USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘sorority’
Folk Beliefs
Legends

Sorority Hazing (Kappa Cow)

Piece:

There is a legend of hazing in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at USC in which all of the new members are weighed on a scale each week and the “fattest one” is called the Kappa Cow for the following week. The Kappa Cow story is an explanation as to why all of the girls in the sorority are “skinny”.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a member of a sorority at USC and heard this legend from another member of the Greek system here. She is not a member of the mentioned sorority and makes no claims as to the story’s authenticity—it is merely a story that has travelled around the USC campus over time. The specifics of my source remain anonymous. Other accounts of this story include public shaming in the form of Mooing at the selected individual and various other forms of body shaming.

Thoughts:

In recent years, Greek life on college campuses has been highlighted for hazing stories such as this, which have turned out to be true. I make no claims about the verity of this story. I believe that this story may be a piece of fakelore that has sprung out of the fairly popular notion on the USC campus that that the sorority is highly exclusive to “hot, rich snobs” (Urban Dictionary). I find stories around hazing in the Greek community on college campuses especially interesting because of my proximity to it as well as the social barrier to entry they create. Essentially, whether or not they are true, these stories dissuade many people from attempting to join Greek life in schools.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Sorority Hazing (Secret Code)

Piece:

There is a legend that an exclusive sorority at USC had developed a code to ensure that they only recruited girls that met their aesthetic standards (which were at odds with the recruitment plan of their organization as a whole at the national level). Girls that were nice and overall reasonable candidates for the sorority but did not meet the aesthetic standards of the current members would be described by the active members as “pretty, smart, nice” which was a code that they used to reject a reasonable applicant without having to make themselves culpable to their national board.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a member of a sorority at USC, though not the one that this legend is about. Both sororities will remain anonymous. My informant had heard other members of her sorority talking about this legend. There is no information to confirm or deny its verity. This is a modern legend that has existed for presumably upwards of the last five years.

Thoughts:

There are a lot of legends around sorority hazing and sorority recruitment. I believe that this one is an attempt to provide reasoning for the consistently similar aesthetic of the members of the sorority in question. Though, another reasoning may be that these legends are attempts by others to sabotage a reputation and are in fact fakelore. Regardless, I find these stories interesting because they are in effect, organizational gossip.

general

Haunted Sorority House

Informant: Okay, so, um, my sister’s sorority house is haunted. And, um, she’s in AChiO at Oregon, and they were like the first sorority on campus, or first ones to have their house that they live in now on campus, so basically like AChiO here. So like because it’s been there for so long, two girls have died there and one of them died at the turn of the century. I think she fell down the stairs, but it doesn’t matter much, but the other one, this girl died in the seventies because she was on the stairs in some high heels and her sister as a joke, like, pushed her, but she fell down the stairs, and it’s a three story staircase, and she fell and broke her neck. And so she died in their house on like a normal night, and now she haunts the house and um her thing is that her ghost comes in the form of a cat so people hear weird meows in their room, and also she’ll come in the bathroom and like flicker the lights. She like threw paper towels at somebody, like this girl was just in there and paper towels just flew at her like peoples baskets will just get knocked off the wall. Also, they have a cat statue in their house, don’t know why, but they always say that it’s the ghost of the woman, and they’ll put it in people’s rooms and their suitcases when people go home just to scare them. It was really scary when I went up.

 

My informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is from San Diego, California. We had this conversation in the study room of my sorority house.

 

This is something that seems to be a basis for some fictional stories. There was an episode of Psych having to do with a haunted sorority house. It seems that in this type of horror story, the person who dies always dies in a certain way, and if there are multiple deaths, they happen in the same way. In this case, both deaths happened on the stairs. It also seems common in many ghost stories and perpetuated by the show Supernatural, ghosts inhabit some type of object to haunt people with.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Sorority Hazing (Washing Machine)

Piece:

Regarding a particular legend surrounding sorority hazing: “you have girls sit on washing machines naked and girls circle parts on their body that jiggle.” The legend goes that all of the new (or potential) members of the sorority would go through this process and then be labeled as fat based on the circled (in marker) parts of their body. They would then be insulted and chastised to work out and eat healthier to get rid of those spots.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece heard this legend from another member of her sorority, though this story is not specifically linked to her sorority. Rather, this story is linked to sororities in general surrounding their practices from several decades ago.  Specific houses and people are not named to retain anonymity. The informant stated that there aren’t many more details because the story is “pretty dated” and this method of hazing is “not used anymore”.

