The Alpha Phi sorority house is one of several new sorority houses on campus. CW | Pete Pajor
We all know the names of the major Greek scandals of recent years. The University of Oklahoma Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s racist chant. Georgia Tech Phi Kappa Tau’s “luring your rapebait” email. The University of Maryland Delta Gamma’s email. Insert your favorite Snapchat scandal here. And now, the Alpha Phi rush video scandal.
Or really, the scandal that wasn’t. We have watched with increasing incredulity over the past two weeks as a light-hearted video geared towards recruiting new members into a sorority (one of many such videos that debuted last week) has become the object of ridicule, condescension, and censure by state and national media outlets and, as of today, their own university.
They and their video have been called “unempowering,” “reductive and objectifying,” ”commodities,” “bimbos,” and “detrimental stereotypes and clichés.”
While the trend of sorority recruitment videos is a national phenomenon, this video has attracted the critiques of the entire genre on its head simply because the presence of a star football player made it an object of interest beyond its normal campus sphere. However, this video is substantively no different from any of the numerous videos, Instagram posts, and Tumblrs sororities now use to attract new members by highlighting their house’s personality, interests, sisterly love, and, yes, beauty. If there is a legitimate question of whether or not these images are “reflective of UA’s expectations for students to be responsible digital citizens,” then this University’s administration should address it directly with all sororities who share this same toolbox.
However, we believe that as of now, these criticisms are baseless as these women have done nothing of major consequence wrong.
They were not videoed participating in any illegal activities such as drugs or underage drinking. They did not volunteer to be in a Playboy centerfold, wave confederate flags, or sing offensive songs. Honestly, they were videoed looking like pretty college women having a fun day together. Since when is that a moral travesty?
Yes, from the frames we can see, it looks racially homogenous, but the entire sorority system has faced those issues and is still addressing them, with minority enrollment growing year over year. That issue has historic roots and to use this video as evidence of those problems has more to do with conjuring moral outrage than actually examining the rate of minority enrollment or considering the possibility that the women you see are just a small slice of this house's large membership.
We believe that it is respectable for young women to be videoed having fun, even if that fun is occasionally in bathing suits on dock or while giving each other piggyback rides or while blowing glitter. These women did not surrender their dignity, injure their career prospects, or teach men that it’s o.k. to treat them as sexual objects by doing so. It is difficult to believe these are all actual criticisms that have been leveled at this organization over one light-hearted video.
It is also difficult to believe that these critiques are coming from women who identify as feminists. Feminists who have shoved a group of unsuspecting women into an undeserved spotlight and placed the weight of all womankind on their shoulders. As self-identified feminists ourselves, these writers scoff at the notion that this video has done any damage to women’s rights or progress. All women have much bigger issues to contend with than this distraction.
As does this University. The Capstone and its Greek system face more challenges than can fit in one editorial. Sorority women having legal, harmless, sisterly fun with each other is not one of them. This University should not forget that many of the women it denounces today are the ones it depends upon to recruit the students of tomorrow and feed its unending growth.
To the women of Alpha Phi, we wish we were in a position to give you the apology you deserve or make the negative attention you never deserved go away sooner. Unfortunately, that is not in our power. However, we congratulate you on your most recent pledge class, thank you for your contributions to this university, and stand beside you. Greek women to Greek women.
Leigh Terry is the Opinions Editor of the Crimson White. Sarah Huff Moore is the Lead Designer of the Crimson White. This editorial represents the views of both writers.