HEY GUYS, GONNA DO A LITTLE OOTD FOR YOU!
I’ve loved your content all week on IG! Truly doing the Lord’s work so that I don’t have to rejoin TikTok.
As to the last question of why you’re so interested - one of the reasons so many of us love your content is because you treat “feminine” content with the seriousness it deserves. This is your wheelhouse! So many of us who follow you either were in sororities or had friends in sororities and I would venture to guess no one subscribing to this newsletter (or following you on social) is a silly or not a thoughtful person. Thank you again for bringing nuance and legitimacy to a topic that is traditionally dismissed as unserious or ridiculous.
The thing that has been on my mind throughout watching Rushtok, this year and last, is that the culture of performative femininity is fascinating as it pertains to its existence in a state where some aspects of women’s health care and all gender-affirming medical care were until last year unreachable for most and after last year 100% illegal.
Not criticizing anyone’s personal decisions on where to attend college, what to do with that experience, or anything at all, it’s just something that has lived in my mind rent free simultaneous to witnessing this phenomenon.
I’m a Greek-American and still throws me off for a second hearing about “Greek life” in the context of sororities/fraternities 😂The real Greeks are not claiming this one lol
I went to Cornell, which has (I'm guessing) the biggest and most active Greek system of the Ivies, or at least it did when I was there in the early aughts. A lot of what I'm seeing in AHP's (fascinating! immaculately curated!) Rushtok observations/commentary is surprisingly familiar despite Cornell not being a state school in the South. One big difference: rush happens at the beginning of second semester there, which effectively means going back to campus two weeks early in January, and trekking from house to house when there is a foot of snow on the ground. So you have to *really* want to do it.
I didn't rush, but some of my close friends from my freshman dorm did. One of them looked like a shoo-in on paper: she was (is!) a genuinely warm, kind, intelligent, compassionate, and deeply good person -- and on top of that, she was a high school cheerleader/dancer, got straight A's, and was from a wealthy NYC suburb. She did not get ONE. BID. Not even from the "less desirable" sororities. And she was crushed. And I was so angry at those clique-y, catty girls in their big houses for doing that to her. I also suspect it had a little bit to do with the fact that she had an "ethnic" last name that marked her as not 100% all-American (one side of her family was Irish catholic, the other was Middle Eastern). Our friend who got in played polo. HMMMM.
Given that this is my personal lens on sororities, I am dismayed that we still do this as a culture. I thought Gen Z was supposed to be more socially aware and less susceptible to this kind of exclusionary, performative, cringe-y white supremacist BS. And yet, the Tiktoks and the drama of it all do have this reality-TV-esque entertainment value and allure that even I, a true hater, find myself drawn in by watching. It is, as AHP noted, deeply American. And that is so embarrassing.
I cannot stop watching/reading about this content, and find all of these things to be true: (1) all of these women are REALLY impressive, are far more so than I was at that age, and also (2) this feels like a giant step backwards/in the wrong direction for such a capable group of young women.
I am very close to all this, both geographically and professionally, and have long thought 'oh AHP really needs to walk us through all this' so thank you for granting my wish!
All your points about why frats don't have the same social media presence for recruitment are spot on; I'll just add that I've been told, with complete seriousness, 'the boys aren't responsible enough to move in and be on campus early.' (Their recruitment happens halfway through the semester instead of in August.) So I'm fascinated by who gets infantilized when, and how.
it's interesting that you said "I'm jealous of your strong sense of self" re: people who had no interest in sororities, I know that was just a casual comment so I'm not critiquing but it made me think. I've known for most of my life that I couldn't access this kind of female social category if I tried (fat, queer, disabled, raised by mom who actively kept me from learning these skills and scripts) so it didn't ever feel like a choice. those girls saw me and instantly knew I wasn't one of them. but i think it still did result in me having a stronger sense of self, since I was forced to define my own and couldn't rely on the cultural consensus to tell me who i was.
I think it would be interesting to explore how VERY active parents are in this whole process. I grew up and and now live in an SEC university town, and I have peers who have daughters that have gone through rush. It consumed their entire lives for about a year, trying to get letters of recommendation for their daughters, making sure they had the right wardrobe...it was never my thing, but it’s fascinating to watch, as are most things about southern Greek life.