 Thoughts:

I find that many of these dated hazing stories provide an interesting array of scare tactics that essentially equate to new members being asked to show how badly they want to be a member of this club; how much are they willing to endure. Stories such as this mostly date back to the 1960s-1980s which by all accounts that I’ve heard, sound like a really good time to have been involved in Greek life at USC. Essentially everything from that era seems to have been exaggerated: the parties were epic and the hazing was cruel. Though I cannot speak to the authenticity of any of these stories.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Sorority Hazing (Compton)

Piece:

In one sorority at USC a legend is told of an act of hazing in the mid 1960’s: the new initiates were dressed in all white—sororities were predominantly white at that time—so as to resemble members of the KKK, and then they were dropped of in Compton—a predominantly black neighborhood, and instructed to find their way home. Given the time period, the girl would not have had cellphones or other means of emergency communication.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece heard this legend from another member of her sorority—whose mother was supposedly in said sorority during that period of time. She asked that the names be removed in order to reduce liability.

Thoughts:

Hazing is a prevalent thorn in the rosebush that is college Greek life. The theory is that once new members are chosen based on certain demonstrated criteria, they will be broken down so that they can be rebuilt together in the image of the house—to best represent their letters. A common theory is that the individuals need to be retrained to serve so that service in all forms will become for them an instinct or habit rather than an active decision.

This story is relevant to members of that sorority now because it serves as a comparison to make any smaller scale hazing appear significantly more reasonable and lighthearted. It also serves the purpose of a ghost story—which they may tell to new members to scare them during their introductory period.

Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pinning Ceremony

My informant is a USC student and member of a sorority at the University. She is bi-racial of black and Caucasian ancestry.

 

“Usually towards the end of the school year there are these things called pinnings, and it happens when a senior guy in a fraternity and a senior girl in a sorority have a ceremony of the guy “pinning” the girl—with a pin—which signifies their love being bigger than his brotherhood with his fraternity, as he sticks his pin on her chest over her heart.”

 

Analysis: This ceremony is one that only takes place within Greek life, and as such the tradition is passed down verbally and visually within the Greek community. My informant wasn’t aware of the ceremony until she joined a sorority and witnessed it happen to one of her friends. The pinning ceremony is one that reflects a declaration of love and devotion for a boy for a girl, which is incredibly significant within male greek life as a guy’s fraternal “brothers” are (up until that point) the most important people in his life. A more Freudian explanation for the ceremony may be a means of the boy making it known to everyone that he is engaging in sexual intercourse with the girl of his choice, by sticking his “pin” onto her.

Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Monday Night Dinner

My informant is a USC student and member of a sorority at the University. She is bi-racial of black and Caucasian ancestry.

 

“In my sorority we have Monday night dinners every Monday night and all the girls are required to go, and then afterwards we have these sorority meetings to talk about things we need to do that week or what’s up for the next week, stuff like that. A persona chef comes and cooks and everyone is required to be there. You just don’t miss. You don’t.”

 

Analysis: The prevalence of Monday night dinner within sorority culture signifies a collective bond between the girls in the sorority to one another and to their house. I think that its interesting that there is an unspoken law that everyone has to be at Monday night dinner. When I asked if someone could miss she just replied that you “just don’t”. Although there isn’t a spoken reason for it, all of the girls know and accept that it is unacceptable to simply “miss” Monday night dinner. The rituals within sorority houses on occasion are reminiscent of cult behavior, where many people follow a doctrine or a ritual not because there is a justified reasoning behind it, but because everyone else is doing it, or the leader has said that it needs to be done, which can seem slightly off putting for people who are not immersed in of familiar with sorority culture or values.

 

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general

“Send it!”

