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I am a staunch feminist and a passionate supporter of women’s rights. And I am a member of a National Panhellenic Conference sorority.

These statements used to be contradictory. In the past, there was the idea that women just joined sororities to find a husband and become a wife and mother. But now that millennial women are rushing in large numbers, the system is being changed drastically from the inside. A New York Times article even looked into the changing climate of sororities at Columbia University and found that they look very different today than the sororities our mothers and grandmothers knew.

Sororities were founded upon feminist ideals before modern feminism as we know it was a thing. Women had to fight to make their voices heard in college, and they formed sororities in order to support each other and to help each other achieve their academic goals.

Now sororities are starting to look like the organizations the founders had in mind.

A question that I had going into recruitment was, “Can I be both a feminist and a Panhellenic woman?” Could I embrace the ideals of feminism while going on socials with fraternities and supporting my sisters who are running for sweetheart competitions?

The answer is yes. Yes, you can. In my chapter, we fully embrace and support each other as women. We put our emphasis less on our physical appearance and more on doing amazing things for our community through our own philanthropy and our participation in other philanthropies. My sorority coordinated this year to raise more than $50,000 for Knight-Thon.

Sororities are run entirely by women. Before I rushed and joined my sorority, I had never seen so many smart and powerful women work so well together. Our weekly chapter meetings are run like business meetings. We have weekly study sessions and form study groups with other sorority sisters who are taking classes with us or who are in our major. After you graduate from college, sorority sisters help you gain employment and can connect you with people who can help you achieve your career goals.

After I rushed in the spring at UCF, I found the strong feminine support system I had always looked for. We lift each other up and offer not only academic support but emotional support as well. Our letters unite us, and we all work toward the same goals. Wearing the same letters and being in the same chapter unites you in an indescribable way.

The Panhellenic Council is a governing organization that oversees all 12 Panhellenic sororities at UCF. There are weekly meetings with the Panhellenic Council executive board, which comprises girls from different chapters who work toward making sororities at UCF the best they can be. This year, I was a Junior Panhellenic Representative and worked on multiple projects, such as volunteering and reviewing legislation.

Yes, Panhellenic sororities are not the same sororities that your mother knew. And maybe that’s for the best.

There are certainly parts of sorority life that can be improved upon, and it’s far from perfect. However, when done right, sororities can be truly feminist. The emphasis should not be on on partying or drinking. The emphasis should not be finding a man. The focus should be on what you learn in class and not how you look in class.

When main focus is on building friendships and support systems, that’s when sororities and the women in them become truly powerful.

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Jillian James is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at JillianJ@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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