Whether it is at a chapter meeting or a social or formal, women in “Greek Life” must constantly promote their brand: their sorority.
The expectation for women in sororities can take a toll on their self-esteem. The pressure to impress their peers can have a negative impact on their body image.
“Some girls will walk into this thinking there is a certain way you’re supposed to look,” said Panhellenic President Erin Potter. “They feel the pressure to reinforce the sorority stereotype.”
A sorority member who asked to remain nameless said she feels pressured to have the “sorority look.”
“You have to own Sperry Top-Sider shoes, Ralph Lauren and you have to be skinny,” said the member.
She believes that you must look good and be skinny unless you want to have a stigma attached to you.
“There is a sorority known for having bigger girls. If we don’t watch our weight everyone is going to refer to us as the fat sorority, too,” she said.
The sorority member chose to remain anonymous to avoid repricussions for publicly criticizing her sorority.
Those stereotypes along with the media, advertisers, friends and even family can make anyone feel insecure, uncomfortable and unhappy with their body.
According to psychologist Jill A. Langer at the USF Counseling Center, body dissatisfaction is not exclusive to sorrority members. It also affects many college students in general.
“58 percent of college women are trying to lose weight even though 57 percent of them are already in their normal weight range,” said Langer.
When weight becomes the issue and focus people become at risk for psychological problems such as depression and anxiety and can also lead to eating disorders.
USF Kappa Delta alumni and current grad student Jessica Russo started a non-profit project called Eating to Live, Not the Alternative after dealing with an eating disorder herself. Russo’s medical conditions throughout college got her used to the idea of not eating.
“The doctor’s wouldn’t allow me to eat for several moments at a time; it trained me to not eat,” said Russo.
“There’s a lot of pressure in an organization built around women,” said Russo. “Women begin to compare each other.”
Through more education and a better understanding, students can develop a healthy and positive self-image.
“It’s important to put the emphasis on who you are versus how you look,” said Russo.
Her last purge was over six months ago. She deems herself an open book hoping that speaking about her experience will help women gain a positive body image.
But Melissa Hagerman, a sister of Delta Delta Delta, doesn’t feel body image is an issue within Greek life. “I think girls are just proud to wear their letters,” said Hagerman. “You want to look presentable when you’re representing your sorority.”
Hagerman believes that sororities will love members no matter what their physical appearances.