USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘sorority’
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
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Kappa Cow

“So I’ve heard from other people in my sorority that in USC’s Kappa Kappa Gamma, every week at Monday night dinners, every girl in the chapter is weighed. And at the end of the weighing, the heaviest girl is named ‘the Kappa Cow’ for the week. Apparently they give her a little plastic cow figurine. It’s messed up.”

This account depends entirely on hearsay, making it all the more interesting. As the informant is a member of a rivaling sorority, it is possible that the story was invented slanderously. However, this particular hazing practice corroborates that image of Kappa Kappa Gamma, as an aggressively looks-oriented sorority, that seems to pervade USC. As with most hazing practices, this ritual promotes unhealthy body image, but reaffirms the dominance of older member of the sorority over the new members. Such practices are allegedly “team-building” and “character building,” at which I roll my eyes.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Jiggle on the Washing Machine

“Apparently at Kappa, to haze you, they take all of the pledges [new sorority members] and sit them on top of running washing machines. Then they bring in some guys from different frats on the row and give them markers. It’s so fucked! They get these frat stars drunk and make them circle all of the parts of the pledges’ bodies that jiggle with the markers they give them.”

This account depends entirely on hearsay, making it all the more interesting. As the informant is a member of a rivaling sorority, it is possible that the story was invented slanderously. However, this particular hazing practice corroborates that image of Kappa Kappa Gamma, as an aggressively looks-oriented sorority, that seems to pervade USC. As with most hazing practices, this ritual promotes unhealthy body image, but reaffirms the dominance of older member of the sorority over the new members. Such practices are allegedly “team-building” and “character building,” at which I roll my eyes.

Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Big/Little Process

Informant is a student at USC. Theatre major, girl, brunette, an older sister, a cat mother, a child of divorced parents, and a resident of multiple states – CA, OR, WA, TX.

For Big/Little what we do is – I think a lot of sororities kind of do it the same, but for us at least – the Littles submit the name of five people they want to be their Bigs, and the Bigs submit five names of people they want to be their Littles.

First explain the concept of Big and Little.

In sororities, there’s a Big, and there’s a Little. And a Big is like their mentor. Throughout their time in college. And beyond. And it’s just kind of a closer relationship. So it’s like a mutual selection of who you want to be your Big and Little.  So that way you end up liking the person who is your Big or Little. And once it’s been decided, the Bigs are told who their Little is. And then they buy ‘em a bunch of gifts. And basically get rid of their entire bank account. On gifts. Lots and lots of gifts. The first day – there’s like three days of gifts, I think – the first day is Monday of that week, and we give them all of their favorite things, ‘cause they submit a little survey, so you know their favorite kind of candy, and their favorite stuffed animal kind of thing, y’know like cute little fun things. The second day is a delivery kit, for sending cute little presents and stuff between sororities and fraternities, like little gift bags, and tape, and tissue paper, and candy, and stuff like that. And you decorate the box all pretty with their name on it. And the third day is a blanket with their name on it, and the sorority letters on it. And it’s all comfy and cute and really expensive.

Do you have one of those?

I do. I do. My little – I didn’t put her name on it, ‘cause it was really expensive, but I put the letters on it. But yeah. And then I guess on Thursday or Friday – maybe I have the days mixed up – but on the fourth day there’s like this big “reveal.” You have gotten clues all throughout the week of who your Big is and everything, and they’re really bad clues – usually they’re lies. I don’t lie, but mine are really vague clues, like my first pet was a fish named Rainbow. No one knows these things. And then at the end of the week you have reveal, where they have to follow this incredibly difficult scavenger hunt kinda trail thing, in order to find the final clue, and their costume, and then they find a gigantic box related to their costume, and inside the box is their Big! They pop out and surprise them and then people cry and scream – in a happy way, because they’re excited. And a little bit scared there’s a person in the box. It’s very fun.

How elaborate are the scavenger hunts? Is there a standard format for them?

