Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sorority Life on Facebook and the construction of female friendships

If you're a twentysomething lady on Facebook, you've probably seen your friends playing "Sorority Life". I ignored the Paris-Hilton looking application for weeks and months until, in a weak moment, I signed up and made an avatar. I was suspicious at first, but at first glance it was innocuous enough. You make friends, socialize, etc - all of the superficial purposes of a sorority.

But then I went to the main page. Right up top, guess what's emphasized:

Yup. Consume, consume, consume. College campuses are about buying and style. Learning is not mentioned.

You show affection for your friends through Farrah Feathered Hairstyles, perfume, and ugly trendy bags.

All of the social events and ideas of social standing are based on how much "glam" you have. Guess what glam is?

If you guessed "traditional/stereotypical markers of femininity that inevitably costs money", you get a cookie! Spend, spend, spend, ladies. Having an iPod is the only way you can socialize:

You are overseen by a House Mom, who gives you Brownie Points that are somehow different from other forms of cash. Though they're apparently equal to actual cash:

The application's construction of female friendships and interactions is just as disturbing. How do you climb socially?

Attack other women. Duh.

And how are the winners of these fights chosen?

Whose friends have the most material goods. Duh.

There are a couple of good points. You have to have a job, and there's a bank you can put money into (though it's difficult to use and there doesn't seem to be any purpose for that facet). There’s an emphasis on confidence, but it’s mainly used to attack other women. But everything, even social events, are not based around female friendship. They're about fighting sisters and using other women as status markers - it's not the quality of your relationships, but the quantity. You don't interact with your friends in a meaningful way, but use them to get material goods.

I was in a sort of sorority in college, and I loved having a woman-focused atmosphere. I'm not willing to write sororities off completely. But this isn't the direction they need to go. "Sorority Life" is a sick way to socialize women into believing they need more, more, more to have friends and have fun.

What's something on Facebook you object to? How do you feel about sororities?


  1. Ugh, that's all I can muster.

    I feel like my entire college experience was like a Sorority in a way, but certainly nothing like that.

    I think that things like that application are reasons why women are in constant competition, and why some of those things, while over generalized, seem true sometimes (self worth based on material posessions, rivalries, etc.) BECAUSE we trivialize this stuff, because someone could say "Oh you're reading a lot into a facebook game," that's what makes it so bad I think. Because it's made into a joke, basically.

    Every time I walk around Target and see the giant display of "Clique" books and their knockoffs, I am further saddened by this new wave of I guess clique/sorority culture.

    I am not sure if I'm making sense. Bottom line: that disgusts me, much like most facebook applications. I went on a defriending spree the other day when I had like 50 vampire bites or something from people I barely knew.

  2. I was unaware of this application until about a week ago when an ad popped up on my Facebook page. The ad was a picture of a shoe (a really ugly Barbie-like shoe, actually) saying "Play Sorority Life! It's the game with the hottest shoes around!"

    So I naturally clicked on it because I was intrigued by the advertisement focusing on shoes when that's not really what I think about when I think sorority. I didn't sign up for it, but even from the page advertising it, I could tell it was along the lines of what you just described.

    The sororities at my college were not necessarily "normal," but they were definitely not like this. And even my friends who were in sororities at bigger universities did not have this kind of experience.

    Like the commenter above, I think a lot of people might say "you are reading too much into the game." But that kind of statement really bothers me and also shows me the importance of analyzing these kinds of thing. If people don't realize what things like Sorority Life say about women and women's relationships, it says something about society and about the people who criticize the people who are actually trying to make a difference.

    But I completely agree with everything you said. I was actually thinking of writing a post about the game as well. Sorry for rambling...

  3. I actually haven't seen the application yet, but it sounds pretty disgusting. All we need is for high school girls to play it and think that what's in the game is actually normal college behavior.

  4. WTE... Like Okay You Guys Have Great Points But This Is Just A Game! Once I get Done Playing Its Over And Its Real World Time I Dont Even Think Twice Of The Glam Or The Consuming(Something You Should Do To). Its Something We Do And Can Imagine, With Out Being Ridiculed For It...And Apparently Someone's Been Watching The "Stuff" Video Which has Great Information But Com'on.. It's Just A Little Play Time For Women Like Me.

  5. Hey Ladies!

    It it just like any other Role Playing game for "Guys".

    Instead of Swords you have handbags...the same structure.

    And it is just a game encouraging women to have a bit of fun, and you can perfectly play this game without using your real VISA card.

    Women spend far too much time being correct, holding back, please, stress about not hurting others or care what people will think.

    I play the game and even though I will never own a Louis Vuitton bag it is fun to have three in the game. And I am actually meeting real women and getting new real friends. Have a nice day and thanks for an interesting blog. Keep it up!

  6. It's a savage game, very shallow. It comes from a standard format of facebook game adapted to fit yet another theme. Well that isn't strictly true, as this type of game goes, it has a much greater variety of play. Having something besides money and experience to aim for, in the form of different clothes, and a less straight forward method to getting them, makes the game a lot more interesting than most.

    You may or may not be suprised to hear though, that I've been attacked far more constantly than on any of the other games. Like players really think attacking each other for social standing is acceptable? That said, it is just a game function and only mirrors an exagerated stereotypical theme, despite the damage the realities cause.

    Lastly, just to correct some facts, the banks in these games are used to hide your money from attackers, and requiring an iPod is only the case in specific "socializing" events, as most events require a se of different items.

  7. Wow, it is just a game! I mean, I tend to analyze things way too much, but this is just ridiculous. I am 20, in college, and in no way do I think, oh I should go join a sorority so I can fight people in real life! Come on! My friend and I play when we are bored and there is absolutely nothing else to do; we are in a little friendly competition. I just don't think anyone who plays the game really, really thinks that it resembles real life. My bf has the mafia wars app on his iphone and he plays it when he is bored at work. I'm quite sure it doesn't make him think, oh I should be manly and go kill people for money!

  8. I actually play the game because i find it a little humourous, though there are way to many people on there who clearly take it way too seriously. This blog post - to me - represents what is wrong with post-feminism and its associated ramblings.

    So many feminists and post-feminists alike assume that women should take themselves seriously, should reject the stereotypes, not be sexy - basically not celebrating womanhood. Now. I'm not saying thats what this game does. not at all. however, you seem (notice my qualifier) to be using it as an excuse for some post-feminist ramblings of your own.

    The game in itself is harmless - It is a little bit of roleplaying. sure, you will get those tools out there who take things too seriously, but to way over-intellectualise it? come on. I'm going to go out and say it is a game, and you have taken it too seriously. As someone who studies feminist and post-feminist art and writings in depth (no, not for fun. for my thesis). Saying this game is harmful is like blaming all videogames and rock music for violent crimes.

    But then, i respect everyones right to an opinion. as long as they respect mine. Have an awesome one.


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