July 19, 2009

Red Letter Daze: Greek, It's a Rush

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The sorority system at Cornell is kept extremely hush-hush during first semester, as freshman girls are not allowed to enter a sorority house, hang out with sisters or know anything about specific chapters before rush. My friends and I figured that watching Greek, ABC Family’s collegiate dramedy about fraternities and sororities at a fictional college would provide insight into this world.
Greek puts the spotlight on Zeta Beta Zeta, the fictional sorority of Cyprus-Rhodes University and focuses not on sisterhood, but girl-on-girl drama. There is always a catfight in the house. The entire point of joining a sorority — to make new friends, have fun and create lifelong bonds with your sisters — is lost in a sea of soapy plotlines about cheating boyfriends and conniving, jealous wannabe presidents. This made me think — would the Greek system provide me with a new group of friends and a lifetime of sisterhood, as promised, or would it bring me four years of judgment and misery at the hands of girls I could never call friends, let alone sisters?
I found upon rushing, however, that sorority life at Cornell was a far cry from the soap opera of ZBZ. At the first house I visited, I was greeted not by cold, calculating looks and pointed once-overs, but by loud music and even louder screams, as the girls excitedly welcomed us to their house. A sister asked me about myself and made me feel comfortable. From then on, I realized that the catty girls of Greek are nothing like real sorority girls. In fact, I have never been treated with more hospitality, graciousness and excitement than I was during rush week. Contrary to Greek’s model, bids are not offered based on bribes or connections. Instead, they are offered based on a rushee’s conversations and where she feels most at home. Pledging too, is completely different than ZBZ shows us — here it’s more about getting to know your pledge class at events, meetings and bonding activities.
It’s important to keep in mind that Greek is a teen soap. It does not pretend to realistically portray Greek life — instead, it aims to provide its viewers with drama and entertainment with the Greek system as a backdrop. Therefore, it is not a useful tool for providing freshman girls with information about sororities — in fact, my friends and I would have been much better off had we entered rush without any expectations whatsoever.