The latest video to go viral and get endlessly slammed on the Interwebs is the University of Alabama’s Alpha Phi sorority recruitment video. (I’m sure the lion-slaying dentist is very thankful for these girls. Or wait, did we beat up on someone else in between? I forget.)
Yes, their very slickly produced video objectifies women. Yes, it unfortunately plays up just about every single fantasy of what men think (or hope) pretty girls do when there aren’t guys around — save tickling each other, washing cars naked, eating bananas slowly and pillow fighting — ones that cause said pretty girls to spend the rest of their lives fighting to be taken seriously. Yes, the number of booty shots is off the charts. And yes, it shows just about the most homogeneous mix of ladies, from their blond heads down to their strappy wedges.
Sororities and fraternities are notoriously homogeneous, really, among all races and even religions, and of course the problems with this at the U of A have been chronicled extensively. After the last expose on this in the Crimson White a couple of years ago, the university vowed to change its Greek system. The last numbers I saw were marginally better, but certainly nothing to hold up as an example of diversity. But that’s a column for another day. This is a column about feminism, or at least that is what everyone is trying to make this about. I think it’s more about kids making unfortunate choices.
These recruitment videos are a fairly new “tool,” as they came along with the advent of the Internet and the crazy, brave new let’s-post-a-video-about-everything world we live in. You can find these advertorials all over the web from many different institutions of higher learning and the only thing that sets this one apart is its stunning production values. And yes, maybe a few more booty shots and bikinis.
The guys who are credited with shooting and editing it — the only winners in this situation — have probably already been contacted by Rihanna to shoot her next video, or maybe Warrant’s comeback hit, “She’s my Apple Pie.” Perhaps if it had not been so well produced with its tight shots of Popsicle-licking girls making duck faces in Daisy Dukes it would have remained largely unnoticed in the vast sea of these videos on the web.
Would I want my daughter to be in this particular video? Absolutely not.
But would I prevent her from being in a sorority? Absolutely not.
When I was making my college decisions, I balked at the idea of being in one, saying things like, no bitches are going to tell me what to do and where I have to be every weekend. No one was going to torment me in the ways you hear pledges — girls or guys —are treated in such organizations. So there, I showed them! (Although as my U of A grad/frat boy husband playfully reminded me this weekend as we were discussing this, my prospects were probably pretty slim anyway. “Small town girl, with no money and no recs, you wouldn’t have made it anyway. Not in the top-tier ones anyway.” Thanks, honey!)
Sigh, perhaps this is why it was just easier for me to paint them all with a broad brush and make fun of them by saying, “Like, oh my god, I’m in a sorority,” and proudly proclaiming I was a G.D.I.
But really, I was just as much of a caricature of the anti-sorority girl as the Greek girls I was making fun of. At that age, we were all just trying to figure out who we were. I think I went from being grungy to preppy several times. (It was the ‘90s! Grunge was cool but man I loved hot rollers and lipstick; it was a tough choice.)
But oh my, my 18-year-old insecure self would have loved to have had that Alpha Phi (or as the “serious journalist” on the Today show kept calling them the, Alpha “Fees”) video, to say with great condescension, “See this is exactly why I would never be in a sorority. See I told you, they are all just a bunch of vapid Barbie dolls and this proves it!”
But nothing is ever that simple, is it? As you get older, you start to realize there are good people and bad people from all walks of life and we have all ventured down very different paths to get where we are today. If someone’s path is different from yours, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to write them off – even if they do look like Barbie.
I’m sure some of the lovely ladies in that video are absolutely the superficial queen-bee-mean-girl nightmares, who most mothers — like myself — pray their daughters don’t grow up to be. (And I can assure you there were some similar nightmares among the G.D.I.s as well.) But I’m also quite certain there are some great girls featured in that video, too. And that’s why it’s disappointing they didn’t have someone telling them, “Hey ladies, there are better things we can showcase than you hitting each other with inflatable pieces of candy and giving Big Al a boner” (I presume).
I’m sure they very quickly learned a harsh lesson this week about perception versus reality. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I thank my lucky stars some of the things my friends and I did at that age weren’t plastered on YouTube and viewed 500,000 times. I really feel for kids these days.
And sadly, all this video did was serve to reinforce the unfortunate stereotypes sorority girls have faced for years — ones I admittedly gleefully subscribed to until I became friends with some of the funniest, kindest, most brilliant and successful women I know, who are all proud former Greeks — though now I’m not sure what “tier” they were on, I’ll have to ask Frank, and then I can judge them accordingly. (Winky face.)
But my point is, it took me — a former sorority girl hater and potential reject — years to learn there is a lot more to these organizations than Popsicle licking, and it’s a shame that wasn’t captured. I have watched my aforementioned friends I admire fly out every year to meet their sorority sisters or have a beach weekend with them or rush to this sister or that sister if they were ill or going through a divorce or hard time.
The bonds they formed were tight and really something pretty special. And I’m pretty sure they weren’t forged from blowing glitter on each other.