Tuesday, August 09, 2005

This Book Made Me Cringe: PLEDGED

Enter "the secret life of sororites" in Alexandra Robbins' book Pledged.

What happens when mean girls go to college?

I am still reeling from:

-"circle the fat": pledges are blindfolded and ordered to strip. Frat boys proceed to draw on their bodies with permanent marker. The pledges are then led into a room with a full length mirror and told to remove their blindfolds so that they can see the areas of their bodies that the frat boys determined were "in need of improvement." It's no wonder the plumber is such a frequent visitor to sorority houses -- pipes are frequently corroded by or clogged with vommit. Shocker: sorority houses are hotbeds for eating disorders.

- the racism that is not only tolerated but sanctioned by historically white sororities and fraternities in the South. Not too long ago, two white students at the University of Alabama burned crosses on the lawn when a historically black fraternity tried to move into a house on "fraternity row."

- the sexism: everything in sorority life revolves around men. EVERYTHING. Girls receive recognition and special ceremonies when they get "pinned" or "engaged," but can expect little more than a bag of chips for having the highest GPA. Date rape is not uncommon. Nor is gang rape, affectionately referred to by frat brothers as "specs" (short for spectator).

the classism: better be rich -- dues range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. This doesn't include the cost of tickets, clothes, alcohol, drugs, or gifts that sisters are expected to buy.

- the homophobia: forget the fact that so many of the "rituals" in greek life are rife with homoerotics, homosexuality is frowned upon by many in the greek system.

- the hazing: goes beyond humiliation and into the territory of organized, systematized cruelty. It's an ugly, ugly world.

- the overall risky behavior: extreme promiscuity and drug use help girls appear "cool" and "fun."

- the DEATHS: every year kids die during dangerous hazing practices. And you can bet your bottom dollar that many others must come dangerously close.

UPDATE: Check out this thread at the Greek Life Forum.


tobishka said...

does this book cover sororities as a national thing or does she just focus on a few groups....

uhhh, it seems about right that the girls are blindfolded for the "frat boy body test" as what self- respecting girl would want to go out with a guy who did that (oh, wait, oops-- i'm not too sure SELF respect and "sorority" go together.

i tried really, REALLY hard not to be judgmental about frat guys, judgemental AND pitying toward sorority girls, when i was teaching, but it's just so fucking hard-- and esp. when books/articles like this come out....

femme feral said...

the book follows four girls (two girls at two different sororites) on one campus. She does attend conferences, follow greeks to the beach, and interview hundreds of girls . . .and she visits lots of chapters as well. Many of the things I listed have also been covered by the media.

I never really noticed greek life on campus-- I just didn't. But I'm sure I'll notice it more this year.

I've been much more cognizant of greek life OFF campus, esp. when whole carloads of frat boys would yell obsceneties out their windows everytime I went jogging. And I'm pretty sure Elka used to take the NY Times from the sorority house down the street. Based on the height of the piles of paper that would accumulate on the sidewalk out front, I can pretty much conclude that those girls never read the paper. It worked out for us though. Especially on sundays.

Elka said...

I was reading Pledged in Austin when I came for your wedding, femme, and yeah, it was pretty repulsive throughout.

I found the end of the book hard to slog through, and I think that's probably because all of the date rape, drunkenness, bad boyfriends, very mild family/wardrobe problems, all started blending together into one boring, taste-free smoothie.

The concept I found the sickest was that of the "little sister," the lowerclassperson who'd help out at the frat, and then eventually get gangbanged.