I am a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I crossed in November 1996 through the Rho Rho Chapter of the University of Richmond. I treasure my membership and affiliation with my Sorority and the relationships I share with my Sorors. I’ve written about it on this blog (read HERE) — and the post remains one of the most popular ever.
I also love reality television. Judge me if you want to — but I am completely entertained by the drama. All the Real Housewives, all the Love & Hip Hops … I watch them all. Sorrynotsorry.
When I heard VH1 was going to feature members of Delta and the other historically Black sororities on their new reality show Sorority Sisters, I was nervous and very skeptical about it. The idea of seeing women on one of these shows as if they represent my Sorority and all of its members just did not sit right with me … Membership in any Greek Letter organization is built on traditions that aren’t for the public at large to see or know about. How would this work in the reality TV space? MTV tried it years ago (yep, they did. And I watched! My love of reality TV drama goes back over 20 years) — and it was pretty much a disaster. How would VH1 do it differently or better? It was hard to be hopeful looking at their roster of shows like Mob Wives, Basketball Wives and who can ever forget the Flavor of Love series …
Still, I decided to give the show a fair chance so I watched the premiere episode … It was as bad if not worse than I thought it would. I texted and chatted with my own Sorority sisters throughout the airing the horror of it — and I vowed that would be my first and only time watching the show.
I’ve kept that vow.
Almost immediately after the first show, I began seeing petitions and calls for boycott and directives from Sorority headquarters about the show … Just as quickly, I began seeing posts asking why the sororities and the members were so upset about the show. Had it struck a nerve because it was too close to the truth? Why care about this show and not the others?
When I examined my own feelings and reasons for being upset about the show, the reasons spoke back to me in my inner HR voice.
Whether it is the Sorority you joined or the Company you work for, you don’t get to speak or act on behalf of an organization you’re a part of without their permission. If you ignore this and act anyway, you will face scrutiny, consequences and repercussions.
Every day, HR deals with employees who behave badly while representing the organization. People say and do all kinds of inappropriate, rude things to each other at work. Social media and other interactions outside office hours just add to the possibilities for things going awry — not just for managers but for all employees … When this happens, the organization and the other members of it get to feel some kind of way about it. And the organization can take punitive or corrective action as a result. In most cases, it will because the organization has to protect its brand reputation and to mitigate liability.
That’s my issue with with the show Sorority Sisters … If people want to be an amplified, exaggerated version of themselves on television or social media, I don’t really care. I think it is a bad idea and a super wack way to be — but whatevs. I can watch/follow or I can turn the channel/unfollow if it doesn’t entertain me … However, when you go on television or social media and claim to represent an organization, you will come under much more scrutiny and you may face negative consequences that you didn’t want, anticipate or bargain for.
In the case of Sorority Sisters, several of the women who appear on the show have been suspended from active membership by their organizations. The #BoycottSororitySisters movement has caused many sponsors to pull out of the show. If the show survives to a 2nd season, I would be really shocked … And I hope everyone learns lessons and has productive dialogue about 1) what really makes for good television, 2) what organizations can/cannot regulate with their members and 3) the undeniable power of unity in the Black community toward a single goal.
If not, stay tuned because I’m not quite done talking on these topics. Boom.
In closing, I want to wish a Happy 102nd Founders Day to all my Sorors of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc … May our history and legacy of scholarship, sisterhood or service continue and strengthen.