As I write this review, the weather is just starting to change, (well, as much change as one can expect in California), and schools everywhere have just begun a brand new year. Now is the time when many young women are making a huge decision. Should they join a Sorority, or should they stay away from Greek Life? This is where Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities comes in.
Robbins basically went undercover to discover what, exactly, was true about Sorority life, and what was a myth. She presents the book as a narrative, describing the events in the lives of four different girls, all of whom had decided to join a Sorority. You will find this book in either the Sociology or the Women’s Studies section of bookstores, but, it reads as easily as a fiction novel.
I had absolutely no interest in joining a Sorority when I was in college. At the time, I was pulling all nighters playing Dungeons and Dragons with a group of my (mostly male) friends, and looking forward to the next LAN party.
I hardly ever wore makeup, and never gave a thought about what designer my clothing might have come from. The first time I saw a giant sign on campus that said “RUSH”, I was trying to figure out how they managed to get so big a band to come to our campus, and where I could buy tickets to see the show. Clearly, Sorority life was not for me.
I decided to read Pledged entirely based on the recommendations of all the women who I helped to locate a copy of this book in the bookstore I work in. They were all so enthusiastic about this book. What could be so interesting about a book about Sororities? I decided to find out for myself.
The first thing that grabbed my attention was the “Preface to the Paperback Edition”. Robbins explains that she gets a lot of email from girls who are in Sororities, that complain about how awful and filled with lies her book is. In the same email, they tell her that they have not even read her book, and that they never will!
As you read on, you learn that many Sororities are basically banning this book, and not allowing any of their girls to read it. Many are going so far as to punish or expel girls whom they catch with a copy of Plegded in their possession.
When any organization starts banning a book, it makes me think two things. One, that organization is extremely fearful of the information uncovered in the book, and two, I should get my hands on a copy right now! Everyone should read banned books! Knowledge really is power.
I found the information contained in this book to be shocking on many levels. First, it seems that when Robbins went to the various Sorority chapters to ask permission to talk with their girls, and attend their events, she was not only refused, but often escorted from the premises, and told not to return. She was kicked out not just by the Chapters on one campus, but by the national headquarters for all chapters, across the United States.
Instead of giving up, Robbins resorted to going undercover in order to write her book, protecting the individual girls she spoke with by changing their names, or combining their identities into one character. There was no other way.
I learned that for many women (especially white women who live in Texas, or some of the Southern States) there is no choice but to join a Sorority. Their mothers and grandmothers were part of a certain house, at a particular college, and so they must make the exact same choice.
Many girls are taught from a young age that their life will be a complete waste unless they are also accepted into that particular Sorority. Without it, they will never make the right contacts to get the right job. More importantly, they will never meet the “right” husband! I am appalled that so many mothers are pressuring their daughters to participate in degrading and sometimes dangerous activities, just to become a part of this toxic system. Adults should know better.
I fear for the young women who are compromising their own values in the hopes of being accepted into a Sorority, having a group of friends, and ensuring the correct future. What I read was much sicker than what I presumed was going on in Sororities. It scares me how much power the people who are involved in Sororities have over society, business, and thousands of individual young women.
I am saddened that some of the complaints the girls in Robbins’ book had were the exact same complaints I heard Sorority girls making when I was in school. Not enough time to study, because they had to attend “chapter meetings”. Girls in the same sorority being cliquish, and mean to other girls, especially the newly admitted.
Pressure to buy all the t-shirts for all of the Sorority events. Complaints about how they are “broke” because they had to spend so much money on a dress for a formal event, that they now could not wear ever again. Stress about dating the guy their sisters wanted them to date. If I was completely on the outside, and I was hearing those kinds of complaints, then I believe that Robbins’ book holds at least some truths about what it really is like to live in a Sorority.
If you are a young woman who has just started college, you need to read this book. As you walk around on campus, you are going to hear a lot of talk about how wonderful Sororities are, and how great your life will become if you Pledge to one of them. This information, of course, is biased.
Perhaps Robbins book is biased as well. I urge you to get both sides of the story before making any decisions about if you should, or shouldn’t, join a Sorority. If you are the parent of a daughter who is college age, or in her last year of high school, you need to read this book, if for nothing else, to be well informed about what could happen if your little girl chooses this path.
Now, this is not to say that all Sororites are just plain evil. Robbins takes time to discuss the difference between regular Sororities (that often claim to be service oriented, but aren’t) and the Service Sororities (that actually do give back to communities). It becomes obvious very quickly where each groups true values are, especially as you read about what girls in each group actually do in the name of “community service”.
If you simply must belong to a large group while you are in college, I would advise looking into some of the Service Sororities on your campus. Most of these groups emphasize the importance of studying and getting good grades, giving back to the community, real friendships, and diversity among it’s members. I learned from Robbins’ book that most regular Sororities are one big party, with a price tag that is expensive in more ways than just financially.
The choice is yours, of course, but, be informed, and choose wisely. Realize that joining a Sorority does not end the minute you graduate. For many women, it becomes a way of life, and decides who your friends will be (and who they won’t be) and who your daughter’s friends will be as well. The Sorority life continues on long after college is over, and you need to ask yourself, is this honestly the way I want to live for the rest of my life?