A new study just published in the journal Sex Roles has found that college women who join a sorority are more judgmental of their bodies and display more eating-disordered behaviors than women who don't join sororities.
Ashley Marie Rolnik completed her senior honors thesis on the topic. She surveyed 127 first-year college women aged 17 to 20 at a U.S. midwestern university and found that "levels of self-objectification and disordered eating behavior were higher among rush participants than among women who did not take part...a month after the rush, new members also displayed higher levels of body shame."
Does this really surprise any woman?
Please don't accuse me of bashing sororities because that's not at all what I mean. But I've yet to meet an adult woman who can't tell you her own story of "body pressures" she's faced in a group situation. Here are just a few examples:
Women can be really hard on each other, sometimes on purpose and sometimes unintentionally. In some group situations, there's almost an "attractiveness" pecking order. It's felt most at times when conformity is important: In middle school, when joining a sorority and sometimes even at the monthly PTO meeting. Our perception of how we "measure up" to our peers matters. It affects what we say and do, and our role in the group. Consider this tidbit from the study's findings: "Those women with higher body weights were more likely to drop out of the rush process and feel dissatisfied with it, even though those who dropped out were not overweight but simply less thin than those who joined the sorority."
As moms, it's all too easy to tell our daughters that real friends don't judge us based on what we look like. But do you believe that when you're 13 and trying to fit in? Do you believe it when you're 18 and trying to become part of a sisterhood?
What can we do? First and foremost, we can listen. We can acknowledge the pressures that girls feel in these situations. And we can work hard at building our daughters' self-confidence and being that "safe place" where they're loved unconditionally.
A few other ways to lessen peer group pressure: