Glitter blowing, synchronized waving, dancing in bikinis -the whole nine yards. The recently scrutinized University of Alabama’s Alpha Phi sorority left no hyper-feminine “sorority girl” cliche untouched in their 2015 recruitment video and needless to say, it has received quite a bit of media backlash.
A recently published article described the video as “worse for women than Donald Trump,” claiming that it completely sabotaged feminist ideologies by participating in their own objectification. In response to the enmity, many, including those in the sorority and fraternity community have publically expressed their disapproval with the criticism the video has received. So what’s the big deal, any way? Why not let a group of skinny blonde girls blow kisses and hug on camera? In its innocuous fun, the video does in fact raise an important concern that those who defend it seem to overlook.
Does the video serve its purpose? Absolutely. The transparent objective of the video was to attract potential new members into the sorority, and Alpha Phi’s video is commendable at that. Somewhere amongst the posed laughter and the not-so-candid piggy-back rides is an enviable and undeniable desire to join them – to look like them, to laugh with them, to be a part of their group – to fit in – but as a minority woman that is what I have been trying to do my entire life. I have grown up in a society where that type of racially and aesthetically homogeneous brand of beauty is not just the model, but the norm.
My middle school days were brimming with innumerable instances where I would hide in the school bathrooms attempting to work a flat iron/ hair gel to get my hair as relaxed and straight as the girls in my class that I was taught to idolize – the blonde haired, skinny, pretty girls that my community taught me I should be like. I don’t expect an apology for the day that I came home in tears one fifth grade afternoon after a girl had told me I should really shave my legs because the hairs on them were so much darker and thicker than a white girl’s . I’m not looking to rectify all of the times when I was younger and my kind of beauty was considered too outlandish, but as I got to high school it was suddenly considered “sexy” or “exotic”. I’m not looking for an apology, but merely pointing out the fallacies of a society in which we idolize/ sexualize a certain type of beauty and then make everyone outside of that mold feel as though they are inferior. The majority of my adolescence was spent envying white culture and beauty, so excuse me if I’m not exactly thrilled to be seeing another instance of glorifying white female sexuality. Excuse me if I’m not ecstatic about another portrayal of women as scantily clad look-alikes attempting to showcase their exclusivity.
I agree with many of the defenses of this video – no, this is not news. It is not new. This is not a phenomena – and it is not a fault of all whites or all sororities nor is it a generalization about anybody, particularly the women in the video. This is the reality of living in a society where females are in competition with one another – it is the reality of every minority girl who gets a taste of rejection every time she sees another beautiful white woman in a makeup or clothing advertisement – it is the reality of every girl who grimaces at herself when she steps on the scale and stares at the number because it isn’t up to par with what society tells her it should be. Only 1/12 women in the media are minorities – not only are we underrepresented, but in instances like this video, we are blatantly ignored – but this is nothing new – it’s not news – but that doesn’t stop it from being a real life problem that real life women face every single day.