Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why Language is Important

Guest Blogger - Christi Mayer, National New Member Education Chairman

No one gets more excited about Delta Zeta new members than I do! I comb through Facebook and Twitter to share in the excitement of our chapters on Bid Day. I am truly a new member junkie!  Recently, I have noticed an increase in posts and tweets calling our new members “babies” and “baby turtles.” I am told that it is a term of endearment or a show of affection. I must admit that I do not understand.

We go through recruitment telling potential new members about all the wonderful ways that Delta Zeta will enrich their lives - friendship, leadership, personal growth. Being called a “baby” or a “baby turtle” is not an enriching experience. It is demoralizing. Our new members are away from home for the first time, trying to be young adults and here we are calling them “babies.” My seven year-old often reminds me that he isn’t a baby, he is a big boy. Women I advise remind me that they aren’t girls, they are women. So why is it OK that we call our new members “babies?” Had someone called me one of these names while I was pledging, I would have looked at her like she had three heads and wonder “what have I gotten myself into?” 

What do we hope to accomplish with these terms? Imagine what potential new members think when they hear this.  We tell them we are based on values and will enrich their lives, and then they hear us calling our new members “baby turtles” or “babies.” Our actions do not match our words. It is a complete contradiction. Which are they to believe?       

For decades women have been fighting against the use of pet names. Our grandmothers and mothers fought against being called pet names in social and professional settings – some having to make great sacrifices for equality. Our Founders fought against social norms. They went to college when it wasn’t popular and created an organization that has lasted over one hundred years. Why are we now trying to undo all their hard work? 
Above all else, these terms are classified as subtle hazing and are not officially recognized Delta Zeta terms. Subtle hazing is perhaps one of the most common and most emotionally damaging types of hazing that can occur. As you know, this week is National Hazing Prevention Week (September 19-23.) It is observed on campuses and within organizations every September and focuses our attention on the dangers of all forms of hazing. Let’s be an example in the interfraternal community and stop using these terms. Let’s help educate our Panhellenic sisters on why these terms are not appropriate for our new members.

I encourage you all to review the NationalPolicy Statements on DZ Metro in regards to hazing.  I would also like to remind all our chapters that the review of the National Policy Statements with the new members is a requirement for initiation. These policies should be read to your new members during their first new member meeting and are a part of the first session in the New Member Education Program on Enriching U.

The only way to discontinue the use of such terms is by educating our members on why language is important. The way we refer to our Delta Zeta new members sets the tone for their entire sorority experience. Our new members are not babies, they are not turtles. They are strong, talented, independent women who want to become Delta Zetas. Let’s live our values. Let’s strive to give all our new members an amazing and enriching experience! Let’s recognize the struggles the women before us faced and strive to build upon their success. We are women and we are Delta Zetas! If anyone can do it, we can!

No comments:

Post a Comment