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October 24, 2018 by

Why I Left My Sorority

Of all phases I went through in college, I speak the least of my time in a sorority. It wasn’t just any sorority, but the one that does that precarious arm pose, like a sun visor with your hand, but your hand is upside down and backwards and maybe on the verge of breaking. When I do talk about it, I’m guilty of one of the main critiques I level at sorority women: I judge. I give the finger to the classist, racist, sexist nature of Greek life, which, in retrospect, formed the most impactful phase of my college years. My short few months in a sorority taught me that I have the agency to choose my communities, and my values. 

But before coming to that realization and quickly leaving Greek life, I was a sorority girl. Like 85% of Supreme Court Justices that have served between 1910-2014, I was member of the exclusive system that is Greek life. 

To alleviate my social discomfort alongside my new sisters, I drank. Once I woke up with my boots on under my covers, and a public post from an older Sister on my Facebook wall, mentioning a joke I couldn’t recall, and asking if my butt was okay after that tumble I’d taken on ice. A tumble? My butt? The post acquired a high number of likes. In this Greek world, my freshly formed blackout habits were cool.

It was during this sorority phase that a boy who’d spotted me out with my Sisters asked me to attend his fraternity’s formal. Sure, I thought. A date. I hadn’t really been on many of those before, so, why not? 

The week before the event, I met the frat boy out for a drink: a gracious addition to what I was learning was the well-oiled ritual of attending a formal. Over one drink, it became clear that other than being Jews involved with Greek life at the same university, we had nothing in common.

I went to the formal anyway. I’d said yes, I couldn’t not go. The night of, we joined a group of couples at a pricey, dimly lit restaurant. On top of paying for my ticket to the formal, the frat boy insisted on paying for my meal. 

Damn, I remember thinking. This night is expensive. As we circled the formal, the frat boy’s hand on my lower back, the price of the evening rising, I realized I was arm candy. Though it was only gently touching me, I didn’t like the feeling of his hand on my body. I started to dread wherever he felt the night was leading. After downing another drink and seeking refuge in the bathroom, I decided to honor my desire to leave. Had I stayed, this is where the narrative may have jerked in a darker direction. I felt alone. Whatever kind of sexual interaction could’ve occurred that evening wouldn’t have occurred in the context of an equal, or even acknowledged, power dynamic. I wanted out. 

Brothers came up to me, asking if I was really leaving. Really abandoning my date. I thanked the frat boy for his generosity, then walked outside, hailed a cab, and slid across the leather seats solo.

Buzzing with the thrill of independence, I called my mom. Instead of congratulating me for the feminist escape I’d felt I’d made, she seemed confused. Why couldn’t I stick it out after a night of being taken care of? I clearly hadn’t expressed the extent of my discomfort, but I hung up without protest, hit by a deep wave of shame, and a slew of texts from the frat boy. He was angry. He reminded me that he’d paid for dinner, the Ubers, my ticket, the drinks.

I offered to Venmo him for the night’s cost. He bitterly refused this, taking it as an additional jab to his ego, rather than as a woman trying to escape a financial contract I’d unknowingly entered into.

Just several weeks ago, watching Kavanaugh’s teary-eyed anger as Blasey-Ford threatened to interrupt his plans, I was reminded of the 19 year-old frat boy’s grimace. I hadn’t thought about this night in a while—about the feelings of shame that rode with me in the cab uptown, as I calculated the amount spent on me and wondered if I should’ve followed protocol and kept my side of an unspoken deal. In the world of Greek life, regardless of how “feminist” my sorority claimed to be, my societal obligations as a woman were clear. I was there to look good. To do that weird hand visor pose, the one whose absurdity (just like the absurdity of the unofficial uniform of bare legs in 14 degree weather) is ignored. To be small, and submissive, the perfect date.

85% of U.S. Supreme Court Justices were once members of a college fraternity. The boys making the big decisions on Capitol Hill participated in a system, that even in its most “feminist” and progressive iterations, is still incredibly sexist. It’s a system laden with expectations of agency and power rooted in money and male entitlement. A culture of wealth, whiteness, and unspoken social contracts. A system that is known for its anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic, classist, exclusionary history. So what does choosing to be in this world say of one’s character? Why would we expect men who reveled in this system to believe women?

The night blew over quickly. The frat boy de-friended me on Facebook, and a few months later, I disaffiliated from my sorority. I finished college far from Greek life, watching sorority women stumble in their stilettos. I hoped they knew what they were in for. I looked the other way.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.