Like a majority of college students, I didn’t belong to a frat or sorority. And like a majority of those, I had attitudes and prejudices about those that did. They weren’t terribly original, and I won’t recount them. I don’t have them anymore. Looking back with a bit of wisdom, Greek Life has a certain logic to it. It provides an extended family, with pertaining duties and obligations, to those who have just stepped away from their original family. It provides a social calendar and the support of one’s peers, at a time when those things are handy. A well-run frat or sorority provides leadership opportunities, academic standards, and service to the community.
But for people who never went Greek, a lot of the inside-baseball, hyperdramatic hysteria of Greek life – rushing, pledging, judging, competing — seems exactly that. Which may explain why Rebecca Martinson’s email rant to her sorority sisters has gone viral (scroll down to read the full text of the email). It’s the towering rage, with expletives used as punctuation, juxtaposed with the insignificance of the subject — her sisters failing to show adequate Sorority Spirit – that prompts hilarious reposting and now, even dramatic readings by actors.
Embarassments like this only have one kind of ending, and today Martinson resigned from her sorority. I likewise hope that Martinson learns from this, and that we all find someone else to abuse now that she’s paid the price for Internet notoriety. But when I read the email, I find myself wondering, did she have a point? Was there something, however trivial, that her sisters should have been doing, that they were not? And could she have found a way to express that which would have a) made clear how serious she took it, b) gotten the email’s recipients to respond in a way she thought positive, and c) NOT prompted anyone to make it public?
Well, let’s imagine that world. Let’s imagine that Martinson had angrily typed out her rant in, say, Microsoft Word, rather than an email browser, and then let it sit for a day, and then came back to it, and then revised her thoughts to something professional.
It may have looked like this:
I have some issues. I’d like to discuss them at length. Please read this and consider what I’m about to say.
We are not keeping up our Sorority’s reputation for throwing good events. We are making numerous, socially awkward mistakes and it is going to take a toll on us. We have an obligation to throw events that are not merely for our sisters to socialize with each other.
As members of a Sorority, we have almost every night of the year to be among ourselves. That is the purpose of a sorority. But this past week we needed to do more. We needed to entertain the gentlemen of the Sigma Nu fraternity, as part of an overall goal of fostering relationships with the larger Greek community. We did not do that.
The guys in Sigma Nu didn’t come to watch us talk among ourselves. The guys in Sigma Nu came to party with us. When we invite guests over, we need to make ourselves all about making the guests feel welcome and comfortable. So no one should be talking about plans to party with other frats in front of the Sigma Nu boys. If Sigma Nu invited us over to their house, and spent the evening discussing their plans to party with the Zeta girls, how would we like it? We would not, because it would be rude. So don’t do it to them. When we have a Sigma Nu event, we need to be all about Sigma Nu. This applies even if your boyfriend, brother, best guy friend, etc., belong to other frats.
Now, to sporting events. As members of the Greek community, it’s our job to bring the spirit. We’re not supposed to be cheering sport events ironically. I’m tired of hearing (and hearing about) girls saying things like “durr what’s kickball?” It’s not funny, especially on repetition. It makes us look like we have better places to be. People are starting to notice. And I shouldn’t have to say this, but we need to be cheering for OUR team.
I’m sorry to have to be so blunt about these things, but the reputation of our sorority is something that matters going forward. If we get the reputation of being a bunch of “whatever” girls who don’t care about anything else and believe ourselves too good for the rest, then that will hurt us on campus. Girls will rush Zeta next year instead of us. A bad reputation is poison for a sorority.
Honestly, I’m at the point where I would prefer that girls not show up rather than show up and make others feel uncomfortable and awkward. I don’t want that to be the way I feel. But it is.
I’m going to be discussing this with leadership. I don’t know what decisions will be made. But I wanted to let you all know how I felt, so no one has to wonder who in the sorority is complaining. It’s me. If you want to talk to me about any of this, you know where to find me.
I feel as though this would have gotten her point across, would not have gone viral, would not have caused embarrassment for anyone, and would not be prompting strangers to wonder if a college junior is ever going to live this thing down.
Rhetoric, people: it matters.