Li: A Social Revolution

Differences in women’s and men’s rush reflect a flawed social structure.

by Lucy Li | 10/11/16 12:15am

I have never before spoken as much as I did during rush. Not even during Trips, Orientation or the first few weeks of freshman fall, when I was bombarded by a whirlpool of new stimuli and hundreds of eager fellow freshmen, did I speak that much. By the end of each day of rush, my mouth was dry, my throat hurt and my brain felt fried. Yet, I never would have thought it could actually be fun, especially considering my introverted tendencies and legitimate fear of small talk. Dartmouth is filled to the brim with outstanding, intelligent and bold women who each carry her own unique set of passions and interests. It was an incredible experience to finally meet them — after, unfortunately, an entire year at Dartmouth.

As a NARP (Non Athlete Regular Person) and not really much of a joiner, I didn’t meet many upperclassmen my freshman year. This is the case for a lot of women like myself, who aren’t athletically gifted enough to play a sport and hadn’t committed themselves to any group or club because they still had to figure out how to survive their workload or feed themselves properly at Collis. I spent most of my time as a freshman trying to convince myself that I was so happy and okay — only to realize I was genuinely delusional and that not being okay, in fact, was okay. Being a freshman is painful, which most upperclassmen can attest to. I now look back on my first year with a combination of cringe-worthy bitterness and an understanding that the freshman struggle is a rite of passage to becoming a full-fledged member of the Dartmouth community. That’s why, freshmen, we can only love you from a distance.

Part of the freshman struggle is the few opportunities to meet upperclassman women who could share their wisdom. As a freshman woman, every weekend I moved from frat to frat, confined to male-dominated social spaces. Men run the social scene, and because of that, most freshmen men get an entire year to actually make friends with upperclassmen. Most underclasswomen don’t meet very many upperclasswomen until rush, during which most conversations are too fleeting to actually foster deep connections.

My point is not to complain about women’s rush; given Dartmouth’s present social structure, the current process might just be the most effective approach. Also, in some ways, it is truly an amazing process — if you disregard the emotional turmoil and existential crisis that it invokes, as well as the rules that put you in claustrophobic corners when making decisions, of course. Any chance for phenomenal women to connect is a chance worth taking. However, unlike guys who have three terms to get a feel for all the frats, meet brothers they vibe with and find the social space they feel most connected to, most of the information women get about sororities is just hearsay based on stereotypes. As much as I hope for equity, women’s rush couldn’t effectively be anything like men’s rush because the structure of our Greek system simply doesn’t allow for it. In an ideal world, the processes should be identical.

The fact that men’s rush and women’s rush are so jarringly different reflects an outdated patriarchy at Dartmouth. We need a social revolution — and amazingly, we seem to be in the works of doing just that. With Kappa Delta Epsilon, Chi Delta, Sigma Delta and Epsilon Kappa Theta — half of the sororities on campus — now being local, it seems that the general attitude on campus supports Dartmouth women in our mission for equity. By fighting off the oppressive hold of strict and nebulous nationals, sorority members gain more autonomy within their sisterhoods and ownership over their spaces. This does not necessarily mean that every sorority has to go local to be a part of this revolution, as certain sororities are lucky to have very supportive nationals. The bottom line is that rules that apply to women but not to men should not exist. I have high hopes that one day “sratting” will be a term just as commonly used as the term “fratting.”

Along with the localization of sororities, Sigma Delt and EKT have participated in the social revolution by opting out of traditional women’s rush and deciding to move to a “shake out” system in which all prospective members are free to attend open houses and express interest by “shaking out” with current members. This is a step towards leveling the playing field with fraternities. As much as I applaud the intentions of this move, however, I don’t believe it’s an effective one — yet. The current Greek system doesn’t allow for shake out to be implemented well; rather, it complicates the already complex women’s rush process. Because it’s not yet a part of the social culture to spend time in sororities in the same way we go to fraternities on a Friday night, the decision to shake out is not one that a lot of women are informed enough to make. The few parties sororities throw throughout the year is not enough. Decades from now, when a system in which “sratting” is no longer a novel concept and women have as much autonomy as men replaces the current patriarchal Greek system, the decision to shake out will be the move to make. Still, we have to start somewhere, and Sigma Delt and EKT have planted the seeds of change.

Despite the overall patriarchal nature of the Greek system and the emotional turmoil that was rush, I am grateful for the opportunity to meet so many Dartmouth women. You are all not just beautiful but also phenomenal, diverse and inspiring. I may not remember the names of the dozens of the women I talked to, but I remember what I learned. Thank you for reinforcing my faith in female solidarity, and I look forward to “sratting” with you.