September 14, 2018

By Dr. Mari Ann Callais

As sororities and sorority members, we often talk about “sisterhood” and friendship. When asked to define sisterhood, we say we can’t explain it. Today, we are at a critical time in the history of our sororities to not only be able to describe what it is but to live it through caring for and about one another. We MUST not only be able to explain sisterhood, but it is time for us to treat one another with the mutual respect as women who are supposed to care about one another. I tell students all the time if everything we do as sororities has to be mandatory, or about points or fines, then what we call sisterhood is not really there. The time has come that sisterhood is not something we spend time talking about — sisterhood has to be something that continues to grow as we grow.

I was reading an article about women as a sisterhood titled “Time to Put ‘Sister’ Back in ‘Sisterhood’” by Sophia Nelson. This particular piece jumped off of my computer screen:

“True sisterhood cannot be forced. It has to be developed with interest, patience, reciprocity and over time. Not every woman will be your best friend, nor should she be invited to be in your inner circle, but every woman is deserving of your respect and support when you are able to provide it. Sisterhood is not a trite word we throw around. Being your sister’s keeper should be a reflex. It should be based on how you would want to be treated if you were walking in her shoes. Sisterhood knows no boundary, no race, no class or geography. Sisterhood transcends, and it transforms us for the better. Sisterhood is from the heart.”

Today, we can no longer talk about sisterhood and not practice it. It’s time to live it by doing what we say we will do. Sisterhood is not pictures blowing glitter or showering someone with confetti. Sisterhood is not holding someone’s hair back while she throws up after having too much to drink. Sisterhood is not leaving someone at a party alone where she may not know anyone else and could be put in a situation where she could be harmed. Sisterhood is not yelling at an officer who is trying to do the right thing, the job you as a chapter elected her to do by following the organization’s policies or the law. I know these things sound horrible and wish they were not true, but I hear this and so much more from sorority women across the country on a regular basis. This is not okay. This is not what we were founded for. This is not sisterhood.

Please read Nelson’s words again:

“True sisterhood cannot be forced. It has to be developed with interest, patience, reciprocity and over time. Not every woman will be your best friend, nor should she be invited to be in your inner circle, but every woman is deserving of your respect and support when you are able to provide it. Sisterhood is not a trite word we throw around. Being your sister’s keeper should be a reflex. It should be based on how you would want to be treated if you were walking in her shoes. Sisterhood knows no boundary, no race, no class or geography. Sisterhood transcends, and it transforms us for the better. Sisterhood is from the heart.”

Sisterhood is working through a difficult situation and coming up with solutions together. Sisterhood is not always agreeing but treating one another with respect, even though the outcome may not have been what you would have wanted but it was in the best interest of the majority and the organization. Sisterhood is standing up for yourself as a woman and supporting other women for doing the same. Sisterhood is putting your sisters above fraternity men and events that are not in congruence with your values and what you stand for as women. Sisterhood is not allowing others to define you as women but to define yourselves in a way that you can be proud of. Sisterhood is stopping someone who has had too much to drink and/or taken drugs and making sure they safe even if they hate you in that moment. Sisterhood comes from caring enough to do something for women you call your sisters. It’s time act like sisters and not like competitors or strangers.

Our founders would never have spoken to or treated one another in the manner that some of our members treat others today. It’s time to really be organizations that empower one another, support one another, hold one another accountable, and teach one another how to be better women. As women, we have enough going against us. We can’t continue to say we are about sisterhood and all the other buzz words we use if we are not going to practice them. Either be sororities or form your own clubs and act the way you want, but if you are going be in a sorority, start acting like a sorority woman and not a bitchy little girl who doesn’t care how her actions and words impact others. It’s time for the real sorority women in chapters to emerge and lead. It’s time for mean girls and those who only care about their personal interest and popularity to move on to another organization who will put up with that behavior. It’s time for women to lead other women in sororities that our founders would be proud of. It’s time now!

References
Nelson, S. (2013). “Time to put the ‘sister’ back in ‘sisterhood’.”
Huff Post, The Blog.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais worked on college campuses for 16 years and most recently served as an assistant professor at Mississippi State University. Professionally,
 she is the Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives for Tri Delta and a speaker for The Catalyst Agency. She has also held the position of NPC Delegate and national president for her sorority, Theta Phi Alpha. Today, Mari Ann visits campuses all over the country speaking to students about Women’s Empowerment, Leadership, Ritual/Values, and Hazing.

Mari Ann holds an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Loyola University New Orleans, and a Masters of Education and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Research from Louisiana State University.

If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Mari Ann Callais, please visit The Catalyst Agency.