dying-to-belong

On Thursday, Cosmo published an article by Tess Koman titled, “Why Getting Hazed by my Sorority Was Weirdly Worth It.” In it, the writer details the difficulties of being hazed while pledging to the Beta Xi chapter of the Sigma Delta Tau sorority at Union College. She describes the psychological, physical and sexual hazing she was subjected to by her “sisters.” It’s fucking depressing. Some especially awful excerpts:

…the first night of pledging: we were told calmly by our pledge masters…that our priorities from then on were to be strictly 1) family, 2) academics, and finally 3) pledging. I remember relaxing at that moment, thinking, They totally get it, this is going to be fine.
Well, bullshit. From that moment on, I was made to feel pretty terrible about any activity that I was doing that wasn’t sorority-related.

And so it began:

One night in college…I was forced to dance for all the fraternities on campus to absurdly sexual songs, including Lil’ Wayne’s “Lollipop.” The other pledges and I were split into groups and told to do whatever we thought the boys would like. I remember thinking that that night was one of the greatest nights of my college career to date…
But when it was all over…it hit me that not only am I a terrible dancer, but also that the catcalling and cheering I had gotten from the boys just an hour ago was definitely not nice.

Then, she “felt ashamed and a little gross” that she had felt good about her “ridiculous skin-tight outfit” — and that she had thought the activity was somehow fun. So, why did she continue? Because she knew it was what she “had to do” for acceptance into Sigma Delta Tau.

So, great! Being sexually harassed and degraded is totally something I’m down to watch happen to my friends! That is, I would if I were a complete asshole and believed hurting people’s feelings was fun.

…in hindsight, I realize there was a lot of crying. I cried when I didn’t know where Sister Jen was when I was asked in front of everyone on the spot. I cried when I had to share one toilet with 42 other girls in the basement of the house when we weren’t allowed to leave. I cried when I was told I wasn’t nearly as cute as I thought I was. We were soon all given pledge names. These were meant to be either condescending or reflective of something we had done on campus.

A few more highlights:

  • Pledges were blindfolded, told to “trust our future sisters unflailingly,” then put into showers wearing all white.
  • They were subjected to sleep deprivation involving “lock-ins,” wherein they had to rush to a basement, get locked in until midnight, leave, then come back to the basement at 4:45 and be locked in again until 7:45.
  • Pledges were locked in their rooms and screamed at for “not being good enough.”
  • The pledge masters criticized women who needed counseling during pledging, claiming that it wasn’t their problem if the newcomers needed help and that perhaps, if they had trouble with this level of stress, they weren’t what the sorority was looking for anyway.
  • Koman says she cried constantly, as did huge portions of her pledge classes.
  • All sorts of other messed up ridiculousness that does not belong in the same article as the word “friends.”

But here’s the saddest part: Koman says that after being accepted into the sorority, she actually turned around and began being cruel to her pledges. Why? Because she wanted to.

When I was finally a sister, I adored bossing around the incoming pledges. I was mean to the new girls during line-ups. I sat in on almost all of the pledging activities though some of my friends would have to leave the room because they didn’t want to watch the newest pledge class squirm and cry. I hurled the same ridiculous questions at them that I’d gotten myself. I did it, so they have to too, goes the thinking. It’s tradition so why should anyone be the exception?

Before I start discussing this article, I want to mention that I have lived with 6 different women in sororities, and I was in a professional fraternity myself. This is not to use them as some “I have black friends so I’m not prejudiced” sort of thing; it is simply to say that I have witnessed many people who love their Greek organization and had incredible experiences in them. Experiences that did not include being cruel to those younger than them in order to “bond.” The women I lived with, to my best knowledge, treated their sorority sisters with respect, kindness and compassion. That is how I know this type of hazing is completely unnecessary.

Many people have come out against Koman’s article, including many of Cosmo‘s Facebook commenters, stating that it irresponsibly promotes harmful behavior and bullying, as well as an investigation into the hazing allegations.

Koman states that being part of a sorority is “wonderful” because they participate in philanthropy, do cool events and include lots of friendships. But, is it seriously that difficult to make friends you don’t behave abusively to prior to befriending?

Personally, I have tons of friends who like volunteering with me, who participate in lots of philanthropic causes, who love being kind to those around them — people who are both outside of Greek life and deeply involved it. We get drunk, we do cool events, we support one another in the worst of times and cheer for one another in the best of times. We did not start off our friendships with screaming and crying unless those cries and screams were the result of seeing a combo horror/drama film festival together.

Being part of a sorority is not the problem. Sororities themselves are not the problem. Sororities can be amazing and healthy and beautiful organizations! No, it’s this attitude — this sad, pathetic, strikingly fucked up attitude — that hurting people leads to bonding. Unfortunately, the only thing it says about you is that you’re incapable of creating meaningful relationships without psychologically causing harm to people.

Sadly, Koman finishes with this:

Pledging and getting hazed is horrible. But there’s a reason it’s not going anywhere any time soon.

It’s not going anywhere any time soon because of this little thing called the abuse cycle. When people are abused, they want to abuse other people (though, to be fair, there are lots of abusers who are just sociopaths and enjoy harming people). So, will all of Koman’s “sisters” stick by her side as she tells all of Cosmo‘s readership about her hazing experiences? I do hope they will, but judging by how they treated her and others prior, I can’t imagine they’re the most steadfast of people.

Photo: Sorority Row.