Monday, April 22, 2013

In defense of "Deranged Sorority Email" Writer

Part of my daily activity these days, is to take Charlie, our new(ish) puppy out into the fenced off garden in the backyard and let him run like a wild man for a while. I usually take him out there, weather permitting, for about 20 or 30 minutes in the morning and about an hour in the afternoon. Since there's wireless access back there, I usually take my computer or iPad and read or write or just mess around for a while. Which brings me to Saturday. I was trying to kill some time until the televised Alabama spring football game started. And then, I got an email from my friend, Taylor that read, "Have you seen this yet?" with a link.

This link.

I started out in open-mouthed disbelief, but I have to admit that by the end, I was laughing so hard that Charlie was trying to climb into my lap to see what all the brouhaha was about.

Because that was the funniest thing I've seen in FOREVER.

I want to start out by saying that the language she uses is COMPLETELY inappropriate. Not to mention that she uses both "retarded" and a gay slur as perjoratives. And that's not okay at all. And in fact, her now deleted Twitter posts (screen-capped here before someone, I'm assuming her, took them down) make her seem like a snotty, hateful piece of work. But then, I had to ask myself, if you took all of my Facebook statuses and Twitter posts out of context and you didn't know me, you might think that I was a snotty, hateful piece of work, too. I've made fun of peoples' tragic fashion choices and Senior day at the grocery store and my complete inability to convey ANY information to our Polish-speaking housecleaning ladies. Plus, I talk about General Hospital an awful lot, so that makes me look even MORE clever. And it could be that she IS a snotty, hateful piece of work.

That said, the original email is EXTREMELY well-written. I mean, it is some SERIOUSLY well-constructed prose. And, if I'm being honest about my opinion...she, well...she kind of has a point. When I, through tears of HYSTERICAL laughter posted the original Gawker link on Facebook, my friend, Donya, almost IMMEDIATELY replied, "Oh, the times that I thought this." In fact, I've had several friends who agreed, not with the way the point was made, but the point this woman was trying to make.

You see, I went to a big state school with arguably, the most powerful on-campus Greek system in the country. A Greek system of which I was a part. So, admittedly, I'm coming at this from a different, and possibly skewed perspective. But later on the same day that I read the email, I overheard people talking about it and realized that without the filter of knowing how sororities and fraternities and big universities and Greek Weeks work, it's impossible to grasp what's actually going down here.

I've seen a lot of comments about this incident on the internet and heard some in real life, so first, I should explain what Greek Week is and how it works. Yes, there are lots of parties. But no, that's not what it's necessarily about. What generally happens in Greek Week is that a sorority is paired with a fraternity (in my personal experience, sororities often had more than one fraternity partner because fraternities are smaller and there are more of them). Sometimes it was a fraternity where you knew a lot of the guys and a lot of the sorority members dated someone from that house. And sometimes it wasn't. Which is kind of the point. Throughout the week there are organized events involving all Greek houses on campus AND smaller events and parties organized by a particular sorority or fraternity for their Greek Week partner. It's about interacting with the entire community of Greek houses. It's about meeting new people. And it's about fun and friendly competition. When she's talking about cheering for the sports events, she means that there are intramural sports--soccer, flag football, softball--and the winning team gets points. At the end of Greek Week they add up all of the points you've won--for the sports, for spirit events like parties where you get points for how many members attend, for money raised in philanthropy events-- and the winning "team" gets money to donate to their particular philanthropy. Plus, you meet people, so that when your sorority does a charity basketball tournament, or a 5K race or hosts a BBQ dinner to raise money for your particular philanthropy, the people you've met during Greek Week will show up and buy tickets or enter the race or whatever.

