We spend time telling the potential new members what Alpha Gamma Delta means to us, how it has made us better women and the ways in which we are looking forward to welcoming them home. We share our Purpose with them, invite them to listen to our songs and open our hearts to tell them how we know they would make amazing members of our organization.
Then bid night hits. And from them on, we knowingly refer to these women, these new members, these now sisters we've worked so hard to recruit - as babies.
It just doesn't match up.
Think about what comes to your mind when you hear the word "baby" - an infant who can't walk or feed herself; a life so young she is unable to make her own choices and instead needs us to make her every decision; a child so small and unaware, she has no responsibilities and can have no expectations put on her behavior. The term "baby," even when used in a connotation of love, joy and family, doesn't accurately communicate the commitment that comes with membership in our, or any, organization. How can a baby contribute to our sisterhood in the ways we expect her to? How can a baby make smart, healthy choices in her life? How can a baby manage school, work and Alpha Gamma Delta among all her priorities and activities? How can we bring these new members in as a babies, give those babies "mommies" to take care of them and then wonder why some of them don't come to meetings, aren't active in committees and become disengaged members?
We cannot set expectations of our members that we do not first articulate to them. When we teach our new members to be babies, we have not taught them what it means to be fully engaged, committed, dedicated women of Alpha Gamma Delta.
That's the meaning behind our sister-daughter, sister-mother language - not that there would be babies and mommies, but that there would be sisters who care for one another, challenge one another and build one another up. Sister-mothers are expected to be role models, providing guidance and support for their sister-daughters, not babying them.
The terms "babies," or "baby squirrels," have been used to welcome new members into our sisterhood for years. And even when said with all the love and admiration in the world, it still sends the wrong message—a message to them and to the world that we think they are inadequate of making their own choices or offering anything substantial to the chapter. It just doesn't match up with the experience a women's fraternity provides these new members or with what we said our Purpose is, what our sisterhood will be for them and who we expect them to be for the sisterhood.
There's been a recent movement taking our organizations by storm, encouraging women to eliminate their use of the term "baby" when describing 20-somethings and instead replace it with its more suited counterpart, "woman." This change in vocabulary is powerful. It's powerful and it's transformative, and it's a movement Alpha Gamma Delta wants to be a part of.
Alpha Gamma Delta is not an organization made up of girls. We are not an organization made up of babies that then grow up, just to be girls. We are women. We are proud, purposeful women. We are women who strive to make healthy and responsible life choices, who hold ourselves and our sisters accountable. We are women who understand the commitment, expectations and responsibilities that come with wearing our letters and are honored to represent those letters and all they symbolize.
We believe in this generation, in our generation, in a generation of women who are strong, ambitious, talented, bold, vocal and passionate. It's an honor to be a part of this women's Fraternity, of the fraternal movement in general, because of the power it has to transform women into the full, abundant individuals they were created to be. Just as founder Ethel Brown Distin once said, "My faith is in this generation. Through storm and sunshine, war and peace to come, I know Alpha Gamma Delta's ideals are safe in your keeping."
We believe in this generation and the women with which the ideals of Alpha Gamma Delta have been entrusted. We must claim that honor, that responsibility, and work to truly shape ourselves and our sisters into who they are - women of Alpha Gamma Delta. And we must start by calling them that.
So welcome your new members as the incredible, capable, powerful, purposeful women that they are. Help them share their brilliance and passion with Alpha Gamma Delta, and allow her to do the same for them. Because THIS shall be our purpose, that those who know us "may esteem Alpha Gamma Delta for her attainments, revere her for her purposes and love her for her womanhood."
If you haven't yet, take a look at the Reclaiming Womanhood member development program, which is required for collegiate chapters as part of the Living a Lifetime of Purpose: Fraternity Wellness series. The facilitator guide is available to all members for free download in the Member Development Programs section of the Idea Center of myAlphaGam.