Every year, thousands of young college students decide they want to rush a fraternity or sorority. Rush is a little different at every school. At some, there are stringent rules in effect, which are either obeyed or ignored. Rush can be low-key, with only a small percentage of students participating. For others, rush is the talk of campus for months, the primary cause of many a stress zit, and super intense. But there does seem to be one constant in all of the madness, regardless of how big of a deal or how strictly regulated rush is: guys have it a lot different than girls do.
Nearly across the board, there are strict rules for sororities about what can and cannot happen during informal and formal recruitment. Sorority women may not give rides to potential new members (PNMs), buy food (or anything) for PNMs, allow PNMs to attend their parties, or pass alcohol to PNMs. Guys don’t really have to worry about any of these things.
At many schools, drinking and partying is huge part of “guy rush.” They hang out and watch football while playing beer pong. They are buddies. Additionally, girl rush is generally more competitive than guys’, as there are usually more frats on campus than sororities, meaning that frats typically are trying to impress PNM guys, while PNM girls typically feel the stress to impress sororities. Girls have a lot more to worry about when it comes to rush, which makes adjusting to college life all the more difficult. As a PNM who has gone through a semester of informal rush myself, I wonder why we allow such blatant double standards to persist.
I’m excited about the prospect of joining a sorority. I like the idea of joining a group of women who are there to support me and be on my team. I like the idea that there is supposed to be a sisterhood out there that’s right for everyone. I generally believe that to be true, and if that is the case, I feel that every girl should more or less “naturally” find the one that is right for her. That is the purpose that I think recruitment should serve. While it may do that as is, it also places unnecessary stress on PNMs. Formal rush week, at least at my university, is a week that girls stress and worry about for months before it actually happens. We worry about making good first impressions, how many “rush dates” we’ve been on, what quota is going to be for the year, and what to wear to every Greek event. We are aware that literally everything we do leading up to formal recruitment could impact our standing with a sorority. It gives a weird tinge to every interaction we have with upperclassmen sorority women. And when the no-contact period starts, friendships get even more confusing.
Meanwhile, guys have their pick of frats. They get taken out to free dinners, invited over to frat houses just to hang out, and generally made to feel wanted. Guys don’t get it. They joke about girls “always talking about rush” and being “obsessed.” They don’t get why we worry about getting any bid at all, let alone one from a house we like. It’s isn’t necessarily their fault that the differences between rush exist, but it isn’t necessarily the fault of girls either.
A male classmate of mine once responded to our complaints about the inequalities between guy and girl rush by saying “Well it’s just girls oppressing themselves. Sororities are run by women, and their the one’s making the rules so you guys are doing to yourselves.” In a sense, this is true. Sororities are organizations that are controlled by women. They make the rules. But we live in a society where there is constant pressure on women to be the ideal woman as well as this expectation that we constantly want to backstab and lie to each other. I believe that this is the reason why the rules are what they are. Nationals certainly don’t want there to be any scandals involving a chapter providing alcohol to underage girls, nor do they want any reason for people to say that rush is blatantly catty or unfair, as could happen if older women were allowed to do favors for PNMs. I honestly believe the rules that are in place, however potentially unfair and cautious they may seem, were made to protect sororities from any additional scrutiny from society. But why aren’t frats subject to the same things? Shouldn’t they be prohibited from doing potentially “catty” and unfair things too? There are plenty of unfavorable frat stereotypes, but it doesn’t seem that any rules have been made to protect them from those.
I don’t want rush to be more stressful for guys. I don’t think that fraternities are sororities should be run in the same way. They are very different things, culturally and socially. But I do think that at least some of the gap needs to be closed between how different recruitment is for each. The rules that are in place for women, in my own experience, don’t necessarily stop anything unfair from happening. Rather, it just makes things happen under the table, which just makes PNMs who aren’t involved in any illicit activities wonder what they’re doing wrong. The way Greek recruitment is set up now breeds paranoia and stress in young women and only furthers the gap of inequality between young men and women. The rules don’t and shouldn’t necessarily be the same, but frats and sororities exist for the same general reasons. They are circles that encourage togetherness, philanthropy, having a good time, and supporting fellow members. It only makes sense that the rules for each foster somewhat of a similar environment for potential new members of either gender.