“Okay, so in the snowboarding world, when, um, you’re about to, like—‘cause I was a competitive snowboarder, you know, and so we would hit, like, really big jumps or something and then, or like if the pipe was like really big that day, um, so usually it’s used with jumps that are like over like 25 feet, so no like it doesn’t have to be big [laughs of disbelief from other people in room], but usually they’ll be like 90 feet when people use this saying and it’s not like, it’s like a, um, we would be like, ‘Oh, like fucking send it!’ That means like ‘huck yourself,’ like ‘do like what you got’ or yeah, like spin whatever, do flips and so it’s like just like ‘give it your all’ type of deal and so yeah we would just use ‘sending it.’ ‘Cause then it’s like ain’t nothing comin’ back, ‘cause you’re sending it and you’re giving it your all and you’re gonna kill it.”

 

The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who grew up in competitive snowboarding and has dabbled in CrossFit and other workout programs. She has been in a prominent sorority on campus since coming to USC and goes out every night of the weekend, as well as some nights of the week. I live with the informant and the interview took place in my room during one of the lengthy conversations we often have. The informant has been known to use aspects of her athletic and workout life in social interactions and “Send it!” is no different. She went on to tell me that “So now I’ve started to integrate that into the Greek life culture and so if someone’s in a drinking game I’m like, ‘Dude, fucking send this game!’ and they’re like, ‘I’m gonna send it.’ (Interviewer says: “It’s not coming back!”) And then they drink a lot. Yeah, it’s not coming back. So then they just like drink a lot.”

 

This piece of folk speech was interesting to me because of the meaning behind something like “Send it!” The other people in the room and I got hooked on the idea that you would say it because “it wasn’t coming back.” In addition to this being about “giving it your all,” it seems like it’s about taking opportunities when you have them. It would make sense, then, that the informant would translate this phrase into other areas of her life, like the Greek life culture. It is easier to do wild things at a party when you have someone telling you it is the moment to do them. It is also interesting that it is primarily a way of encouraging someone else to do something. While it could come across as pretty aggressive to the uninitiated, those inside of snowboarding culture would know that it is a way of supporting one another and pushing each other to get better and try new things.

Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sorority Drinking Song

Informant: Take a shot, take a shot! Take a god-damned shot! If you can’t take a shot like a/an [sorority nickname] can, then you shouldn’t have a shot in your motherfucking hand! Take a shot!

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is a member of a sorority, and was born and raised in Chicago, IL.

The informant first learned this drinking song, or chant, on the night after she received a bid from her sorority. She and her new “sisters” gathered in the largest bedroom of her sorority house, poured shots of Fireball (a popular brand of cinnamon flavored whiskey) and preformed the chant before knocking back their drinks. The informant has since preformed the chant only a handful of times—all occurred with other sorority sisters before a night of partying, and sometimes during. The informant claims she has also heard members of other USC sororities sing the chant with their own sorority’s nickname in place of the informant’s. Nevertheless, the song stands a symbol of initiation into a sorority; only members can preform it.

Customs
Humor
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sorority Bus Chant

Informant: It goes—okay, don’t laugh—it goes: [to the tune of Take Me Out to the Ball Game]

Take me out to your frat house, take me up to your room;

We don’t need pillows or sheets tonight, just a condom that fits you just right;

For it’s fuck, fuck, fuck ‘til the morning;

If I don’t come, you’re to blame;

For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out;

By the way, what’s your name?

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is a member of a sorority, and was born and raised in Chicago, IL.

This piece is one I originally encountered in its intended context—on a bus, bound for a sorority invite (off-campus party to which dates can be invited)—but collected months later in order to catch the full lyrics. While the chant was sung with brazen gusto on the bus, once the informant had sobered up, she admitted that the chant is “definitely not reflective of what we’re about.” Most performers of the chant seemed to feel the same: the chant is a fun sorority tradition, but the lyrics are laughably outlandish and don’t reflect the moral values of modern-day performers. Hence the informant’s little introduction to the piece, letting me know that she doesn’t stand behind the lyrics or take them seriously.

The chant, the informant told me, has been passed down through the years; she isn’t sure when it was started, but she knows that different sororities sing different variations of the song, and the lyrics have changed slightly over the years (sorority members are not allowed to write down the lyrics in any form because, as a national organization, the sorority does not want to be attached to such a scandalous chant).

The context of the chant is essential to know: sorority members sing it on a crowded bus while their dates watch and listen. The goal of the chant is, most likely, to convince the dates that sorority members are fun and ready to party that evening. The chant also has fairly overt sexual suggestions, and therefore might be a way for sorority members to approach the topic of what will happen after invite.

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