Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Thoughts On The JL, From A Former Sorority Girl

This year, I've decided to be part of the JL. I received an invitation last year, but declined. It was my first year out of college and I had a lot going on in my life that I didn't feel I could join and be a successful member. However this year I was excited to jump into the JL full force and felt the time was great. I had already read all about the JL and it was largely parallel with my college sorority, so I was excited to be involved with the organization.

There were many reasons I wanted to join the JL:

  • First, the mission and purpose of the JL is to serve the community. I've been very involved with non-profit organizations and with volunteer work for most of my life. I became more involved in high school thru service and scholastic organizations as a member and later in leadership roles, including president. In college I was very active in community organizations and activities thru different organizations, but most notably, my sorority. I held many leadership roles and won a number of service awards for my volunteer hours and achievement. Being part of the JL is a way to continue to serve in my community with my peers.
  • Second, to meet other women who share my same interests. Everyone in the JL obviously has one thing in common: volunteering and service. I thought it would be a great way to meet some other ladies and make friends.
  • Third, networking. Do you realize there are more than one thousand JL members in My Town alone? Networking with ladies who are in my field and share my interests could really help me with job opportunities and career advancement.
  • Fourth, a connection if/when J and I move. Most major cities have the JL and membership transfer is relatively simple. So, if and when J and I move, I will automatically have a group I can be part of to meet other ladies in our new community.

I did my contract signing to be a provisional member in May. I had a provisional training and leadership retreat in August, and last night was the first official general membership meeting. I've been having quite a great deal of mixed feelings on the JL since the retreat. Some things that were said by a few of the officers who spoke were very rude and stereotypical.

First of all, a lady noted that being a member of the JL is the next logical step from the sorority house. She quickly followed up with "of course being in a sorority is not a requirement for membership." However, by throwing that statement out there I think she stereotyped most women in the room, and perhaps snubbed those who were not "sorority girls." I was in a sorority and loved it. It was a great experience and I met some of the best friend in the world that way. It seems that most women who are interested in the activities that organizations such as the JL have to offer are the well-rounded sorority girl types. However, that isn't the case for all and for a member in a leadership role to make that statement struck me as very unprofessional and rude.

Second, there were several comments made that stereotyped JL members as being wealthy and spoiled. Comments ranged from alluding that everyone drove a Mercedes Benz or an Escalade to being in "the West (My Town) bubble." I live in West (My Town), and that comment upset me. There are very nice neighborhoods in all parts of My Town. Yes, some areas are noted for the crime, drugs, and other such problems. However, the JL is for the entire community. Not just the desirable west end. As for the cars? Yes, there were plenty of luxury vehicles in the parking lot. There were also plenty of minivans and modest family sedans (and my little 2 door coupe!).

On the upside, the first thing mentioned that day was the mission and purpose of the JL. One of the speakers began by saying "Which JL are you here for?" Noting that if you were there for tennis, lunch, and manicures, you were in the wrong place, but that's how the majority of the community will stereotype you. This is true--the JL is perceived as being an organization of upper class women with fancy cars, designer handbags, and a country club membership. However, the things she said (noted above) rather alluded to that image, even if she said them trying to be humorous. After that she noted what this JL does and what our mission, purpose, and role in our community is. The JL is a great community organization that helps so many community groups and supports several activities. Sadly, much of what the JL does goes unseen. Not that the JL is about notoriety for it's good works, but knowledge about the group could help to alleviate the stereotypes.

So I went to the meeting last night with hesitation and caution, hoping I'd come out with a better outlook on the year ahead of me. I'm still not sure how I feel. I arrived at 6 for the social which was quite surprising. First, I realize there has to be a social time to get everyone inside and organized. There is no way several hundred ladies can get to one place at the same time and park, prepare, and sign in for a productive meeting to begin on schedule. Having the social allows the women to arrive during a time frame so that the meeting can start promptly. I really like that!

In addition, there was quite an array of appetizers and hors d'oeuvres, including wine. Wow! What a nice treat! Now I know what my dues go for, I paid all of that money in college and we never had wine at meetings!

The meeting was very well organized, but a little lengthy. I was told they ususally don't last more than an hour, but given that last night was the first, there was more business to cover. The only part was the first reading of a bylaw change. When their was a question about what the bylaw was being changed from, no one could answer it. Now that would have never happened in GSS. (We may have discussed it and changed it to the point of beating a dead horse, but we would have known the changes!).

So here I am, not sure how I feel. I've met a lot of great girls who I believe will be fun to work with. Several have mentioned their displeasure with comments made at the retreat. I'm thinking in efforts to break the ice that perhaps some words came out wrong and things could be misconstrued.

I think a lot of my concerns are mostly with the fact that I have changed so much in the last few years. I've noticed that my personality is very different. I'm not nearly as outgoing as I once was, and on the contrary am actually quite timid in some situtations. I've become much more cautious and aware and thus often have a guard up. I think the comments made curbed my excitement, but I'm moving past them as faux pas and hoping the best is yet to come.

Next Tuesday evening is the first provisional community course and I actually am quite excited about it.

The very exciting part of the meeting was a speaker who was a leader in establishing the Women's Suffrage statue in Market Square--the first of it's kind. She gave a nice history of the Suffrage Movement which was quite interesting and entertaining. I plan on visiting the statue soon and viewing the exhibit.

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