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GETTING A MAN OR GETTING AHEAD:A Comparison of White and Black Sororities

Journal of Contemporary Ethnography , Volume 27 (4): 530 – Jan 1, 1999


Sage Publications
Copyright © 1999 by SAGE Publications
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GETTING A MAN OR GETTING AHEAD:A Comparison of White and Black Sororities


In-depth interviews with thirteen white and thirteen black sorority members at two college campuses show that white sororities encourage romantic pairings (“getting a man”) evidenced by their extensive social affairs and formal recognitions for women who achieve relationship milestones, while black sororities focus on careers and community service (“getting ahead”) evidenced by their reliance on sorority alumnae for career networking and by their extensive involvement in community service. The authors argue that the key to understanding the variation lies in the different histories and current structural positions of the groups. For black sororities, historic images of strong, independent black women and the modern reality of black female marriage and poverty rates have shaped the sorority structure. White sororities have emphasized finding a man as a source of support, an orientation at odds both with a modern reality that dictates labor force participation for all women and with members' career aspirations.
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