It began when a DePauw University psychology professor distributed a survey, and students described one sorority as “Daddy’s little princesses” and another, Delta Zeta, as “socially awkward.” Speaking for myself, I would rather eat rocks than be part of a group of Daddy’s little princesses, but apparently, not everyone feels that way. The Delta Zeta membership at DePauw had declined, so some important DZs from the national office in Ohio went to Indiana to help. They interviewed 35 members of the DePauw DZ chapter, and concluded that 23 of them were “insufficiently committed” to the sorority. Those women were asked to leave the sorority house.
Every one of the 23 women just happened to not pass the American standard of weight normalcy, i.e., they were considered overweight. The group also included the only Korean woman, the only black woman, and the only Vietnamese woman in the sorority.
And then there were twelve–all slender, all popular with frat men–and six of those were so angry about what had occurred that they quit Delta Zeta. Other students staged protests, parents wrote angry letters, and a faculty petition declared the house-cleansing “unethical.”
The executive director of Delta Zeta denies that the 23 women were evicted from the sorority house. Here is the text of the letter those women received:
“The membership review team has recommended you for alumna status. Chapter members receiving alumnae status should plan to relocate from the chapter house no later than Jan. 29, 2007.”
There really isn’t much room for interpretation there. Nice having you, your time is up, get out. Delta Zeta at DePauw has a bit of a mixed record when it comes to diversity, but overall, seems to have done very well, and now is “paying for it” by having members who are not the average girl from your video. In September of 2006, the women were told that national representatives were coming to interview them about their “commitment,” and that they should “look their best.” Four women with especially good instincts withdrew from the chapter right away, bringing the total victim count to 33.
Debbie Raziano, national president of Delta Zeta, in a letter written yesterday, denies the occurence described in the “unfortunate New York Times article.” “The article,” she said, “is inaccurate and grossly mischaracterizes the situation.” She said that the chapter was supposed to close at the end of the 2006-2007 school year because of declining membership, and reorganize later, but the reorganization request was denied by the university. The university asked the sorority to do a membership review, and only those women who were willing to do day-to-day recruiting were chosen to continue to be active members.
Raziano’s version of events is even more outrageous than what a reading of the Times article would lead one to conclude: that the women who were not model-thin just weren’t up to doing the recruiting, and all the slim white women enthusiastically jumped on the recruiting bandwagon. What a coincidence.
Jill, writing for Feministe, says:
It’s easy to demonize the Delta Zeta leadership for their (obviously abhorrent) actions here. But even they were only reacting to a greater social consensus among other members of campus–that a “worthy” sorority is one which is made up of traditionally attractive women who will be attractive to fraternity men. This kind of stuff is par for the course when it comes to sorority and fraternity selection processes. And while it helps to call out the bad behavior of one sorority, that hardly solves the larger problem. Until women are valued for more than their physical appearance, and until attractiveness and social status are less dependent on perceived economic status, we won’t be getting anywhere.
I have a suggestion for the 23 banished DZ members: Start a chapter of Sigma Rho. When I was in college, a number of women were kicked out of their sororities for the most absurd reasons (including passing pizza out of a dormitory window). They formed their own sorority, Sigma Rho (Sorority Rejects), threw their own parties and dances, and held their own fundraisers. Their sister group, Delta Mu (Discontented Members)–which would already have 10 members at DePauw–did the same thing, and enjoyed many joint activities with Sigma Rho. Being invited to a Sigma Rho/Delta Mu event was a hell of a lot more hip than being invited to a regular sorority bash, and also a hell of a lot more fun.