthropy, and AA meetings on Tuesday nights.

And while it’s easy to mock, I admit that in the second semester of my freshman year, I did indeed join a sorority. Surprisingly, it’s a decision I have never regretted. And within a year of my initiation, I rose to the position of chapter president (and by “rose” I mean “slept with the right people”).

I am thankful for the opportunities I have had to meet sisters from across the continent. However, it’s widely known the rift that exists between northern and southern Greek systems. Many southern Greek institutions abide by “old school” rules, and are taken much more seriously than we northerners take it. But after meeting several president from southern chapters, I have come to one conclusion:

Southern sorority girls are freaking insane.

Somewhere through the annals of time, southern sorority girls have lost their minds. The AquaNet may have pervaded their nasal cavities and rotted their brains, or the thick layers of makeup may have contained lead paint that seeped through their pores. At any rate, they are pure, 100% batshit.

Northern sorority girls during rush.

Some examples of these essential “differences” (and by “differences,” I mean “ways that Southern girls are freaking crazy”) include:

Intimate Relationships: Many Southern Greeks find it unfathomable that I as a sorority girl and more so, a president, would date a man who is not of equal Greek status.
Southern Sorority Girl: So what fraternity is your boyfriend in?
Me: He’s not in a fraternity.
SSG: I don’t understand.
Me: He just never joined a fraternity while he was in college.
SSG: So what fraternity is your boyfriend in?
Me: My boyfriend is not in a fraternity.
SSG: (Yelling like I am deaf or retarded) WHAT FRA-TERN-I-TEEEE IS YOUR BOOYYYFRIEND IN?
(continues until I walk away)

Recruitment (formerly known as “rush”): Southern Greeks are known to be recruiting machines and often have extremely large chapters. Because Greek life is not necessarily as popular on northern campuses, chapter sizes are typically smaller.
SSG: So how big is your chapter?
Me: Well, we have around 50 girls coming back this fall.
SSG: That’s it? Oh my Lord, how does your chapter stay open?
Me: We’re about average-sized on our campus, I guess.

SSG: Well, my chapter has about 250 …. thousand. And we recruit about 3,000 girls every fall with 100% retention and we think we’re a bit too small … there’s a small outhouse in Louisiana who hasn’t accepted our bid … yet.

Image: Southern women are impeccable. Perfectly airbrushed makeup, hair that does not move within an inch of Armageddon, and perfectly tailored, outrageous wardrobe choices. Northern women, myself especially, seem to be more low-maintenance.
(During our 10 a.m. breakfast.)
Me: I dragged myself out of bed at 9:30 and I didn’t want to get up.
SSG: You woke up at 9:30 and did your hair and makeup when?
Me: Um … when I woke up.
SSG: I was up at 7 a.m. getting ready!
(At this point, SSG is eyeballing me up and down critically)
Me: Well, I guess I’m just quick at getting around …
SSG: Can I give you a makeover?

A southern sorority girl on her way to a pledge event.

Legacies: Legacies are daughters, granddaughters, or sisters of a member of the sorority. Many southern sorority women are part of a longstanding legacy tradition within the sorority.
SSG: My mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and all six of my sisters were sisters in (insert our sorority here).
Me: Nobody in my family was a (sorority name here).
SSG: So how did you get in?
Me: Umm, I guess the girls just liked me for me.
SSG: I know you said no before, but can I give you a makeover now?

While I was re-insulted, she sure did a number on my roots. Peer pressure’s a bitch. Then again, Peer Pressure was a legacy so we had to give her a bid.

I have no ill-will toward my sisters from the south. But it’s clear they are raised with different notions of Greek life than us northerners. For example, they are raised with the idea that if you are not in a sorority, your arms and limbs will fall off in a horrible bout of leprosy. And they have the pictures to prove it.

Nothing like that happens to northern sorority girls. Any loss of limbs will only come from a severe herpes epidemic.

And while we northerners are content with simply passing out on the front lawn of a fraternity house, southern women will outdo us once again, chaining themselves to the fraternity men’s beds and allowing the upstanding gentlemen of Tau Beta Alpha (which I just made up and if it is a real fraternity, I apologize) to take a dump on their heads. I think it’s called a “Gomer Pyle.” Gol-ly!

So in the end, northern and southern collegiate women really aren’t all that different, and in time, we will be able to expand our relationships across the Dixie Line. And hopefully those southern schools can clean up all those letter-less lepers on their campuses.

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About Chelsea Smith

  • I hate to ask, but which sorority are you talking about?

