I was sitting in a class, listening to a discussion about the effects of Greek life on party culture.
I heard the community that I have come to see as my family torn down. I heard stereotypes about the girls I see as my closest friends. I heard the negative bias against one of the most empowering group of women I have ever met. I kept my mouth shut, afraid of feeding into the stereotype, until the words, “It’s all just an opportunity to party,” come out.
Now, here I am, writing to you, the reader. Whether you be a sister of mine, a member of the Greek community, or simply someone looking to see how we view ourselves as a whole, I want to talk about what Greek life has added to my life.
In high school, I would not have considered myself “popular.” I had my close friends, and that was enough for me. I went to a very small high school, graduating with 107 other people. So, when I came to the University of Tennessee, I was desperate to find where I fit in at such a large school. I considered joining a sorority was the quickest way to establish that. This was the majority of the reason I rushed the fall of my freshman year. When I opened my AOII bid letter, I was so excited. Quickly thrown into the sisterhood, I was completely unaware of how much AOII would mean to me.
I went through freshman year, amazed by my sisters: from the girls who fiercely defend us, to the girls who teach us to see the best in people. I became friends with the outspoken, the confident, and the candid. I also became friends with the peaceful, the shy, and the humble. I learned from the girls who have been accepted to the top graduate schools in their fields and the girls who are comfortable enough to ask for help in a hard class. For the past two years, I have been encouraged to be my best self every single day. Most importantly, I have surrounded myself with some of the most inspiring and intelligent women I have ever had the privilege of knowing.
The thing that really upset me about the people in my class was that I will always have to work harder to defend my AOII family because of the negative stereotypes that tend to surround the Greek community.
I wanted to tell them the names of Olympic athletes, politicians, and artists all who claim the letters of a Greek organization. I wanted to stand up and defend the importance of the letters on my shirt. Too often, we think we have to defend ourselves by putting others down, but that isn’t what an Alpha Omicron Pi sister would do.
Much like other organizations, the cornerstone of Alpha Omicron Pi is love. Instead of yelling at the people in my class that they were claiming to understand something they have never experienced, I started talking about all of the incredible influences my sisters have had on me. From academically, to personally, to simply making me get out of my comfort zone far too often, my sisters are always there to push me a step further. They challenge me in ways I will never quite be able to describe. They have taught me exactly what it means to be a part of something way bigger than myself.
They love me, and I will defend the love that my sisterhood shares until the end of my days, because being a sorority woman is so much bigger than our stereotype.
We raise money for philanthropies that change the world, we have each other’s backs no matter what letters we wear, and we love the world around us so fiercely.
One of the most influential women in American politics, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was the second female justice to be confirmed to the US Supreme Court. She was also a sorority woman at Cornell University from 1950 until her graduation in 1954. Since then, she has inspired millions of women across the country and the rest of the world. RBG once said, “When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” Truer words have never be spoken.
And, while I know that not everyone shares the negative opinion of the people from my class, from now on, I choose to fight the stereotype by showing the love I have for my sisters towards the world around me. I will never belittle the accomplishments of my sisters, and I will be open about how proud I am to be there to witness them. I will speak with love and kindness always.
Because from the outside looking in, you can’t understand it, and from the inside looking out, you can never explain it. But, we can at least try.