Huang: Certain sororities are lookist and fatphobic

Yujia Huang, Columnist

We all know that racism and sexism are oppressive, but what about lookism and fatphobia? For those who have never heard of these terms before, let me explain. Lookists discriminate against others based on their physical appearances and how they dress, while fatphobic people discriminate against others based on their weight. Because I haven’t heard many people say in protest, “that’s fatphobic,” or, “that’s lookist,” I think it’s time that we start calling these discriminatory statements out.

As fierce debates across the country and on Northwestern’s campus arose about whether Greek life should be abolished, I found myself reflecting on my experience with sororities as well. As a freshman who knew nothing about sororities, I went through recruitment to find out more about these mysterious organizations. But as difficult as it is to see what’s wrong with sororities from the outside, it’s just as hard to see from the inside as well — at least, at first. During the recruitment process, students were given no information on how sororities actually select new members. The only explanation that was repeatedly thrown around was, “There is a system for it.”

“What is this ‘system’?” I wondered. “And why is there no real explanation on how selection works?” Throughout my recruitment process, I gradually realized that while the rules were not written out explicitly, they weren’t that difficult to comprehend once you observed closely.

One of the biggest problems with the Panhellenic Association’s sororities is that some of them are extremely lookist and fatphobic. In one sorority I visited, almost every active member was extremely skinny. There was little diversity in how the members dressed or what their bodies looked like. Even a girl with a size six was hard to find. In addition, compared to some other Panhellenic sororities, that one was almost exclusively White. Girls of unique facial features, body sizes, and races were put on an unfair hierarchy, and only the ones who fit certain criteria were selected. Specifically, potential new members who had an above average body size or were not White would probably be dropped by that particular sorority.

The exclusivity and lookism at certain NU sororities reflects a larger pattern of these forms of discrimination in our society. From the dolls that young girls play with to the female celebrities in commercials, there is an implied beauty standard that places certain body types on an unfair pedestal. Our society has trained us to prefer girls who are skinny over those who are not. It has also shown us more White models than Asian or Black ones. Victoria’s Secret, a brand that is known for hiring overly skinny models who adopt compulsive diets, still has a bigger global market share than any other lingerie brand.

I don’t know if sororities should be completely abolished, but what I do know is that the toxic lookism and fatphobia in certain sororities has to go. While it is appropriate to acknowledge that we all have different races, facial features and body sizes, it is oppressive and hurtful when we create a hierarchy around those differences. Society is finally starting to change, more companies in the fashion industry celebrating and increasing body, facial and racial diversity. It is time for the lookist and fatphobic sororities to follow suit and stop their discriminatory practices as well.

Yujia Huang is a Weinberg junior. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.