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Combating Media Stereotypes

Janine

by Janine Grover
(Gamma Mu, Ball State University)

I was eleven years old when Animal House hit the theatres in 1978. I was seventeen when Revenge of the Nerds made the big screen in 1984. Later, there were movies like Legally Blonde, Old School and House Bunny. And, when Sorority Row recently opened in theatres across the country, I was…well, you do the math!

Throughout the years, fraternities and sororities have been featured by mainstream media, often in a not-so-flattering light.  Is it damaging to the image of the Greek community? I’m not sure. Is it just entertainment? Maybe.

As Julie Cain Burkhard, Alpha Chi Omega Past National President and current NPC Chair, stated in a recent interview with Newsweek, “I don’t know that anybody would run and pay $8 to see a movie about a sorority experience that talks about the leadership aspect, the academic aspect, the community service aspect, the friendship aspect, the health aspect.”

I know I wouldn’t have when I was seventeen.

But, I don’t remember ever thinking that the movies or television shows I watched were based on reality. And, I would like to think that young people today, and their parents, realize that the media must exaggerate circumstances, adding a lot of drama, comedy or terror, in order to generate the revenue they seek.

I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy. But, when I recently delivered a baby via c-section, I didn’t think for one second that my anesthesiologist and doctor were thinking about the lovers’ spat they just had in the hallway five minutes before. They weren’t. They didn’t.

I’ve watched Glee, but I don’t think that all cheerleaders want to see the choir fail.

Remember Spin City starring Michael J. Fox?  Does anyone think it displayed an accurate portrayal of the office of the Mayor of New York? Somehow, I doubt it. The list could go on and on.

Stereotypes exist all around us, and as long as there is media those stereotypes equal entertainment. So, what can we do as an industry to get the media to stop portraying Greeks as binge-drinking, sex-crazed party animals? Probably not much.

So instead, I think we should focus our energies on living the truth. Being real. When we talk to one person or a hundred about how Alpha Chi Omega has shaped our lives, our beliefs, or maybe just our reaction to one situation, we are changing the conversation. If we act with purpose and courage, and are not afraid of being transparent, then what we show the world is that Alpha Chi Omega is a collective group of confident women who face real issues. A group of women who will not only lend a hand, but sometimes need a hand.

The National Panhellenic Conference has made great strides to promote the positive aspects of sorority life. As Alpha Chi Omegas, we owe it to the other 25 member groups of NPC, to do our part in promoting that experience within our organization. We all know that Alpha Chi Omega is made up of real, strong women. We need to share it with the world. And, as one voice that is consistent with our values, we can and will change the conversation.

5 Comments

  1. Jen Daurora |

    Janine – I LOVE this post! Kudos to Julie for all that she has accomplished in the last six years on behalf of all women’s fraternities and sororities.

  2. jenn butler harris |

    A truer statement could not be found:
    ” … I think we should focus our energies on living the truth …”

    Let’s continue to be Real. Strong. Women. Let’s talk about all the great things AXOs have done and continue to do. Even small things, like one I heard about this morning.

    Quote from a 2007 graduate writing about an alumnae from another chapter who helped her secure an internship, “She definitely helped in the process so I STILL am amazed by how much Alpha Chi has helped me after college!”

    What a happy way to start my day!

    PACE everyday – you never know what great sister you will meet or who’s life you will impact!

  3. jenn butler harris |

    Great media from SMU AXOs!

    Alpha Chi Cookout supports MADD

    Sarah Pottharst, Staff Writer, spotthar@smu.edu
    Issue date: 9/2/09 Section: News

    Let’s face it: The beginning of school is stressful. Between adding and dropping classes and sitting down with new textbook readings, students need a little break. As the summer sun simmers down and a nice breeze kicks in, all tensions seem to fizzle.

    The sorority women of Alpha Chi Omega gathered near Clements Hall Tuesday evening to meet and greet fellow students over a relaxed, cookout meal.

    Students from all areas of campus dropped by and munched on hamburgers and chicken sandwiches from Outback Steakhouse, while discussing light topics such as hometowns and majors.

    “It’s a really fun way to get the campus together and meet new people,” said Alpha Chi Omega President Hannah Nelson…

  4. jenn butler harris |

    Setting an excellent AXO example …

    http://www.cw.ua.edu/greek-grade-report-released-1.1881811#5

    Greek grade report released
    Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Tau Omega have top GPAs

    By Kelsey Hendrix
    Updated: Thursday, September 17, 2009

    Despite social calendars with swaps, date parties and philanthropy events, several fraternities and sororities on campus have once again managed to maintain their high academic standing based on the newest grade report from the University for the spring 2009 semester.

    The overall Panhellenic average GPA was a 3.24, and the overall Interfraternity Council average GPA was a 2.88. Members in both sororities and fraternities on campus are required to maintain certain GPAs for membership.

    Robert Walston is president of Alpha Tau Omega, which came in first place in the Interfraternity Council rankings with an overall house average GPA of a 3.3. Walston said his fraternity realizes the importance of creating an environment at their house where members can excel in all areas, including academics.

    “We recognize that students come to college to make the most of their education and by encouraging our brothers to get good grades, we are preparing them for their future endeavors,” Walston said. “Having top grades also tells incoming members that academics are important to us and should be important to them, and it shows other groups that our fraternity focuses on what we believe is important and in the best interest of our brothers.”

    According to the spring 2009 grade report for the UA Panhellenic Council, Alpha Chi Omega sorority, with 210 members, came in first place with an average GPA of 3.42 for the 18th consecutive year. Chi Omega came in a close second place with an average GPA of 3.38.

    As a celebration of the academic achievements of its members, Alpha Chi Omega sorority held its annual Fall Scholarship Banquet Wednesday at the Alpha Chi Omega sorority house.

    “We have two annual scholarship banquets each year, our big banquet in the spring and smaller banquet in the fall, as a way to reward our girls for their hard work and dedication,” said Louise Saunders, Alpha Chi Omega vice president of intellectual development. “There were 143 awards given out tonight [Wednesday] based on spring GPAs, with the girls having a 3.0 to a 3.49 receiving $10 and the girls with a 3.5 or above receiving $20 for their academic work.”

    Heather Pate, Alpha Chi Omega sorority president, said she was very proud of the achievements of the girls in the sorority and finds promise in another year of academic excellence from the members.

    “This [having scholarship banquets] has been a tradition for us for over 30 years and is a great motivation for everyone in the house not only to do well in school but also to get over a 3.5 GPA to be rewarded with gifts and money from the sorority,” Pate said. “I hold high academic expectations for myself and all of the girls in the house and just love getting to acknowledge them for all of the hard work that they have done over the year.”