It’s not really a scavenger hunt scavenger hunt, it’s kinda like a string maze kinda thing. But we don’t tell them what it’s going to be, but in actuality it’s a string maze. And they have to follow their string to their costume

Costume for…

To find their Big! Their big is in a matching costume. And the box corresponds to it sort-of-not-really. It just says their name on it. Cause you get all dressed up in a matching costume and then you go out and do something fun, like go out to dinner or go roller skating or something. In your little matching outfits. It’s very sorority. And usually they’re pretty standard costumes. But this year we had someone who was a monkey and a banana. That was really fun.

Does the Big pick the costume?

Yes. But it’s usually something to do with the Little’s likes. For my Big and Little, I love pandas. And my Big dressed us up as pandas. And then for my Little – she really loves travels, so I dressed us up as French people. So – corresponding to what they would like.

When you went through the process of finding out who your Big was, how did you feel about it?

It was really exciting. But a little bit confusing ‘cause everyone was like “Oh I totally know who my Big is!” And I just had no clue. ‘Cause the clues were really horrible. And they just threw me off. But it was very fun and exciting.

Did you like all the gifts?

I did! She spared no expense, and I got t-shirts and nail polish and headbands and stuff like that. Magazines, candy. She baked me brownies. Peanut butter brownies. So I baked my Little either cookies or brownies, I don’t remember.

Like your Big did for you!

Do you do things outside of this particular week – do you have Big/Little time?

Basically yes. Last night we were eating dinner together, just at the house, and then she was like “Well, I don’t have anything to do right now, do you want to go to Goodwill? And so we went shopping at Goodwill and bought a ton of stuff we didn’t need. It was fun. And we do bi-weekly fro-yo runs, and just as often as we can we get ice cream and fro-yo. And we’re gonna live together next year. It’s very exciting. She’s a wonderful person. Littles are awesome.

Do you ever do stuff with all of you together – grand-Big, grand-Little?

We’ve got this gigantic family tree, and we have this little Facebook group for it too, so it’s not just like my Big, it’s also up to her great-grandbig who is the head of our family, so it’s huge. We try to plan things together, but there’s so many of us that no one shows up. So we’re trying to plan smaller things, just with my grandbig and everything

Your individual line?

Yeah. So we haven’t gotten much done yet, just because she’s graduating this year so she has to finish things up. But then we’re gonna try and all hang out.

But you try. And you keep a family tree.

We do. It’s very big, it’s very elaborate, it’s very cool.

Do people have multiple Littles?

Mhmm. That’s why our tree’s so big. There’s two people with three Littles in it. And my Big has two Littles, including me. So the tree just keeps expanding. But then there’s one little line over here when it only has one Little per person, but then everyone else is like khrrr. How many Littles do you want today?

 

I am also part of a greek organization on campus, and we have a similar practice. Bigs and Littles get matched up by preference, there is a week where the Littles get clues, and there is a reveal at the end. The acts on each day and the process of the reveal are different. That is to be expected from a different community/group of people, to have their own spin on the process. Multiplicity and variation, y’all.

The big/little practice aids in community-building within a house, since often these organizations have more members than the small pack humans like to align themselves with. This prevents anyone from getting lost in the fray so no one gets left alone in the dirt.

Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pinning

Just the other day one of my best friends had “pinned” his girlfriend of three years and so I sat him down to talk about the act of pinning and what it meant to him.  He is a student at USC and a senior.

Me: Please explain, “pinning” to me.

Informant: It’s a tradition at USC and I think all across the nation in Greek life but not sure about that.  It’s really just a way for me to express my love and appreciation for [name] as we get close to graduation.

Me: Right, but what actually happens during the ceremony?

Informant: The girls do a whole bunch of ritual shit on their side that I don’t know about, but the guys all get dressed up in suits and each take a rose to the girl getting pinned.  Also the couple involved both have two of their best friends give speeches that are usually funny.  After that the guy gives his fraternity pin to the girl, which is suppose to signify him giving up his dedication to the fraternity and giving it to her. Then the girls do some of their sorority songs and whatever and everyone goes to the 90.

Me: Does this happen often?

Informant: Not at all I have only seen three in my fraternity since I have been here.

Me: So this is a big event that everyone shows up to?

Informant: Ya pretty much, its during Monday Night Dinner, which is the most popular meal of the week so most of the house shows up.

Me: How many people would you say?

