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Review: Pledged

October 27, 2015


Alexandra Robbins followed four sorority members for an academic year to see what the organizations are really like.  She chose two juniors and two sophomores with “diverse attitudes toward and roles in their sororities.”  Robbins wrote about her experience in Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities in 2004 and a version of the book with new a new preface, afterward, and updates was published in 2015.

I’m not sure if it was the time or the place, but I never belonged to a sorority.  I was certainly aware of them but they weren’t an important part of campus life when I was in college so I never gave them much thought.  It’s just as well because my family couldn’t have afforded it anyway.  As an adult, I lived in a small southern town and was amazed at how important sororities were to women my age and that made me curious.

Robbins follows sorority members throughout the year so readers get a glimpse of everything from rush to graduation.  Sororities are supposed to be founded on scholarship, leadership, service, and sisterhood but that didn’t always seem to be the case.

Some of the things she writes about have been in the news so they weren’t all that surprising but I did find some other things disturbing.  The sororities seem to place a great emphasis on looks rather than diversity or achievements and also encourage some risky behaviors.  I was surprised at how cruel some of the girls were to their “sisters.”   There was little service by the girls Robbins followed – they had one small fundraiser for a charity but never gave of themselves.

As I read Pledged, though, I did have to wonder how much of the behavior Robbins related was due to sorority membership and how much was due to being young and away from home for the first time.  Many college students, not just sorority members, make some poor decisions but this passage made me think the Greek system encourages more of it:

Research has linked Greeks to higher occurrences of binge drinking and academic cheating and weaker levels of “principled moral reasoning.” Further, a 2003 Penn State survey disclosed that students who belong to social fraternities and sororities are more likely to encounter “problem behaviors,” including being assaulted or humiliated, engaging in serious argument or quarrel, or experiencing unwanted sexual advances.”

Robbins followed up with the four members a year later and ten years later.  One member has disaffiliated from her sorority but the rest said it was a good experience that they would do again.  Robbins thinks it’s time to reform sororities because, according to her, they

are not service groups, they are not organizations based on intellectual development, and they are not vehicles of women’s empowerment.  They are, purely and simply, social groups.

In the end, I found Pledged interesting and marked several passages but the book grew redundant after a while.  Robbins has done her homework on the subject and provides extensive end notes but it did seem like she had an axe to grind at times.  Still, if you’re at all interested in sororities, you’ll want to read this book!

Review copy provided by Hachette Books. I am an Indiebound Affiliate.


17 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2015 4:59 am

    Being part of a social group like a sorority would be beneficial I guess for timid girls entering college, but it looks like this is just one of those cool-girl clubs rather than anything else.

  2. October 27, 2015 6:40 am

    I agree with Nish!

  3. October 27, 2015 7:38 am

    I agree. I’ve heard of horrible and/or humiliating things happening to and being done to sorority sisters. Not something I’d have ever been interested in.

  4. October 27, 2015 7:51 am

    I didn’t even know what a sorority was till I read your review. Still don’t get it!!

  5. bookingmama permalink
    October 27, 2015 8:02 am

    I wasn’t sorority material either. There were some really good ones at my college but there were also some interesting pledge criteria that made me cringe.

  6. October 27, 2015 9:24 am

    Interesting concept. I was never into fraternities. And actually don’t know if I had any friends who were either. That’s probably no coincidence.

  7. Patty permalink
    October 27, 2015 11:19 am

    This sounds interesting…I have come to love certain fact finding books!

  8. October 27, 2015 1:38 pm

    At my college, a small religious-affiliated school, we had ‘clubs’, which were basically sororities. I joined one as a sophomore because my roommate did and her sister was in it. I found it good in some ways, but way too much pressure. After a while, I de-pledged (dropped out of it) before the end of the semester. Too much was expected of us and I was already working and trying to study and had a boyfriend (my husband) at home. My husband was completely not interested in fraternities and so the whole ‘club’/Greek system moved out of our lives. Our daughter was also not interested when she was in college, but our son-in-law was part of one. And he is probably one of the most anti-social types I’ve ever known. Go figure. LOL

    This book does sound interesting.

  9. October 27, 2015 2:54 pm

    I was a member of a professional “fraternity”… all women, but because it was professional, they couldn’t call it a sorority. The greek scene was not big at my school. My social life revolved around my brother’s fraternity in a neighboring town. Not sure much of what happened back then would fly today…

    This book sounds really interesting. Hope my library has a copy.

  10. October 27, 2015 3:08 pm

    I am morbidly fascinated with sororities. There is a TV show called Greeks that I loved watching. Still, at the end of the day, I wish sororities didn’t exist. They seem to be a positive experience only for the very popular and very good-looking girls. Like you said, there is no diversity or any emphasis on community involvement or intellectualism.

    I will have to pick this book. It will be nice to read some facts.

  11. October 27, 2015 3:14 pm

    I never joined either and I had no idea that they were so popular really until other people talked about them after I graduated.

  12. October 27, 2015 6:14 pm

    Hi Kathy,

    As with all things US centric, we here in Britain play catch-up after a while. Sororities and fraternities are a relatively new concept and are being introduced slowly at some of the more elite universities, although they are meeting with a mixed response from the students.

    Not a subject which would inspire the need for a whole book though, surely? I can see why you might have become slightly immune to it after a while.


  13. October 27, 2015 8:10 pm

    This certainly sounds intriguing.

  14. Literary Feline permalink
    October 27, 2015 11:19 pm

    I don’t believe there were any sororities at the university I went to. It was such a small university. I have never really cared much for the idea of sororites or fraternities, although I do know a couple of people who belong to them, and would recommend them highly. It’s just never been my thing.

  15. October 28, 2015 9:07 am

    It seems like the University/College experience is different in Canada. Glad you enjoyed some parts of it.

  16. October 29, 2015 11:33 am

    I was never interested in joining a sorority but this does sound like a fascinating read.

  17. November 6, 2015 9:18 pm

    Never interested in joining, and dated a few fraternity members that didn’t change my mind 😉

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