Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The sex appeal of brainy women

This is yesterday's news (last week's news, actually), but perhaps you haven't heard the story about the Delta Zeta sorority at DePauw University, in Indiana. A review conducted by the sorority's central organization found that 23 of the 35 sisters were insufficiently committed to recruitement, and they were purged from the organization. Coincidentally, those 23 included all the overweight and non-white members. Half of the 12 white and thin survivors were so outraged that they quit. The NYT article has more on the story. (Inlcuding the story of a recruiting event in which thin white sisters were bused in from another university.)

Although the writer means well, the article itself rubs me the wrong way in a couple of places. For example, I can't even begin to count the ways the following paragraph is wrong:
Despite those incidents, the chapter appears to have been home to a diverse community over the years, partly because it has attracted brainy women, including many science and math majors, as well as talented disabled women, without focusing as exclusively as some sororities on potential recruits’ sex appeal.

And then
“I had a sister I could go to a bar with if I had boy problems,” said Erin Swisshelm, a junior biochemistry major who withdrew from the sorority in October. “I had a sister I could talk about religion with. I had a sister I could be nerdy about science with.”

Because, see, what would those nerdy, unappealing, math and science majors have to say about boy problems, or what would possess them to go to a bar?

And this is in an article that decries stereotypes about women.