Informant: I’d say like 60 people from each house.

This long-standing custom between couples on the Row shows how strong the brotherhood and sisterhood becomes throughout the years.  I found it amazing that so many people would show up to support this “pinning” when they probably aren’t even that close to the couple.   This custom also shows the importance placed on the guy’s allegiance to his fraternity, because it seems to be an equal trade for the allegiance to his girlfriend.

Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Running of the Bitches

This informant is a member of a USC fraternity and I asked him to share some of their traditions or stories he might have.  One I found interesting was about an annual tradition that occurs when the Sororities give out their bids to the new members.

Every year in the Fall sororities have this event where they give bids to the new freshman and they all run from campus to their new houses.  I honestly have no idea why they do it that way but its fuckin awesome for us because we just get to sit back and scope all the new hot girls.  Every semester we all sit in front of the house really drunk and get super rowdy.  The whole time we all judge who got the best pledge class and try to pick out the hottest chicks.

I might add that my informant was drinking a beer while I listened to his story, which is further a testament to the drinking culture amongst fraternities.  I thought this was an interesting story because it shed light on some interesting dynamics between fraternities and sororities.  Frat kids seem to be blatantly disrespecting women, most of them young freshman, which an outsider might find offensive.  However, the sorority girls obviously want to show off their new pledge class to the Greek community and have continued to do so for years.  This shows how the college culture of acceptable cross-gender relations is different from the outside world.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sorority and Fraternity Pinning

My informant shared with me how her sorority celebrates one of its members getting pinned by her senior boyfriend in a fraternity. First, the fraternity shares with the president of the sorority that a member of their fraternity is intended to pin a sister in the house. When a date for the pinning is set, the sorority informs the house that a sister is getting pinned, but the girls do not get to know who. Any girl in the sorority who has a senior boyfriend is asked to come to the ceremony wearing a red dress and to send the president the names of her two closest friends in the sorority. Then, on the day of the pinning, all members of the sorority are required to wear black dresses except for the girls who are eligible to be pinned. These girls will be in red. The girls in black gather in the sorority house with the lights dimmed and stand in a huge circle. A ritual song is sung while the girls in red join the circle and stand in-between their two closest friends. A candle is passed to the right, starting from the ritual chairwoman, around to every girl in the circle once. On its second time around, after it passes the girl wearing red who is getting pinned, her best friend standing to her right will make to pass it to the next girl, but then actually pass it back to the sister getting pinned. The two closest friends then blow the candle out together. That signifies that it’s that girl, and this is when she first finds out she is getting pinned. After the candle is passed around, all the sisters line up outside of the house where the fraternity and the sister’s boyfriend are waiting. The boyfriend and his best friend as well as the girlfriend and her two closest friends stay standing on the porch so everyone can see them. The sorority president introduces everyone and officially announces that the sister is getting pinned. All of the close friends give toasts to congratulate the couple and the boyfriend talks about his relationship with his girlfriend. Then the fraternity presents him with his pin and he pins it on his girlfriend.

 

These ceremonies are very fun and exciting for both the fraternity and the sorority as pinning is comparable to a pre-engagement promise. The fraternity brother is giving up his active pin and is essentially reduced to pledge status within the house. It’s a little bit old fashioned, but the girls appreciate this public acknowledgement of their relationship. My informant was just involved in a pinning ceremony at her sorority at the University of Southern California, as her best friend was recently pinned.

general

Sorority Bid Night/Song

At the University of Colorado there is a strong Greek life culture and there are many traditions, which accompany this group of the university.  Many sororities and fraternities have songs that are song at various times of the year, which help signify different bonding moments for the group of guys or girls.  The informant describes that she learned the tradition on her bid night.

On “bid night” for the girls in a sorority all the freshman girls come back to the house in different rooms and take shots.  You also have to dress up in crazy clothes and you get your letters and your official sorority t-shirt with it’s letters.  You aren’t supposed to drink in your letters, but you do anyway.  During the night there is a chant that goes along with the drinking.  The chant goes as such: “Take a shot, take a shot, take a shot like a [insert sorority], if you can’t take a shot like a [insert sorority] can then why is the drink in your hand?”  All of the girls are taught this song and all yell it together at different points of the night.