    Im a Southern boy – Sigma Chi, U.Va.

    Then again, maybe you don’t want to get in to specifics on “which sorority” and are instead focusing on the broader issue of north/south diffs 🙂

    Interesting article.

  • Chelsea writes: “I have no ill-will toward my sisters from the south. But it’s clear they are raised with different notions of Greek life than us northerners.

    Reply: I, as a former witness to the insanity at its zenith (circa. 1960-1970) at a (deep) southern state university, I have to admit, you are probably spot on. As one of those folks too poor to join any organization, working for tuition and being my own “legacy,” I was often awe-struck at the antics of my more well-heeled fraternity and sorority brethren. While I am quite sure some of those folks survived the ordeals, I do sometimes wonder what would have become of me, had I “enjoyed” the excesses of southern Greek life and the ancillary activities that were closely associated with it.

    But, then, I count each and every one of my lucky stars, take a deep breath and murmur a quiet prayer of thanks for the hidden blessings of poverty during college.



  • Nancy

    I got ‘rushed’ by my mother’s & grandmother’s sorority, & they were absolutely dumbfounded when I ignored them. Couldn’t believe I didn’t want to join. My findings were that sororities do minimal USEFUL ‘work’ for anybody, & are mainly concerned w/making connections, parties, & husband-hunting, and are mainly for the benefit of rich, pretty, not-too-bright, not-very-literate socialites to be babysat until they can graduate. Dietdoc, you didn’t miss a thing.

  • I guess this falls under the same category as family – I can make fun of them, you can’t. 😉

    I have to say, Nancy, that you are pretty far off with your assumptions. As I mention in the piece, I myself am in a sorority, and I have NEVER regretted my decision. We have given THOUSANDS of dollars to charity, and my chapter currently averages 49 hours EACH MEMBER of community service work.

    Our cumulative GPA is higher than the all-women’s GPA on campus and almost half our chapter was on Dean’s List this past spring semester. My highest GPAs have been accomplished since I joined a sorority because of the intense academic standards. Not-too-bright, not-too literate? Check the numbers.

    As far as “husband hunting,” I found my future husband working for the campus newspaper, and he is not in a fraternity. (Matthew T. Sussman, another BC-er, as most know.)

    As much as I make fun of sorority life (I think it’s only a problem when Greeks take themselves too seriously), it was, for me at least, a very rewarding experience. I have met friends that I will have the rest of my life, learned values that I continue to live by, and I have a support network that trust me, I’ve used several times. When I have a problem, I have 50 women that I know I can turn to.

    Okay okay, I shouldn’t be getting defensive. I’m just saying, as much as I make fun of sorority life, it actually is a very good thing for certain people. (Not everyone wants to be in a sorority, and they don’t have to be. That’s cool too!)

    And Chris, I’d love to tell you my letters but in such a public forum, I’d rather not, since I AM making fun of people to a certain degree. But I will tell you I was a fourth-generation legacy to Chi Omega. 😉

  • Hmmm…

    I wonder if your answer was supopposed to help me decipher your Sorority affiliation?

  • Nope, no decifering necessary. But if you went to my blog you’d figure it out anyway.

  • Nancy

    I am interested to know why it’s so much bigger a deal down south, as it were, than it is up north. How does that pan out as regards east-west?

  • bhw

    Chelsea Lou, with a moniker like that, how can you not be a southerner?

  • bwh — My full first name is Chelsea-Louise. Spent most of my life going by Chelsea, until I came to college and it just somehow became my name. It’s better than Flounder, I guess.

  • Nancy

    At least your parents had some imagination to come up w/’Chelsea’. Better than ‘Nancy’-!

  • bhw

    My guess on the north-south thing is that in the south, the sororities are holding on to a bit of the southern belle/aristocracy thing.

    Up north, bitches just want to party.

  • Chelsea, you found the model for the Lindsay Lohan Herbie-poster wink! The young woman on the left in the first photo above has her face contorted into an uncanny resemblance of the very same thing the artists did to Miss Lohan’s face for that frightening poster.

    As for your article, kudos for having a sense of humor about your sorority membership. You seem to be walking a good healthy balance, not being too serious or defensive about it, but taking it seriously enough to give the experience some real meaning for you.

    Oh, and a minor detail on your last paragraph. If I recall correctly, the division between north and south is called the Mason-Dixon Line.

  • In reaction to comments #3 & 4, I would agree with both. On one hand, many of the girls at the college I attended were exactly as Nancy described them, to a perfect T.

