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Joining a Sorority Could Bring a Rush of Bad Body Image

We know some sorority girls have harsh words for those who break strict dress code guidelines, but apparently going Greek might impact more than a woman's sartorial self-esteem.

A recent survey found that women who go through rush are more likely to have a negative body image than non-sorority women. Specifically, they're more likely to judge their bodies from an outsider's perspective, engage in disordered eating, and experience body shame. And the survey also found that body shame got worse for new pledges a month into joining. I would love to see the results five or 10 years down the road; would former sorority sisters still experience poorer body image than their nonaffiliated counterparts?

For more on the influence of sororities,


The authors admitted that "sororities are very powerful at influencing the norms and ideals of their members" and that "a move away from a focus on appearance" would be helpful. Looking at one example, the Pi Beta Phi rush handbook — which bans muffin tops along with satin unless "you weigh less than 130 pounds, [and] have three pairs of spanks on" — it seems some sororities have a long way to go. Still I wonder if we can really identify Greek systems as the cause. Young women looking for outside approval might be more likely to join a sorority — and they also might be more likely to judge their bodies from an outsider's perspective.

If you were in a sorority, do you recognize the survey results in your own experience, or did you find your sisters no more prone to bad body image than any other woman?

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runningesq runningesq 7 years
Um, duh. (I was active in the Greek system -- I know of which I speak)
ktzn ktzn 7 years
For pete's sake. I am so SICK of people bashing sororities. This "study" was formed on a poll put out there for a senior thesis. It's hardly definitive. I'd be curious to see if the questions in this poll were weighted in such a way that the anti-sorority/anti-greek bias, which seems so prevalent these days, guaranteed this so-called study's outcome. That Pi Phi dress code was for one chapter's rush week, not for every day living. There are always dress codes associated with rush. Why they didn't just have people wearing a uniform of sorts, like we did back in the day, I don't know. It's absolutely ridiculous that one overzealous rush chair should have put this out there, and that all sororities are being judged upon it. I'm a Kappa Alpha Theta alumnae---for nearly twenty years---and I expected that this bashing would at some point stop, but it hasn't. It's just as prevalent now as it was when I rushed, and I am fully sick of it. If sororities are so bad, why, when I went to an alumnae lunch last week, did I have the privilege of meeting a 73 year Theta? And by that I mean she pledged in 1937---not that she was 73 years old. Theta has a saying, and it's drummed into you when you join: "Theta for a lifetime." I am happy to say that I will be a Theta until the day I die. There are worse organizations to belong to---organizations which don't raise millions of dollars for philanthropy, or encourage scholarship among student members, or provide a stable, secure, family-oriented environment for its student members. It is such a hard thing to explain to someone who hasn't been a part of it that sororities are about feminism and finding power in sisterhood. People don't believe you. They just assume it's about being popular, or hanging with the partiers/rich people, and hoping it will rub off. Until people understand this, they will think of sororities as anachronisms which have no place in modern life, and that truly is a shame. There is so much to gain by rushing and joining a house.
smileylo smileylo 7 years
liliegwene - i was a DZ too!
lilegwene lilegwene 7 years
I joined Delta Zeta, and it was one of the best decisions I could have made. Naturally I'm not very out-going and it really helped me to meet people, get involved on campus, and quit being so darn shy! I think there were times when being with so many other girls makes you feel self-conscious, but overall my body image got a lot better in college. I would attribute it largely to the upbeat attitude of the sorority (if you wore a cute outfit, it would get noticed and commented on!) and two sorority sisters who became my best friends. We started eating and working out to be healthy instead of focusing solely on weight. Though it helps that we were all at healthy/skinny weights to begin with, I'm a few lbs up from my college weight these days... Sounds like a lot of people in here have similar stories. Glad to see the sorority love instead of the bashing I was anticipating. :)
secondstar secondstar 7 years
I wasn't involved in the Greek system, but my instincts were along the same lines as what the last Anon poster said. Living with other women will make you compare yourself to them, regardless of the situation. I gained a few new insecurities in college just from being surrounded by the girls in my dorm, roommates, etc.
fleurfairy fleurfairy 7 years
When I moved into my sorority house, I lost about 15 lbs, not because we were expected to be thin (most sorority girls had beautiful healthy bodies), but because I felt that I needed to be skinnier than the rest of the girls in the house. Everyone was so beautiful and I felt inadequate. I weighed 85 lbs my senior year and was constantly talked to about my low weight. If anything, my sisters were concerned for me and encouraged me to get to a healthier weight.
Deidre Deidre 7 years
I think it's important, like GirlMeetWorld said, to realize that this survey was about girls who were rushing sororities, rather than those that were actively pledging/initiated. Like many of the posters above, I don't feel at all that my sorority experience had a negative influence on my body image. However, I was a recruitment counselor (someone who guides rushees through their experience of visiting all the houses). I can vouch that there are definitely girls who rush for the wrong reasons (solely to party, to join the "pretty" house, or to meet guys). These are the girls who believe lots of the stereotypes about sororities from some movies/tv shows. And honestly, those tend to be the girls who drop the pledge process before being initiated into a house.
GirlMeetWorld GirlMeetWorld 7 years
As a very active member of a wonderful chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, I can honestly say that I was never judged on my looks for acceptance within my sorority. However, I think the high prevalence of women with low self-esteem in the Greek system is not so much due to the individual chapter reinforcing this imagery, but that the type of woman who would typically go through recruitment is likely to already have poor body image. The Greek system promises guaranteed friendships through the formal institution of sisterhood, which is attractive to potential new members. Another factor to consider is that at large universities that hold a fall recruitment, there is very little time for potential new members to get to know more than a few sisters at each house, and often there are 10+ houses offering recruitment. Therefore, women tend to be chosen on a basis that is inconsistent with the ideals of sorority life: scholarship, philanthropy, and sisterhood. At my college, we hold spring recruitment, so that we may get to know the potential new members as well as possible before offering them a bid. Perhaps the biggest change the Greek system can make is a move towards a values-based recruitment, rather than our current setup with a philanthropy round, skit round, and preference round - which emphasizes the 'image' of the sorority rather than the character of their members.
snarkypants snarkypants 7 years
oops chloe, didn't read your post before i posted :OOPS:
snarkypants snarkypants 7 years
just goes back to the whole "one bad apple spoils the whole bunch" there are a few sororities that probably do encourage unhealthy dieting, but i really think the majority do not. however, i do think the whole idea of rush can make some girls feel bad about their bodies. i mean, they're out there being compared to other women. i can see how some girls could compare themselves to the other girls and start to feel bad. but i really don't think most sororities encourage any of these feelings.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
I was in a sorority, but this wasn't my experience at all. In fact, we fired our House Mom because she had a tendency to tell certain (bigger) girls at dinner time that they "didn't need to eat dessert." There were about 200 girls in my sorority at any given time and, thinking back, I don't remember a single one of them having an eating disorder. I feel like the negative stereotypes associated with sororities tend to get blown out of proportion due to a few bad apples, which I know still exist at some schools.
NYCBella NYCBella 7 years
Take a look at what one National Panhellenic Conference member, Delta Delta Delta, is doing to help improve body image on college campuses and for women in general. For a look at what more groups are doing check out the chapters listed at
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