As we dive into Inter-Sorority Council (ISC) Recruitment weekend, I would like to take the time to reflect on my experience during recruitment and during my time rushing an ISC organization.
I was definitely the person that everyone thought would never go through with rush. I was coming into my Black Feminist politic and beginning to explore how concepts like Blackness, institutional racism and classism influenced how I navigated the world. Institutionally and even socially speaking, I did not know if ISC organizations would allow me the space to develop. But curiosity and boredom got the best of me, so I started planning outfits.
Recruitment is grueling.
It is hours on your feet with girls you have to pretend you love already in order to get the chance to buy into their friendship. But within this space of empty hair compliments and rather annoying chants, the experience transforms into one of suspended feminism. It is a space for women, created by women and with the intention of meeting women. It is one of the only predominantly White spaces at Stanford, outside of professional ones, that allows for centering the feminine-identified people for purely social events. Women are socially allowed to proclaim they love women, to be affectionate towards women and to not apologize for it.
The space has much potential, but it is repressed because it operates within a classist, hetero-patriarchal system.
I had the chance to meet some of the most thoughtful, reflective people at Stanford as a result of recruitment and rush. I gained friends who were also very honest with me about how problematic it felt to constantly justify their membership in an organization that had aspects that went against their politics.
Last year there was a huge push to make sororities more enticing for low-income participants. ISC does not have a scholarship fund, and aside from the 200+ dollars per quarter that you have to pay there is also an initiation fee that is three times that amount. There is a board called “Standards” that asks you what your financial situation will be like next year and if you have a job to cover the cost of their organization. Your “sisters” will be there to tell you how unfair the high amount is, and someone may even give you the truth about the elusive scholarships. Meanwhile, there will be girls dropping hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars on their “littles” who they loved at first sight/conversation.
But people make ways to get around the cost if they really want it. Some save up, some borrow and people help each other out, because at the end of the day it is a community. But I didn’t want it. During your spring quarter, rush members will get to experience a side of Stanford that was previously unavailable.
As you finish up your recruitment, fraternities will be picking the cream of the crop for their pledge classes. Sororities and fraternities will link up in a symbolic hetero-patriarchal union and call it social events. Everyone has favorites and everyone has a stereotype. Your “sisters” go into the frat world with you, and for a while, it seems like you are safe from any type of attack. It is empowering to go into parties with a group of women who are all looking out for you and each other, but the fear of attack is still unspoken and always present. Someone may still ask you to come to their room when they know you have had too much to drink.
There is a paradoxical safety and danger when you add Blackness into these dynamics. One, there comes not invisibility, but always being that one Black girl. Many people do not know how to interact with Black people in social settings, so the go-to conversation starter may be a question about whether “your hair is all actually yours.” Or one may hear, “should I hook up with that Black girl?” Race conversations are hard and readily avoided, and philanthropy seemed like an odd vacation from the systemic racism, heterosexism and classism always on your mind, especially in these spaces of privilege.
Some people that I encountered in ISC organizations were truly amazing individuals, but there came a point when we could not relate simply because of the stark differences in the way we navigate the world. And although many wanted me to join the organization because they themselves would create a space inclusive for someone like me, it was never meant for me. I did not want to be a martyr, and I don’t think it would have been the space for me to grow into the person I wanted to become.
An ISC sorority has great potential for those who find acceptance and love within the organization. Especially with its feminist notions. But as I navigate the world has a Black feminist, an ISC organization was not for me. These organizations can be home for many, or alienating for some, although the people that take part may not intentionally try to be so themselves.
Good luck at Rush.