I find the story of “bid night” for the sorority interesting as it indicates a classic example of a liminal period for the freshman girls who are not yet fully initiated into the sorority, but are not completely outside of the group.  The different traditions of dressing up crazily, taking shots with active sisters of the sorority, and learning and singing songs that have been part of the sorority for a long time indicate the freshman girls’ passage from being just a normal freshman non-affiliated with Greek life, to a full member.  The freshman girl’s earning their letters also indicates their progression in the liminal stage.  This story also shows how big of a role drinking plays in the culture and lifestyle of college kids during the twenty-first century.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Big/Little Week

It’s a tradition in every sorority for each girl to get a big sister and a little sister. Getting a big and a little is an exciting part of being a new member and helps to bring you closer to girls in the house. New members always excitedly await the day when they finally meet their Big and Bigs cannot wait to get their Littles. In my informant’s sorority, the week-long reveal process involves lots of crafting and spoiling the Little with gifts, but the final reveal and adding a Little to the sorority family is always exciting.

 

My informant described Big/Little week as a crazy process. It starts the week before when both the new members and the actives who are intending to take a Little submit their requests. The sisters are paired based on mutual selection and on the Friday before Big/Little reveal, the Bigs find out their Little. In my informant’s sorority, Big/Little week officially starts at Monday Night Dinner (the weekly dinner that precedes the sorority’s chapter meetings). Bigs tape up colorful posters for their Littles and leave a small gift with a clue about who they might be. On the second, third, and fourth day of Big/Little week, Bigs leave little scavenger hunt clues around the sorority house for their new Littles to find a gift and another hint about their Big’s identity. Each day the gifts are more elaborate and the scavenger hunt is longer. On the night of Big/Little reveals, Bigs leave pajamas for their Littles to change into before the Littles embark on one last scavenger hunt to find their Bigs. Bigs (and the rest of their sorority family, Grand Bigs and Great Grand Bigs) hide in one of the bedrooms until their Little finally appears. There is lots of screaming and many pictures are taken. The whole sorority takes a picture together on the lawn and then sorority families leave to do something fun with their new Little. Usually this is something like going out to dinner, bowling, a movie, or some other activity of the Big’s choice. Even if the girls don’t get the Big they wanted originally, everyone ends up happy.

 

This is an important tradition in my informant’s sorority because it helps the new members feel more connected and helps to give each sister a smaller community within the larger sorority community. Bigs serve as mentors of sorts and try to help Littles with any difficulties they may have during the new member process. Bigs are also an instrumental part of the initiation ceremony.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Monday Night Dinner

My informant told me about the tradition of “Monday Night Dinner” at sororities at USC

“Every Monday all the girls come to the sorority house for dinner. They all dress in fancy attire and arrive at the houses around 4:45pm. The new members make “deliveries”, which is when before dinner they bring gifts and notes to the different frats that are having Monday Night Dinner too. After they finish they come in and sit down to dinner. As they eat, boys from different frats come in and make deliveries to the house. The girls clap as they come in and each gift is delivered to the specific girl. They can be anything from a romantic bouquet to a funny card from a friend. It is also a way for frats and sororities to strengthen their relationships with each other by sending deliveries to certain houses.”

My informant told me that she enjoys the tradition, and she likes to take advantage of it for flirting with boys. If you like someone, you can send them a delivery.

I am in a sorority on campus and I enjoy the tradition of Monday Night Dinner as well. I have utilized it to ask certain boys to our House Invites and also to send funny notes to friends. I’ve also noticed that boys who are usually very shy will use this as a way to communicate with girls that they like. I’ve also noticed that if girls “hook up” with boys over the weekend it is often customary for the boy to send the girl a delivery on monday, such as chocolates or flowers, as (although it seems ridiculous) a “thank you, I’d like to kiss you again some time” kind of delivery.

I also talked to my friends who are in sororities in other schools and none of them were familiar with the tradition of “Monday Night Dinner”. It seems to be a unique tradition to the Greek System at USC. It has been happening for as long as many of my friends can remember, so I assume that it is something that the Greek life likes to keep alive to pride itself on its heritage.

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