My point is, that all of the people who think that this woman is telling the members of her chapter to hook up with Sigma Nus...that's not it. What she's ranting (in an admittedly hysterical manner) about is showing a basic degree of social skills, or really less than that...she's asking them to refrain from being out and out RUDE to their hosts. College-aged women should not need to be told that if you are at John's party, you shouldn't be talking about how you're going to leave and go to Bob's party later. It's rude as hell. And she isn't telling them to hook up with the guys when they're at the party. She's asking that they be sociable and conversational to their hosts. I mean, SERIOUSLY...when I was 11 I had a birthday party and all of the popular girls from my class showed up and clumped together and talked only to each other which was completely awkward for me and all of the other girls who were there who were NOT in my class. In other words, these adult women are going to a party and acting like the snotty, popular girls from my ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CLASS. And she's not asking them to get drunk and party...she's calling them out for claiming that they are ONLY comfortable when they're drunk. She's asking them to cheer for their team in the Greek Week sporting events. She's asking them exhibit behavior that will probably be useful and necessary later in life and careers--making nice at parties, being enthusiastic about things you might not care that much about, doing something you don't necessarily love to do. I may be completely in the wrong, but I consider these things to be LIFE skills. Not sorority skills or college skills.

The thing is, unless you were one of those girls who was doing the weird or dumb stuff in college, then I think that my friend, Donya, is correct: You HAVE felt like this at some point. Especially if you were an officer or in charge of something that was going to shit. Now, granted, I never sent a profanity-laced email (mainly because this was, for the most part, pre email) but I can think of two specific times when I was part of a "Seriously, ladies, get your shit together" movement. The first involved most of the Little Sisters of my close circle of friends (although, I'm happy to say, neither of MY Littles). We were sophomores, they were freshmen and we walked into the first big party of the year to find the whole group of them sloppy drunk from pre-gaming with Jaegermeister. I'm talking falling down, throwing up in trash cans DRUNK. This necessitated us dragging them out of the party, driving them back to the dorm and making sure that they got to their rooms/beds safely, which means that we missed a huge chunk of an awesome party because they didn't know how to act--and I had to to take charge of one of the fools whose actual Big wasn't there that night. Which meant that the next day, we pulled them all into one of our rooms at the sorority house and read them the riot act about their behavior. In a completely different kind of situation, my best friend and roommate was the scholarship chair for two years, one of which I was the assistant chair, so we would have this big printout of all of the GPAs at the end of the semester and I would watch Liz--who is the sweetest, most reasonable lady in the world--FREAK OUT as we went over the GPAs. She totally understood that you could have a bad semester and end up with a 2.5. But neither of us could ever figure out how people managed to come up with a 0.2, or worse an actual buckshot (the infamous 0.0). Which usually meant at the next chapter meeting she was going to stand up and read everyone the riot act for attempting to flunk out of college on her watch. I mean, I remember any number of late-night TV room conversations that revolved around, "How Hard Is It for People to Brush Their Hair and Put on Decent Clothes When We Have a Swap/Mixer." (Or put on shoes to answer the door, or not give the door code to your psycho ex-boyfriend, act like you've actually been to a publicly-held event of any kind--there were many of these conversations).

I want to stress this: The girl who sent this email. She was wrong. She freaked out. She said things in a completely inappropriate manner and she pretty much epitomizes why you should wait 12 hours after writing an angry email before you hit send. She comes across as completely crazy and out of control. Her Twitter postings seem to back that up. In spite of all that, I agree with the spirit, if not the application thereof. I also want to point out that whichever member of her chapter made the email public was also wrong. Yes, this girl went around the bend and made a huge, hateful mistake. There are, however, any number of ways to handle it. I'm talking ways within the bylaws of the chapter itself and the national sorority as a whole. Instead, some member of her sorority chose to make it public in a way that could potentially be damaging to the email writer for the rest of her career and life. And that's not cool. Sororities have internal judicial mechanisms for handling poor behavior of members. The consequences can range from social probation to expulsion from the organization. Outside of that, all collegiate chapters have an alumni advisor or an entire panel of almnae who oversee the chapter's operation. And even beyond that there's each sororities national office to whom a collegiate member could go. The point being, there was more than one wrong here.

And on a lighter note, there are now a couple of performance art pieces is what I would call them, I guess, of actors reading the email. I admit to being easily amused. I laughed 'til I hurt at these.

and here's a link to a possibly even more hilarious reading by Michael Shannon.

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