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The Rush Nightmare

In light of the upcoming rush week this spring, it’s only fair to take a look at some of the ways networks and information cascades can cause a self-confident girl to go into a tailspin of doubt and objectification. The rush process is anything but fun. Said self-confident girls will spend hours picking out the ‘right’ outfit for every day, just so already-initiated sorority girls can pick it apart within the first 5 seconds of meeting them. They spend all day worrying about whether their hair has gone flat yet, or if there’s something in their teeth from lunch, or heck, are my teeth even straight enough for them? Is my smile big enough, my skin clear enough, or my body mass index low enough? WILL I FIT IN? So why do girls do it when half the time they’re signing on for a semester of hazing and even more self-deprecation? What could possibly make smart girls start thinking so negatively, and subsequently put themselves through that?

Information cascades. It starts months before rush even happens, with the simple act of learning about the sorority rush process itself. Freshman question what they should wear during the day, how they should act, and inquire about others’ experiences with the rush process in previous years. They hear about the hours spent every day trying to look and act like the perfect sister for house X, Y, or Z, and how all of it paid off because they got a bid from their top house! That’s the message that freshman girls are receiving from upperclassmen, and it’s being ingrained in their brains that that’s the only way to get into their top choice house. The majority of freshman girls will take this information as fact

What’s worse about this situation is that it’s not only rush week that these girls have to worry about. A study in 2010 at a Midwestern university indicated that girls who went through the sorority rush process and received bids showed an increase in body shame one month after joining a sorority compared to those who didn’t join/get a bid. The study also helped to strengthen a previous finding that compared to college women who are not in sororities, sorority members show increased drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction, and fear of becoming fat.

Somehow things need to change. The idea of rush shouldn’t be that it’s a beauty contest, and only the prettiest girls get a chance at sorority life. In an ideal world it should be passed down from year to year that houses are looking for girls with personality, energy, passion, and an understanding that everyone is unique, and that that’s OK. This waterfall of negativity needs to be turned around, and the sooner the better.


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