Women in this generation face a unique struggle. With the prevalence of social media and the constant, unrealistic pressure to be perfect, an overwhelming sense of inadequacy naturally nests in the mind and the soul.
In the last week of March, Fraternity and Sorority Life’s Panhellenic Council gave these societal pressures a push back during their “Be Beautiful” campaign. The annual campaign encompasses a series of interactive events designed to empower and unite women on the JMU campus, specifically in the Greek community.
“I think some people get lost in the mix,” said Claire Murray, a junior health services administration major and member of the Panhellenic executive board. “[‘Be Beautiful’] is just such a great way to really empower women, build up their confidence, and make everyone feel like they’re sunshine.”
Posted at the TDU commons from Monday through Thursday, executive members of the inter-sorority organization encouraged passersby take polaroid photos, grab some free Greek life merch, and write empowering messages. A rainbow of sticky notes crowded the Panhel’s space on the commons with overwhelming encouragement addressed to friends and strangers alike.
“Even if you’re not a part of the Greek community and this stuff has no effect on you,” explained Panhellenic Council’s President-elect, sophomore marketing major Sarah McGrath, “the fact that you simply see it and maybe know a little bit about it can just be an uplifting thing for you and might change your outlook on a couple things.”
The campaign reached its peak during the Panhellenic Council’s Festival of Gratitude, a night when women from across the inter-sorority community gathered in the Memorial Hall auditorium to honor two sisters from each chapter for their standout qualities and memorable contributions. Decked out in florals and twinkle lights, the stage exuded love and celebration as sisters gave short, heartwarming speeches to celebrate their chosen member.
“It’s so special that the first few months of being in my sorority, I’m being honored,” said Alyssa LaForge, a freshman Health Sciences major and one of Sigma Kappa’s honorees. “I feel so loved.”
The Festival of Gratitude included a $3 cover charge for each attendee, and for a good cause. According to Meggie Baker, a junior and Panhellenic Council’s vice president of public relations, “Be Beautiful” is one of the biggest fundraising events of the year for Panhel’s primary philanthropy, First Step, a local organization that provides support for victims of domestic violence.
“The funds that we provide go toward helping domestic violence victims with financial needs or help in court,” said Baker. “Throughout the year, we’ll do different donation drives so we get feminine products or gift cards or housewarming gifts for when they’re able to have their own home.”
As a whole, the week-long “Be Beautiful” campaign served as a positive reminder that although impossible societal expectations pervade women at every turn, they don’t have to go it alone.
“That’s what your sisterhood is there for,” said Baker, “to help you with self-love and just to love each other and recognize the great things about each other.”