Today I was confronted with what seemed like a non-issue in the news, an indicator that not much else of interest was going on. I now work for a University which has an active Greek community, which is probably why it struck me in a way that such news items would not have in years past. Previously, I would have ignored it and moved on.
Over at Today, they had a segment which showed portions of the video produced by an Alpha Phi sorority in Alabama. The video is intended as recruitment material, and shows lots of pretty young college women running around in swimsuits and light summer skirts and dresses. It’s all very carefully staged and produced to show the maximum happiness and pleasantness that can be yours if you join their sorority.
Unsurprisingly, it was critiqued for a lack of racial diversity and for its portrayal of women as mere commodities to be coveted for their beauty. While those are legitimate subjects of discussion, I wasn’t bothered by the video because of the demographic makeup of its participants. I laughed at the music choice and the videography because it was all so contrived and silly. While I noticed its reductive portrayal of women as objects of beauty and sexual desire, that faded into the background for me because I see that every day; I cannot entirely escape the horrifying onslaught of the objectification of women in our culture.
All that said, something bugged me about it in a way I couldn’t initially articulate, and I think I’ve figured out what it is. I have a bad habit of thinking more deeply about these things than the usual progressive analysis would allow. While my interest in education might lead me to consider the impact of presenting women with these unrealistic expectations of life at a university, I instead began to think of the women I know and how they relate to one another as sisters.
It occurred to me that the video presents an incredibly superficial view of sisterhood, of relationships between women which are affectionate and light and easy. A more realistic video might include a sister hugging another sister while she cries because a family member died from cancer, or helping her sisters move into a new apartment. It might include images of sisters studying late before a final, trying to help each other succeed. It might include candid shots of the sisters working at a food pantry for the homeless or cleaning up a neighborhood park.
Those are the sorts of things sisters would do for each other and with each other, and they’re far more important than looking great in the sun. And I think that in a country in which relationships are becoming more shallow, depicting deeper relationships between sisters would be a powerful recruiting tool.
While it might be impossible to accurately portray fully the intimacy and vulnerability between women who had truly learned to live as sisters, women who lift each other up and make sacrifices for the good of their sisters as their sisters do the same for them, attempting to do so would be offering something deeper, more appealing, and ultimately better for young women to seek while in their college years.
P.S. But what do I know? I’m just a man, so clearly my insights about women’s issues are worthless and to be suspected of latent sexism on principle. I eagerly await a critique of my post by someone who pays attention to the title and nothing else.