Just wanted to say thank you for all the work you did bring the Rush Tok videos to instagram. I can’t have that app on my phone because it just sucks me in and becomes all consuming in a way that other social media doesn’t quite manage to do. It was so interesting to watch and get your analysis
I’m fascinated by this whole thing. I went to a medium sized nerd school that had greek life but they were heavily regulated (someone died of alcohol poisoning in an 80s frat rager on campus): no Greek housing allowed, rush was in the second semester and freshmen were heavily discourage from rush, so those that did usually did it second semester of their sophomore year and the residential side of it wasn’t a factor. Most of the kids who did it were children of members. (One of my roommates rushed and didn’t have any Greek connections and we were all Very Concerned--she seemed to have a good experience, but that’s how unusual it was.)
Basically, it’s so interesting to me because it’s so far outside my own experience.
The thing that gets me the most is the woman who’s the rush consultant. Her aggressive “stay quiet, conform” message reminds me of the women who worked in HR at various employers who always carried that message. “Are you sure you want to file that workers comp claim? It will label you as a problem.” Not really different from “Don’t make rush about you, it’ll label you as attention seeking.”
I hope these girls have a great time in their sororities but I do worry about them and the pressure to conform, stay quiet, not rock the boat and how that’ll impact their futures.
I went to a small school and we didn't have any Greek life on campus. It was a point of "pride" that we didn't participate in that life, which is obviously just as performative as fully participating in all of it. Even if you're not in Greek life, you're still influenced by it.
I have so many thoughts about the gender expression of it all. I’m intrigued by all the drag happening with the girls lip syncing as boy bands— is this happening at the same hyper feminine sororities or are these videos from sororities that are generally more lax with their gender policing? It’s fascinating how queer-coded they are in those videos and how much they’re leaning into it in a way that I imagine they might not usually be able to in sorority contexts.
Also I would argue that high femme is not the right word to describe these women’s aesthetics, that word comes from lesbian butch/femme culture and would certainly apply to a lesbian/non-binary person/trans femme or drag queen dressed exactly as they are dressed, but “femme” as a gender expression is a specifically queer identifier and involves much more subversion and intentionality than straightforwardly buying into the gender performance requirements of white heterosexual hyper femininity.
I have been waiting for this!! I have so many thoughts because 1) I went to another huge SEC school (the one that beat Bama in the national title game last year) and dropped out of rush and 2) my family and I lived in Mobile for many years and were connected to one of the two expensive private schools that is a huge feeder to Alabama, so we knew and know a lot of young women who were in sororities.
I should say first that my 16 y/o follows a lot of girls from her old school who are presumably going through recruitment right now and haven’t posted a word to their socials, but as far as I can tell, neither have the sororities they would most likely pledge. The “top tier” ones at schools like UA don’t need/want to advertise; they also most likely already know who they’re choosing before recruitment starts. I know at UGA when I was there every top sorority had sort of a known pool--i.e. if you were a debutante from my hometown, you pledged Theta.
I was also thinking about how sororities are judged top or not and it occurred to me that so much is in relation to which fraternities they’re having parties with. A sorority having a joint party with, say, SAE at UGA, is going to be considered a good one. In thinking about this, I distinctly remember my freshman roommate worrying about the fraternity her sorority most often paired with because she didn’t perceive it as desirable as KA (which has terribly racist and problematic traditions!), and thus the perception of her sorority would be judged on that distinction.
I’m also so curious about the role The Machine at UA is playing now that so many out of state students are attending. I wonder how many end up staying in Alabama--I can think of a handful of women I know who weren’t from Alabama and married men who were and ended up staying, but I can also think of a lot of recent grads who have moved to Atlanta. I think about young women like Morgan or Bella Grace and am curious how they’re perceived by power brokers at the school. I could see either of them doing great things at UA without needing a sorority behind them.
"But it should also be natural for us to think more — like, a whole lot more, a whole newsletter or hours of Instagram Stories more, the rest-of-our-lives more — about any system animated so thoroughly by exclusion." ● Mic drop
Would love to do some dissecting on class and the “college experience,” specifically what kind of college experience is prioritized— my parents are like the definition of New York “liberal elites” and they were much more focused on the epitome of the college experience being a small private liberal arts school in the Northeast with beautiful brick buildings and great autumns and very competitive admissions (think: Dartmouth, Williams, Amherst, etc). My alma mater (small, public, liberal arts) didn’t even have a football team, let alone a big one! So it’s fascinating to think about who is prioritizing this big SEC experience and why.
Also want to add, this article was so well done. Not only did I grow up in a SEC college town, but I also chose to go into higher education, and every time I thought “I hope she doesn’t leave out this part” you hit on it within a paragraph. I know you can’t go deep on everything in one essay (black sorority and fraternity life is it’s own fascinating subculture) but I appreciated the breadth you hit on. Excited for whatever is coming next!