It catches you off-guard sometimes. Like when you’re buzzed, nursing a beer on the balcony of some frat and your special dinner date asks:
“So what’s it like hanging out with Asian girls all the time?”
“Bet you guys don’t know how to drink like this, do you.”
And my personal favorite:
“So what, you guys only pair up with other Asian frats?”
Microaggressions or not, I’ll admit these are fair questions to the casual observer. Telling anyone I’m a member of one of Stanford’s Asian-interest sororities is bound to—if not raise eyebrows—cause eyes to widen and heads to nod vigorously, understandingly, with just the tiniest bit of veiled condescension:
“Oh, yes! That’s…cool.”
And maybe it’s my fault, for feeling the need to qualify “My sorority? I’m in Sigma Psi Zeta.” with “…it’s one of the Asian-interest sororities” every time. As with any other organization that holds ethnicity or culture as a common ground, there’s bound to be a few surrounding misconceptions, stereotypes and stigmas. While I can’t claim this piece will disabuse you of these notions (I’m on a deadline and that’d be too much work), I can share my thought process and a few of the perks in choosing to join an Asian-interest sorority over a “regular” one.
In any given year, Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Inc. averages about 25 active members, with a new intake class of 11 every spring. Compared to the typical 30-40 girls an ISC sorority takes in during recruitment, that’s tiny. But as any girl who’s stood in heels and had to shout small talk over hundreds of other voices during ISC Rush will tell you, the sheer size and anonymity of the process is nothing if not intimidating, overwhelming and exhausting. While I imagine that most girls who make it through that gauntlet are happy in whatever sorority they end up in, I’ve heard horror stories of girls not being able to put names to faces of sisters in their own year.
SYZ’s intimate size was a strong part of its appeal to me. Every sister knows almost every sister perhaps a little better than she’d like to, but that’s exactly the right amount of knowing that makes for a genuinely-tight, close-knit community. I room with an SYZ, I see SYZsters (sorry not sorry) every day, and I always, always always know there is someone to call, someone to talk to and someone I can ask for help from if I need it.
Room for Leadership
A smaller organization means that most girls will hold some sort of officer position at some point in their undergrad experience, and taking on leadership roles in SYZ has been one of the most formative experiences I’ve had at Stanford. As a past rush chair, philanthropy chair and president, it has been incredibly rewarding to initiate events, pull the house together and see them come to fruition. I would not have had half the capability and confidence I’d have had today if not for the experiences of planning a rush, domestic violence awareness week or even just running weekly chapter meetings. It’s also been amazing to see younger, perhaps less-assertive girls pushed into positions where they’re forced to grow and, eventually, find their own voice.
So what does being Asian-interest mean?
It means nothing, except that our ancestors at one point or another came from Asia. The fact is, Sigma Psi Zeta is incredibly diverse both nationally, with sisters coming from all over the world and the United States, but personality-wise as well. Maybe some of us like to pole dance, and maybe some of us are black belts in karate. Some of us wear dresses every day, and some of us have worn only black since the seventh grade. Yes, some of us like boba, and some like K-pop, but don’t for a second think that being Asian defines everything about us, or even that you can define “being Asian” in one way.
The fact is, you join a sorority because you like the people. Asian-interest or not, I chose Sigma Psi Zeta because I believed the girls to be polished, pulled-together, friendly, genuine, kind, fascinating, accomplished and beautiful—every one of them.
I’m biased, I know. Most Greeks are about their own organizations. This stems from the fact that joining any fraternity or sorority—let alone building the bonds that allow us to call each other brothers or sisters—takes a huge amount of time and effort.
I do firmly believe, however, that no one sorority is objectively and definitively better than the other. We all have our philanthropies, our mixers, our retreats and our formals. We have our inside jokes, connected and supportive networks and amazing alumnae. We all lay claim to the tightest bonds and the closest-knit sisterhood. Ultimately, however, it’s a matter of choosing the sorority whose members you both admire and connect with best. Large or small, ISC or MGC, you’re choosing to spend the next four years with these people—make damn sure you’re proud to call them sisters.
Class of 2014
Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Inc.