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Fraternity Blog

Posted On: Thursday, August 22, 2013 08:22 AM, by Maggie McKenny Harris
We're so excited to add these new members to our chapters. Let's welcome them with enthusiasm and respect!
A trend has surfaced across many Panhellenic organizations (including Kappa Alpha Theta) where chapter members are referring to new members as "babies." While yes, babies are new, amazing, and loved—and I am certain that is the intention with which the term is most often used—the term in reference to our new members is not appropriate.

Unfortunately, this trend has moved beyond a term of endearment to a classification that, in a growing number of cases, has led to inappropriate social events and inferior treatment. It has drawn the concern of our community friends and partners as well as within our own sisterhood. Sometimes innocent intentions, traditions, and words turn into something they were never intended to be and we must address it. Greek life is meant to elevate women and encourage and highlight women's leadership. As such, Greek women should be part of an effort to honor women - not babies. We can contribute to this by ending the "Baby Talk."

Kappa Alpha Theta is about meeting the higher and broader demands of mature life, and calling our members "babies" seems in direct contradiction to that. Additionally, the "baby" term is particularly misaligned with our position as Leading Women. Our new members come into our sisterhood with a history of social, intellectual, and moral excellence that inspired us to invite them into membership to begin with. Not a lot is expected of a baby because they are not capable of doing much for themselves. Defining a group of young women (who have made a very adult commitment by becoming new members) with a word that is synonymous with being childish, infantile, or less mature is an outdated and inappropriate classification.

While I know the term is likely not meant in a derogatory way, it is our responsibility to consider:

  • How a term could make a new member feel: Regardless of good intentions, calling someone a baby could easily make someone feel like they are not an equal, are of lower classification, are inferior or that they have to "grow up" in order to qualify as a member.

  • How a term is perceived by people that are not our members: Administrators, Greek life advisors, parents, teachers, employers, and community members are not terribly impressed by organizations that classify their members as "babies." What kind of credibility is taken away from the Greek experience when women who are supposedly becoming leaders are instead being referenced in this way?

  • How a term can set expectations: Let's not set low expectations by referring to new members as something that they are not - "babies". The joy, hope, and excitement of welcoming our new members can be enthusiastically present without special terminology. We can show members love, support, and trust by referring to them in a way which honors who they are and who they can be. Our members, new or initiated, are Leading Women.

We have a responsibility to represent our organization in the finest light. As such, please help chapter members to stop referring to a group of bright, promising women as "babies." This means not just in our speech and chapter terminology, but for events (Theta "Baby Shower" events), in new member gifts (baby bottles and bibs and rattles), and on all forms of social media.

Consider whether or not our own forward-thinking, equality-minded, tenacious, brave, and noble Bettie Locke would have welcomed new members by referring to them in this way. It is just not a fair representation of our bright, dedicated, accomplished members.

Please continue to joyfully, enthusiastically, and lovingly welcome our new members and make them feel proud of their membership - as women.

Maggie McKenny Harris, Gamma/Butler, is a former college district director in District IX and is serving as the leadership development committee chair for the Fraternity. She is a charter Life Loyal member.

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