In the United States only around 20 percent of students who study engineering are women. I am one of these women. In this male dominated field, it’s hard to find other women to connect with. Even if you do find other women, it’s not always likely that you’ll see eye to eye. This makes studying engineering a rather lonely endeavor. For these reasons I joined the engineering sorority Phi Sigma Rho. In Phi Sigma Rho sisters bond over mutual life experiences that many other women and engineers might not go through. I have attempted to display some of these shared life experiences through my meme series Phi Rho Penguin. Because my meme is tailored to members of Phi Sigma Rho, it has a limited audience. Many readers might not understand the jokes behind them unless they have experience in both the S.T.E.M. fields and Greek Life and happen to be female. In addition, not all members that fall into this subset would understand all of the subtleties of this meme, particularly in regards to the image chosen. This is because the image, which I created, has symbolism known mostly by members of the sorority Phi Sigma Rho. The Greek letters represent our sorority, the penguin is our mascot, and pearls (which the penguin wears) are our jewels. For this reason, these memes might not be amusing to the entire population of the University of Michigan; however, as you approach the target audience, the joke becomes funnier and better understood.
Many of these memes address stereotypes I and others in Phi Sigma Rho have faced. In the meme “Oh you’re a sorority girl? Need help with that math?” I address a concept that I have faced for a good portion of my life–that my appearance, social group and involvement in a certain community determine my intelligence. This is a stereotype that plagues most girls in Greek life, but is especially irritating to girls in engineering and Greek life, mostly because as engineers we are required to take some of the most intense math and science courses available. To have one important aspect of our lives trivialized by an assumption made because of another means that others do not see us as people but rather as one-dimensional walking stereotypes. Another meme that comments on this sentiment is “Oh, you’re an engineer? You don’t look like an engineer” (Miscellaneous). These memes act as a social commentary and allow the reader to see the ridiculousness of the statements in the context of a member of Phi Sigma Rho’s life.
Other memes are a little lighter hearted. The meme “ΔΧ? We had a mixer there last week- Oh you mean change in position” is a play on physics terms and Greek life terms. In Greek life, ΔΧ is the name of a fraternity. In physics, ΔΧ means change in position on the X axis. A joke like this one requires the reader to understand both Greek life and physics terms to be amusing. Another meme that relies on experience in both communities is the meme “Between frat guys and engineers the odds are good, but the goods are odd.” In many situations in which girls interact with frat guys and engineers, the odds are in the girl’s favor that they are interested in her. However, any girl that has experienced men in fraternities can tell you that many of them are a little odd, whether they’re egotistical or just plain awkward. The same thing can be said of guys in engineering. This meme relies on the reader having experienced both of these things. Other memes that comment on the intersection of engineering and social life include “Hey babe, what are you doing? –sent 11:37, Friday, Mastering Physics” (Miscellaneous) and “Mixer theme is preps and nerds, shows up wearing every day clothes” (Miscellaneous).
In conclusion, these memes are a sampling of experiences in the life of an engineering-sorority girl. They allowed me to vent anger through humor and embrace the collision of my nerdiness and social life. They’re dorky and silly and socially aware, and in a sense, they are me, and the community I represent.
By: Tessa Martin