    But amongst the bar sluts that permeated their ranks existed other upstanding young ladies who volunteered and made a lot of important contributions around campus.

    Oddly enough, the serious girls always were dragging the slackers from their hangover ridden beds to events and so on. Funny how a group works, eh?

  • Wow, where to start. Okay, going down the line:

    Nancy: I guess my parents could be considered original, since there aren’t many women my age named Chelsea. Or the fact of the matter could be that they just couldn’t decide on a name and said, “What the hell, let’s throw a hyphen in and make her explain her name the rest of her life!” (I’m guessing the latter.)

    Victor: The Northern sorority girls are actually me and two of my closest friends in my sorority. The “love bug” poser is a very very close friend of mine, and poses like that in EVERY picture. (FYI, I’m in the middle, the horribly overexposed, goth looking one.)

    And Mark: You could take a sample of 75 girls on any college campus, and you’re bound to have some bar sluts and some “upstading young ladies.” It’s not just sororities. And as president, I’m the queen of pissing off hungover girls and forcing them to class and charity events. Nobody said being president meant you were the popularity queen. 😉

  • You could take a sample of 75 girls on any college campus, and you’re bound to have some bar sluts and some “upstading young ladies.” It’s not just sororities.

    This is true, but it also depends on the college and the sorority. There are plenty of social sororities that seemingly exist solely for the purpose of getting drunk and being stupid. Other girls in college might be bar sluts too, but at least the ones outside of the sororities don’t have to start an exclusive little club to do it. I think it’s partially the exclusivity and snobbery that can be seen in a lot of sororities (and fraternities) that gives them a bad name.

  • Chelsea, don’t get me wrong. As an RA my senior year of college, when asked about sororities, I advised many freshman girls that the experience is all in what you put into it, but that it can be a very good thing.

    I believe the environment of the group itself made both the bar sluts and the overachievers become more magnified in chosen paths though. Not joining wouldn’t have given them the identity on campus as much.

    As for fraternities, I told all of the freshman boys to avoid at all costs. 🙂

  • bhw

    There are plenty of social sororities that seemingly exist solely for the purpose of getting drunk and being stupid.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 😎

  • dee

    My daughter is in a sorority and she is neither a bar slut or an over achiever. She is just someone getting through college and enjoying the comaderie of the girls in her sorority. They are some wonderful young ladies too. Not bar sluts even though there are some around.

  • Nancy

    Well, things change over the years. Undoubtedly Greek culture at some sororities has changed, too, that’s human nature. If they’ve gotten better, more public-service-oriented, that’s terrific.

    I based my statements on my grandmother’s & mother’s accounts, & my own personal knowledge of quite a few of the inhabitants of my university’s sororities & their very flaunted activities & lifestyles. According to Grammy & Mom, back in my grandmother’s day, sororities were mainly havens for wealthy, well-groomed socialites, so they wouldn’t have to live in dorms & mix w/the hoi-polloi, & could keep their own liquor supplies. In my mother’s day they were party houses, interested mostly in sponsoring husband-hunting, especially among the well-connected, up & coming members of the corresponding frats. In my day (and on my campus) they were mainly hotbeds of overprivileged daughters of wealthy conservatives, as well as continuations of the tradition of private party houses. Certainly the collective sorority rep was not complimentary, and the most important ‘charitable’ activity they were involved in was the annual Homecoming festival & parade, a 4-day orgy of drinking, juvenile pranks, & celebration of jockdom. If they did anything else constructive or altruistic, they were certainly able to keep it a deep secret, hence leading to the reputation, which they actually seemed rather proud of. Mind you, I admit this was one university campus, at one point in time. As gonzo says, your mileage (and experiences) may vary.

    Gotta say, tho, that ‘Legally Blonde’ 1 & 2 certainly didn’t do much to help the generic image of sororities as being full of image-driven, hedonistic, & somewhat shallow people, even tho they were cute movies & very enjoyable.

  • Eric Olsen

    I love sorority girls due to their many flaws and pretensions, although my experience is with the northern, and then Californian varieties

  • Nancy

    OK – in my day and previously, membership in a sorority was strictly limited to the well-to-do, because the fees & dues were pretty stiff. They were NOT exactly strongholds of democracy. Is this still the case? Anyone?

  • bhw

    When I was in a sorority many moons ago, it cost about $200/year, which was equivalent to costs associated with some other activities on camups, such as the skiing club. I’m sure the students in the photography club, in those days, spent at least $200/year on film and processing costs, too, nevermind the cost of an SLR camera. So sororities were no more cost restrictive than many other campus groups.

