Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Greek myth

Sitting down with a strong cup of Chinese Breakfast tea, thinking about the flap at DuPauw over the Delta Zeta sorority. Just went to the Delta Zeta website where they are hunkered down in a big way, saying "That's not what we meant! That's not what we did!"

Which was to evict most of the members of the chapter house in DuPauw, allegedly because of looks. The pretty ones were invited to stay; the overweight, the awkward, or the geeky were asked to go. The only minority members have all left, either voluntarily or as part of the same purge. The main office contends this is not true, that this was entirely based on a commitment to recruit. And what else can they say, really?

The Delta Zeta website has a lovely green background with a picture in the upper left corner of a pink rose just beginning to bloom, and the Greek letters Delta Zeta superimposed upon it. As you roll over the menu bar, the words turn from green to pink. The preciousness of that is a peculiar contrast with the wall of defensiveness of the statements on the home page. Why am I thinking they didn't know this would become the most emailed article in the NY Times when the story broke? Just a little local thing they were doing at little old DuPauw in the middle of Greencastle, Indiana. Who is going to pay attention to that?

Why do I have a feeling that there was unexamined bias in the national chapter's selection of who would be willing to recruit and who wouldn't? No newsflash there. I have a feeling they believe every word of their PR, that commitment to recruitment was the only factor in their eviction process.

After the purge, only 12 young women were left in the sorority. Kudos to the six who left in outrage after that. Of the six remaining, four were seniors, and I can appreciate not wanting to leave your house when you have four months left of school. I am most curious about the two who remained. What do they think about all of this?

Of course, I've never much liked sororities and went to a school that didn't have any. I have a strong anti-Greek bias that's relatively unexamined in itself, but I think is in part due to the belief that recruitment WAS largely based on being "conventionally pretty," as the remaining Delts are described. I would have been one of the recruits for the creepy, dark, and socially hopeless Gumma Gumma Dope or other low-on-the-totem-pole house, and why set yourself up for that? It's the ranking and pecking order bit of it that gets under my skin; but how much of that is because I don't think I would be in the top rank? Not for a social organization like that.

Unfortunately for DZHQ, every woman in the country (I would be willing to bet) has had someone disparage her appearance and use that to gauge her worth. People are going to believe that DZ evicted the girls on appearance because many people have had something of that nature happen to her.

At least I believe it because something of that nature happened to me. I was in middle school and I got glasses and I was told I would not be invited to a party because of it. And the thing is, the girls with the party were girls I didn't like, so it's not like this was a huge trauma. But still, the message was clear: looks influence status, no matter what you do.

And so there is something incredibly satisfying about the conventionally pretty girls getting their comeuppance in the popular press. Mythic, even. DZHQ may not deserve all the bad press they are getting, but I can't say I mind.

1 comment:

qoe said...

I have continual struggles with what I call the world of appearances. This could be because I consider myself to be an outwardly plain person-not in the Amish sense, certainly-with strong features, such as a huge nose that was passed on to me by French settlers of Albemarle Co., VA 250 years ago, and red hair from various Scots ancestors, that is fading rapidly. [Will I color it? No. Why? No time, no interest. Heck, people ask me if I color and frost it now...] But, I wonder if I don't fall into the traps that are continually laid by our world of appearances culture. I cannot say that there is not some streak of vanity rattling around somewhere in that vast cavern of my brain, the organ that I fill with reading and empty by meditation, as often as possible. Idolatry comes to mind. Beauty can become an idol (inner and outer beauty). An Episcopal priest from New Zealand once pointed out in a sermon, quite rightly, I think, that some who love the music of the church, some love the liturgy, could be elevating these aspects too highly... Among other things, this made me consider intellect in a different way. I have always eschewed taking graduate degrees, because I think that learning is an exercise for its own sake, and I see academia as a prime example of a huge world of appearances maze and trap-the frat/soeur thing is a minor symptom of the "more grown up" version of the same thing. Then there is the honor "old school tie", right or wrong, thing to which I am vigorously opposed... I am sure this is a personal defect in me. But I know many people who hold graduate degrees who don't read a jot. If I don't have a pile of books in various states of being read by my bed, I feel ill. Doesn't make me a better person, I know... but that leads to a whole other patch of thinking...