#WeAreNotOurStereotypes Challenges The Way People Look at Fraternity and Sorority Members, But Does it Go Far Enough?
Even if you are not a member of Greek Life and don't have any friends who are, I'm sure if I asked you to think of stereotypes of people in fraternities or sororities it would take you about three whole seconds to come up with one. Stereotypes of people in Greek life are extremely prevalent and, let's be honest, not usually positive—which is why York College senior Kayleigh Dumas created #WeAreNotOurStereotypes, a photography project to challenge the negative perceptions surrounding Greek life.
Kayleigh, a member of Sigma Delta Tau, told Buzzfeed that she was motivated to create the project after seeing all the negative news surrounding Greek Life lately. So she rounded up a bunch of people she knew in various Greek Life organizations and captured pictures of them describing the ways in which they personally challenge common fraternity or sorority stereotypes. You've definitely seen this type of thing before—people holding up signs that have short little sentences about their personal relationship with whatever the topic at hand is. In this case, the participants have two side-by-side photos: the first is the stereotype we're used to hearing, and the second is the way that person is defying that particular stereotype.
Many people are supportive of Kayleigh's project and the message that she's trying to convey.
But at the same time, there are plenty of people who aren't exactly on board with the project. Buzzfeed's comments section was rife with sarcasm, with comments like, "Whoa, deep. These are some really mind-blowing character revelations. I'll never assume someone is in a frat based on their Sperry's again," while more serious commenters have pointed out that members of Greek life, "are all part of a CULTURE that creates and encourages deplorable behavior and cronyism. They are trying to protect that culture without the perspective necessary to recognize its inherent and systemic flaws."
I think that the project is a good start to get people to reconsider their negative perceptions of Greek life and I like what it's aiming to do, but that might be the problem—it seems like most of the people who support #WeAreNotOurStereotypes are already in Greek life. They already know that sorority and fraternity members are smart, involved, and whatever else, so it's not really teaching them anything new. As another commenter on Buzzfeed pointed out, the project doesn't go as deep as it could have. Some of the photos did hit home with me, especially the one about all sorority girls being rich and spoiled—I and many of my sisters found jobs on campus and applied for scholarships in order to pay for all our expenses with the sorority. I would have liked to see more posts like that one, rather than the ones declaring that not all frat guys wear Vineyard Vines. Like, it doesn't bother me that people might assume that since I'm in a sorority I wear a lot of Lilly Pulitzer (I don't, but I might check out her line for Target), but it does matter that people would look at my letters and assume I'm just handed everything I ask for and never had to work for it, and I like seeing that being dismantled a little. #WeAreNotOurStereotypes may have gotten the conversation started, but we need to go beyond scratching the surface if we really want to change how people perceive the Greek system.
Images: Kayleigh Dumas / Facebook; Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications / Flickr