    I was in the north, however, and not near any of the more ‘genteel’ southern sorority traditions.

    My sorority was primarily a social outlet, in part because it was very small and very new on campus, as were all the sororities at my school. I can assure you we weren’t husband hunting, although I did meet my husband in college, before I joined my sorority.

    We met at the bar in his fraternity during a happy hour. He invited me back for the second half of the double-header that night. And the rest is history.

  • Eric Olsen

    my first wife was in a sorority but we met in class

  • bhw

    I had scoped out my husband in history class one semester and was finally introduced to him by a mutual friend at the bar. It was love at first beer.

  • I was given some great advice before I went to college. One classic bit went something like:

    Don’t join a fraternity. Why would you want to pay to have friends?

    I wound up joining the rugby team, which was often accused for its frat-ish qualities (mostly because of the wild parties).

    Overall, I agree that the Southern traditions are tied into Southern culture, which still holds some major differences from the ways of the North.

  • As far as fees and dues, our sorority is roughly $800 a year, which is actually one of the cheapest on campus. It’s definitely not easy wrangling together that much money, especially since I pay it entirely myself. But these fees go toward the financial functioning of the chapter. We have a house to support, programs to uphold (academic, educational, ritual, etc.), and bills to pay, just like anyone else. If you joined say, the baseball team, you’d have to pay for a mitt, uniform, cleats, etc. — we’re really no different from that, except we have more to pay, therefore dues are higher.

    So essentially, you aren’t paying for friends. You are paying to help maintain the chapter.

    And yes, sorority life is a social outlet. That’s one of the greatest things about it. I can’t describe how much it helped me adjust to college, when during my freshman year I attempted three times to transfer home, only to be squandered by my parents each time. I finally began rushing a few sororities the second semester of my freshman year, and the one I joined just fit. I loved the girls, the atmosphere, and I have come to love the virtues and ritual we stand for. I could not imagine my college career without it, and I plan on wholeheartedly encouraging my daughter to join a sorority, even if it’s not necessarily mine.

    Fraternities are, however, a different breed of cat altogether. I like some fraternity guys, and I’m actually pretty good friends with a number of them, but at the end of the day, they are very, very different from sororities in terms of priorities. That’s about the nicest way I could put that.

  • Nancy

    Chelsea – did that cover meals at the house, too, or was that something you all had to wrangle on your own?

    As far as I remember, some of the houses you were on your own, so the members ate at the dining commons, but I believe the majority of them had their own meal plans, & if I could have found any way to get the $$ together, I would NOT have minded joining, just for the food (especially considering the quality of the dining commons stuff)! Lordy, I remember one house that had the most gorgeous wood-panelled dining room, members were served just like in a restaurant, and their cook/chef/whatever was very talented. However, if I remember what a member told me correctly, they had to pay a basic amount that covered national & state dues, upkeep of the house (including cleaning services), grounds, & parking lot (which was one of the biggest bonuses: on campus, if you weren’t a frat or sorority member, you could only have a car if you were staff), plus whatever the cost of the dining plan was (unless you opted out, but I’m not sure how that worked), PLUS the members had to pay off the school, which charged a fee for anyone NOT wanting to room & bd in dorm/dining common – which cost almost as much as if you lived there anyway! Whenever the House had a party, members were assessed an equal % of the costs including supplies, bartending, mandatory campus o.t. security, & cleanup – & I know they gave at least 4 a year: start of term (which may also have been rush/welcoming new members, but I don’t remember specifics), homecoming, christmas/new years’, & graduation. That was the one I was most familiar with; the others may have been less lavish or costly, but I don’t remember any impressions that the others didn’t function just as nicely as well. I DO remember thinking you had to be a freakin’ millionaire to afford to have a daughter be a member at any sorority – but I never did know whether this was endemic to my school, or a general thing w/sororities.

  • Nancy, as far as costs covering meals, it varies from house to house, at least on my campus. Meal plans are covered for girls living in the house, and this includes food and our cook, who cooks lunch every day and dinner every other (not counting weekends). He is AMAZING and cooks the best food, and accomodates to everyone in the house (we have a few vegans and a vegetarian). So our dues also cover his salary and the cost of the food itself.

    We’re responsible for the primary cleaning of the house, but maintenance staff from the university also works there, and we pay the university to pay their salary.

