We’ve all heard hazing horror stories. Girls are forced to sit on a newspaper, watching pornography until they soak it up. They’re locked in closets. They’re forced to line up according to how sexually experienced they are. And of course, the most dreaded story of them all: they’re told to sit on a dryer in a bra and panties while fraternities circle what jiggles. For some of us, these are just old wives tales, myths meant to intimidate us. For others of us, they were a reality. Most experiences were probably somewhere in between — some “just for fun” hazing activities with your sorority family, but nothing mandated chapter-wide.
Tess Koman, a Sigma Delta Tau at Union College, recently came forward to discuss her own pledge process in an article she published in Cosmopolitan online. She detailed some of the specifics of her hazing experience.
About two weeks in, we became conditioned to fear what was called a “line-up.” We’d get a mass email telling us to be at the house in seven minutes wearing all-white with our faces scrubbed clean of makeup. We’d have to line up in alphabetical order and take turns stepping into one spotlight in the middle of the house basement. All of the sisters sat in the dark. We couldn’t see anything, but they could see all of us and our every imperfection.
“Do your sexiest dance,” they once demanded. “Why aren’t you working hard enough? Why are you doing that? You look so stupid.” Well of course I looked stupid — I was gyrating by myself under a spotlight while another pledge pretended to be a stripper pole. “Why do you think you’re better than us?” was commonly asked. “Who is the prettiest sister in the room? Which one of us is a lesbian and why do you think that?” At any given line-up, at least a third of my pledge class cried. I cried the first time. I tried to laugh through all the others — but we got yelled at for laughing.
Other nights we’d be blindfolded. Told to trust our future sisters unfailingly — and then put into the shower (again, wearing all-white). We were locked in rooms and screamed at for not trying hard enough, for not caring enough about the house. I can’t even remember the amount of times I was told that I wouldn’t become a sister because I just wasn’t good enough. Reasons for not being good enough included not being able to recognize a sister’s voice or hand or fuck buddy at any given moment.
Koman went on to explain how often she cried during her pledgeship. She explained that she felt “dirty” for having to dance sexily in front of boys, and felt that she was missing out on other activities because the sorority was always supposed to come first. She advocated the mental health clinic on campus to her pledge sisters, because it was so much to handle.
But most importantly, Koman went on to explain that it was worth it. That going through something so difficult made it clear to her just how special her organization was. She bonded with her pledge sisters over that time, and she bonded with them quickly, and they remain her best friends to this postgrad day. She explained that she felt an unspoken bond with the rest of the Greek community at her school. She respected them all, because she knew they’d gone through something just as difficult to get to where they were. They earned their letters, and earning something always feels more valuable than when it’s just given to you.
Her article is something that some of us can relate to (especially the boys). Hell, I sometimes find myself wishing that I’d been hazed. I love my pledge sisters to death, but I sometimes feel that I could have bonded with some of the girls sooner had I been, well, forced to.
Koman’s article was brave. She tried to shed light on hazing in a positive way. She wanted to let the masses know that there is a positive outcome, making it all worthwhile. Unfortunately, it may also have been stupid. She wrote it, and she put her name to it. She inadvertently put her chapter’s name to it and people are outraged.
Huffington Post claims that the article, promoting women degrading other women, sets us back twenty years. Many of the women who commented on Cosmo’s forum agreed, but the responses were overall controversial.
Hazing is terribly wrong and you should never advocate women victimize other women. I was never hazed while joining my sorority and I have the same bonds that you do, the same respect and love for my house and my sisters. I didn’t have to be mentally, physically and emotionally abused to get it. Please don’t ever tell another woman that it is acceptable to be treated this way.
I was President of a Tri Sigma chapter. As with all other national sororities, we took a firm stance against hazing. It never, ever happened because we knew that it was cruel and a violation of every single one of our core values.
From a psychological standpoint, hazing IS incredibly effective. When forced to endure traumatic events with a group, you are going to instantly bond with that group. It is going to be forced, it is going to be unnatural, and it is going to stem from fear. But it will, without a doubt, create a “bond” quickly.
What I told my new members was this: You are going to see the new members in other sororities being hazed, and you are going to see them form incredibly powerful bonds over a short amount of time. You will not be hazed. You are beginning the journey of forming deep, meaningful, and permanent friendships that will stem from the bonds of sisterhood. It won’t happen instantly, and that is NORMAL. You will not be forming bonds through fear, ridicule, harassment, or humiliation. You will be forming bonds through trust, respect, and love – and that does not happen overnight.
You are delirious if you think hazing is good for ANY reason. I am sorry for you that your sorority experience ended with college, as I am sure I am correct to assume you will not be an active alumna. Maybe that’s the best thing for future members of your chapter, your whole sorority and other sororities – and fraternities – as well. Strong, intelligent women who “get” the meaning of sorority and continue involvement through life are the ones potential new members should be looking to if they have questions about Greek Life. They shouldn’t read blogs like this one and think this is how it is or should be. Sororities and fraternities *should* (and many, many, many do) give their members life skills and leadership opportunities and teach them how to be better men and women. Not how to act like immature, self-degrading and stereotypically ridiculous idiots.
You mad, broads?
A former president of Koman’s chapter even weighed in with her disappointment:
Tess, as an SDT girl and former president of that chapter you speak of, I am a little confused. You exposed a wound and then put the band aid back on. You say how horrible it was but then preach the value of sisterhood. If you are going to condemn this don’t also associate yourself with the positive aspects of what SDT gave you. Show some conviction.
She was then ridiculed for refraining from condemning the hazing process as a whole, or denying that it happened.
I see both sides of the story; I honestly do. I think there are a lot of negatives to hazing women, who, are maybe a little emotionally weaker than their male counterparts (may the feminist gods smite me), but I do see that being hazed can form bonds and I understand the reasoning behind it. Regardless, what Tess Koman wrote was a personal account, and I think it’s a little hypocritical for these women to speak so poorly of degradation, while simultaneously berating a girl for sharing her experience and explaining why she appreciates it.
I’m going to withhold comment at this point, but feel free to weigh in. What do you think? Was it okay for Koman to write her story, or is any condonation of sorority hazing absolutely impermissible?