Students say sororities do not provide female empowering spaces, citing exclusive practices


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Hobart House. Some students have found a community of women in Hobart House instead of joining a sorority.

Caroline Brew, Reporter

Weinberg junior Sheridan Bernard joined Chi Omega her freshman year to find a community of women on campus. In response to the Abolish Greek Life movement, she and many others deactivated from their sororities and looked to other organizations for women-focused communities.

After the Abolish Greek Life movement gained traction, Bernard and other women in her sorority sent a letter to their national organization outlining the Greek life practices they found problematic.

“As we got into speaking with nationals, I realized that even though the girls in our sorority were really great women, the organization itself was so flawed and not open to changing such racist and outdated practices,” Bernard said. “It became a lot to continue paying dues and supporting the organization in that way.”

While defenders of Greek life have said sororities provide important female-focused spaces for women on campus, students like Bernard have found that other Northwestern communities are better at fulfilling this mission.

Bernard, who serves as the social chair for NU College Feminists, said NUCF gives women a female-focused space while being more inclusive of non-binary students, who some sororities do not allow to become members.

“Sororities are very gendered, which means that even though it’s good to have spaces without cis-men, it’s not really a space for non-binary people necessarily, which I had a problem with,” Bernard said.

Bernard said NUCF is also more inclusive to low-income students, as they are able to use University funds to ensure all members can participate in their events. Students in sororities, by contrast, must pay dues to retain their memberships.

Weinberg sophomore Natalia Camino said that, as an immigrant and person of color, she did not see Greek life as a space for her.

“I knew (Greek life) was very much a White-dominated space,” Camino said. “And already being in a predominantly White institution, I didn’t want that to be my only experience at Northwestern.”

As a member of Hobart House, Northwestern’s only all-female dorm, Camino said she was able to have a sense of sisterhood without joining a sorority.

Camino said Hobart’s events help build community without the social pressures associated with Greek life, such as an obligation to participate in certain events.

“Hobart has definitely given me a community of women here that I know will support me,” she said. “Even though we come from all different backgrounds and experiences, we’ve all just bonded over being able to be ourselves.”

Medill sophomore Maria Caamaño said the diversity within Hobart helped foster a sense of community. An international student living in America for the first time, Caamaño said she appreciated finding a space where she could “genuinely be (her)self.”

“There’s a fairly large population of POC women here, which was so meaningful to me,” she said. “It was nice to have girls who could speak in Spanish, who liked the same music as I did or who just understood some slang words in Spanish.”

Caamaño said freshmen looking to find a supportive group of women through Greek life are “looking in the wrong place.”

Selecting women based on arbitrary factors defeats the purpose of creating a space that is open to all women, said Caamaño.

“Sororities are so selective and exclusive—that’s not giving someone a space,” she said. “That’s you trying to fit into a space.”

Caamaño added that there are alternative female-focused organizations on campus that do not use these exclusive practices.

In addition to NUCF and Hobart House, other spaces for women on campus include Circle of Women and the Women’s Center, as well as several career-based organizations.

“There’s so many other options that are equally as good and harm fewer people,” Bernard said.

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