    Being in a sorority costs money, yes. That’s another reason why sororities aren’t for everyone. We have had girls drop out because they just can’t afford it, and that’s fine. They’re still our friends. And not all girls are daddy’s little girls — a good percentage of the girls in my chapter pay for it themselves, and a lot of us are also paying for school by ourselves.

    By my chapter seems to be the “rebel chapter” on campus. It seems like you took 65 girls who swore never to be in a sorority, and said, “Okay, we’ll be our own sorority.” Very NOT like your stereotypical sorority. I mean, look at the northern picture, at the girls in front and the girls in the background. Not exactly what you’d picture sorority girls to be, eh? Every sorority on every campus is different. There is a chapter of my sorority at a school 20 minutes up the road, and we are like night and day. Everyone’s different, and if you want to be in a sorority, chances are there is one that is what you’re looking for.

  • Pristina

    Hey. I want to join a sorority, but I do not have the money to and I know my parents would not approve because we are christians and my mom believes that by pledging you are not applying yourself to God, but rather to the things of this world. To her it is like pledging your soul to the devil. I do believe it is a spritual connection somewhere. I am also worried that my grades will suffer as a result of me joining. I do not know what to do. Besides I heard it is expensive to join and I barely have any money. I have to have at least 400.00 when I talked to this one sorority in particular. That is not a lot compared to some of the other prices I heard. Does any one have any suggestions for me?

  • I love DIXIE!!

    I cannot hate on southern sororities because I met the love of my life who was a southern gal in Georgetown. It depends on the individual sorority and not to be prejudiced but southern girls are sweeter, nicer, and better looking than northern girls. The question is always do you want to have wild relations with a northern bitch or a happy relationship with a polite young lady of exceptional class and dignity. Granted my wife falls into the latter category.

  • Nate

    idk bout the Northern bitch comment, but my experience with a Southern girl has been 10 times better than with the northern girls in my life. I guess thats b/c I was raised in NYC and the southern mannerisms are just refreshing to me.

  • Laughing

    There are definetly differences in the Greek culture between Northern and Southern colleges, as well as California vs Midwestern colleges, etc. But your article, though seemingly intending to be funny, seems ignorant of the Northern college greek life that you profess to be an expert about. Are you familiar with Greek life at schools like Syracuse, Penn State, Univ of Maryland, Univ of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth? Or how about the smaller schools that you claim are so much more laid back? Are you familiar w/Greek Life at Lehigh, Lafayette, Bucknell or Gettysburgh? I believe that the percentage of students at these schools that are ‘Greek’ is much higher than many of the southern – or SEC – schools. And as for the culture, there are just as many rumors that girls will try to ‘get in’ Tri Delt at Lafayette so they can transfer to it’s bigger Penn State chapter, as there are similar rumors about Auburn and the Univ of Alabama’s sorority recruitment.
    In the end, you are correct that there is a different culture from region to region, but not just about Greek life. And as far as the way you describe your appearance and the way you dress, I’m pretty positive that you would not fit in with many of the sorority chapters that I have mentioned. Have you overlooked the posibility that the particular chapter you pledged is not your sororities strongest chapter, and you were spending time with chapter presidents from some of you sororities much stronger chapters?
    Please continue to keep your sorority affiliation hidden as I think it would just embarrass a lot of your sorority sisters. And by the way, it is “we northerners”, not “us northerners”.

  • Sam

    I read this and I completely disagree I feel so insulted you cannot understand the southern greek system unless you are in it. You make us seem as if we only care about our look thats completely wrong. Maybe next time before you write a post like this you should get your facts straight.

  • Jennifer A

    You should be ashamed for speaking about sorority women that way. I’m a southern sorority girl at a large university, and I’m NOT like that at all. I honestly have never met someone in my 4 years of college that way either.
    They way I view it, sororities are meant to be fun and enhance your college experience by bonding with women similar to you, doing activities in the community, growth through leadership, and yes social events to meet guys too.
    Southern sorority girls are proud to a certain extent and we love the things we do. Don’t be so judgmental, when you obviously have not met many women from the South.

  • Breezy

    As a new sorority girl in the south, I find this really funny. I’m not going to do a speal on how great my sorority is or how great they are in general. Each chapter is different. Different schools get different types of women. I’m sure there are girls like that in the north and the south. I know I don’t act like any of that, but I’m sure some of my sisters are like that. But, hey. It’s college.

  • Blaine

    Not Frat

  • hoothoot

    I knew you were a Chi O 🙂 lico