Hybrid Femininities: Making Sense of Sorority Rankings and Reputation

Simone Ispa-Landa*, Mariana Oliver

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Gender researchers have only recently begun to identify how women perceive and explain the costs and benefits associated with different femininities. Yet status hierarchies among historically white college sororities are explicit and cannot be ignored, forcing sorority women to grapple with constructions of feminine worth. Drawing on interviews with women in these sororities (N = 53), we are able to capture college women’s attitudes toward status rankings that prioritize adherence to narrow models of gender complementarity. Sorority chapters were ranked according to women’s perceived heterosexual appeal to elite men. Women believed that top-ranked sororities conferred social power whereas middle- and bottom-ranked sororities offered greater freedom from policing over members’ bodies, fashion, and socializing. However, middle- and bottom-ranked sororities sometimes sought to rise in the rankings. When this occurred, existing members were marginalized, and a new pledge class with a greater tolerance for socializing with high-status “rapey” fraternities was sought. Women’s discussions of sorority rankings show evidence of a hybrid femininity that fuses practices from traditional models of gender complementarity and more recent models of women’s empowerment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)893-921
Number of pages29
JournalGender and Society
Volume34
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Greek life
  • college
  • femininity
  • peer culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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