The Phoenix, November 3, 2011
As members of two women’s groups on campus, Grapevine and Rugby, we would like to respond to this question: there are a huge number of spaces and groups on campus that create communities for women. From sports teams (Rugby, Warmothers, every varsity team) to a cappella groups (Grapevine), to academic clubs (SWE and WICS) and charity organizations (LaSS), Swarthmore offers many spaces where women can come together around a common interest. The WRC provides a safe space for female-identifiers to congregate, and it is an excellent resource for these organizations. For those seeking female community and companionship, there are many opportunities.
We both recognize the importance of women’s communities on campus – our time at Swarthmore has been profoundly shaped by them. Personally, I (Joan) can’t imagine life at Swat without my girls. No matter how life beats me down, be it a hard tackle or a bad test, my girls pick me up and push me back into the game. The women on the Rugby team are some of the strongest people I’ve met, and I am inspired by them daily. And for me (Emma), Grapevine has been a space for me to be my craziest, truest self, to let my hair down, to share my love of singing, to talk way too openly and too often about menstruation, and to feel universally embraced (<3 <3 <3 youz!). Women’s groups have helped us carve out our own identities at Swarthmore, and we are so grateful for them.
So although we recognize the positive potential of a sorority as an intentionally all-female community, we are wary. Historically, sororities have predominantly been racially and religiously exclusive, and many continue to police women’s gender and sexual expression through the idiom of sisterhood. In a twisted way, many have worked against feminism and women’s empowerment even as they seek to create community for (white) (straight) (thin) women. The women’s groups that we are a part of are strong, supportive and wonderful because of the diversity of backgrounds, bodies, experiences, sexualities, and beliefs they encompass. As such, we would like to ask those proposing a sorority whether or how they plan to foster diversity in their group. Beyond simple statements and politically correct language in the charter, we would like to see a concrete design that will eliminate what has so often been structurally integral to sorority life on other campuses.
Joan O’Bryan ’13 is the Swarthmore Rugby backs captain.
Emma Thomas ’13 is a member of Grapevine, the women’s a capella group at Swarthmore.