“Why are you such an entitled little bitch? You’re a nobody.” Those words will forever resonate in my mind. They’ll haunt me, along with all of the other vicious screams that came from the sister who sat next to me in the backseat of her car while tears emerged from my fatigued, lifeless, and forcibly blindfolded eyes. She was the sister whose arms I ran into on Bid Day, the sister whose outgoing and affable personality made me fall in love with my sorority, and the sister who also happened to be the person to swear to me that nothing bad was ever going to happen to me during my new member education process.
Yet there I was, sobbing uncontrollably and shaking like a leaf as I fumbled through my sleep-deprived mind to search for an answer to every question that she and the other sisters in that car menacingly hurled at me. As overly dramatic as it may seem, that was one of the worst nights of my life, and not because I’m an excessively sensitive and spoiled millennial who doesn’t know how to handle “real life problems.” My life is and was, in fact, quite the opposite of that. I grew up in an abusive and broken home, worked two jobs to support myself through college, and was forced to sacrifice my own well-being in order to help take care of my siblings and keep our family together. Yet, despite all of my past trauma’s that left me with physical scars the ones that are the most visible are those that can’t be seen in plain sight. They are the mental scars that reside within my character, my overall demeanor, which reflect my battered self-esteem and non-existent self-worth. They are the scars of hazing and although they’re left unseen, they are all too real.
That night was one among many where my pledge sisters and I left the house hysterically crying, hating ourselves, and questioning why we were even letting this happen to us in the first place. It was very clear to us that we were no longer viewed as people but merely as pledges who were not capable of deserving respect and the privileges that came with sisterhood and “earning your letters”. While we were never forced to sit on washing machines or drink straight liquor until we passed out, we were very strategically and intentionally manipulated, publicly humiliated, deprived of sleep and nutrition, sexually degraded, and verbally harassed on a routine basis all for the sake of proving our worth to the chapter. It was a trying time to say the least, but my pledge sisters and I, along with generations of women who came before us (as sisters constantly reminded us), got through it.
I want to sit here and tell you that in the years that followed my chapter stopped hazing. We didn’t. However, we did make a decent amount of modifications to cater to larger-sized pledge classes and opposing viewpoints from sisters. I would also be proud to admit that I, myself, decided not to partake in any of my chapter’s hazing rituals, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I didn’t just continue hazing new members, I thoroughly enjoyed doing it. As sick as it may sound, the insecure, beaten-down girl that I was took satisfaction in knowing that these girls were going to experience even a fraction of that same pain that I endured during my pledge period. Just like that sister who lied to me, year after year, I lied through my teeth to girls during recruitment claiming that our sorority enforced a “no hazing policy” and later felt remorseful as I watched those same girls go through the hell that I try so hard to forget I went through. I even sat in front of my own little and looked her dead in the eyes as tears rolled down her face as a result of me expressing my own screams of disappointment towards her.
Not all of my pledge sisters shared my mutual pro-hazing perspective. A lot of them flat-out refused to carry out our traditions and a few of them even eliminated some completely when they became pledge moms themselves. I could have easily done the same things. I could have been part of the solution, but I actively chose to be part of the problem and continue the cycle of abuse. That’s exactly what happens to the girls who get “broken down” but never actually get “built back up”. We channel the pain and resentment which we acquired from being hazed and reciprocate it towards the innocent new members who are in the long-run just trying their best to be our friends and be a part of our sisterhood.
I am not proud of the person that I was during that time, but now that I am older and in the process of gaining a better sense of self-awareness, I realize that absolutely nothing good comes from hazing no matter how much I, or anyone else, may try to justify that it does. For me, it wasn’t worth it.
Since the time I pledged several years ago, I have suffered with bouts of depression, severe anxiety, and eating disorders. Even though the memories of that time are distant and jagged, the aftermath is ongoing and pervasive. Yet, now that I have gained some insight and integrity, I vow to be a better person in spite of them. Instead of letting my own suffering permeate into the lives of others who don’t deserve it, I’ve finally decided to use it to prevent others from going through what I went through. The scars of my pain may never fade but I am confident that someday hazing will, and from this moment on, I will do my best to be a part of the solution.
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