One of the reasons I chose Yale was its seemingly inclusive social life. Even fraternities, which at other schools are known for their exclusivity, are described as incredibly inclusive. It is undeniable that most fraternity parties are open to all, regardless of Greek status.
I figured that, since social life is so inclusive, rush season would be the same way.
I was wrong.
I saw tears from and anger in my friends who rushed sororities. Genuine, charismatic girls were not invited back after just the first round. Understandably, they were upset when friends and suitemates advanced further and received bids while they were left behind. Of course sororities are wonderful institutions when they encourage women to support women. But this rush season, I saw many Yale women find that not to be the case.
Some heard later that they were not invited back for subsequent rush events because they had been “blacklisted” from certain sororities. Usually, a woman is blacklisted for hooking up with the “wrong” person. If a potential new member hooked up with someone a sister likes, has hooked up with or dated, she no longer has a chance at a bid, according to some women I spoke with. Other times, women are blacklisted because they are deemed “too wild” from a quick scan of a Facebook page.
Take the story of one freshman woman I spoke to. She was originally excited to rush. At the beginning of the year, older sisters told her that there was a list of freshman males that she could not be involved with romantically. They were being “saved” for older sisters. Apparently, sisters are now allowed to dictate sexual morality. And in their warped conception of sexual morality, it is not only permissible to shame women for their level of sexual activity but also to objectify men. For these sisters, men and women should not have the freedom to decide whom they want to be romantically involved with.
Certain sororities, then, are promoting unhealthy norms that prioritize group loyalty over individual agency. If sororities only accept women who conform to such norms, groupthink will ensue, and sororities will become isolated, homogeneous clusters of self-reinforcing dogma that refuse to change.
Because blacklisting is not an official, on-the-books practice, it is hard to know what sort of offense one would have to commit in order to be disqualified from further consideration. Still, the concept is disturbing all by itself. Moreover, the rush process may include even more egregious instances of sexism that have yet to be brought to light.
It is important to note that not all sororities blacklist. Many remain healthy, supportive environments that foster long-lasting friendship. Nevertheless, the practice of blacklisting illustrates a larger unwillingness to respect the decisions and agency of both men and women during the rush process. This trend flies in the face of the progressive ethic embraced by most Yale sororities. Kappa Alpha Theta’s page on the Yale Panhellenic Council website shows a group of smiling sisters holding signs that read, “Our Yale is a place where sexual respect is the norm.” A supportive sisterhood is a commendable ideal. Sororities should do their best to live up to it.
Katie Kidney is a freshman in Calhoun College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .