Note from the Editor:
This was supposed to be a pro and con column-pairing tackling the touchy subject of hazing and pledge gear. However, the con article never came in, and in a bit of miscommunication, we received two pro articles. Take the symbolism as you will.
For many years at Sewanee, it has been a tradition for fraternities and sororities to require their pledges to wear pledge gear. This is an umbrella term, where pledge gear can mean anything from class dress to pseudo-survival kits containing anything from condoms to quarters for a vending machine. The typical fraternity pledge gear is class dress (coat and tie) and a “pledge pack,” containing the basic things that a brother might need at any time during the day or night, generally kept in a discreet place, such as a coat pocket.
However, for women, pledge gear is often embarrassing and demeaning attire ranging from fanny packs, to stupid hairstyles, to old-fashioned bonnets and black lipstick. This year, the four largest sororities on campus have individually decided to stop requiring pledge gear for their pledges.
Pledgeship for women on Sewanee’s campus is always a sight for sore eyes. Whereas men promote class dress in order to give their fraternities a good reputation and to stay in good standing with campus and community members, women’s outfits seem only to seek the degradation and humiliation of their pledging members. Many claim that this treatment puts pledges in their place as the lowest members of the sorority. Others say that it creates pledge class and full sorority bonding, seeing as the entire pledge class is doing it together, and all the women before them have had to do it at one point as well. Some maintain that they use pledge gear merely as a way to identify their pledges from other girls around campus.
The decisions made by Theta Kappa Phi, Phi Kappa Epsilon, Theta Pi, and Alpha Delta Theta to end the tradition of pledge gear is a step in the right direction. Section I, Article I of the By-Laws of the Intersorority Council of the University of the South states that hazing constitutes, among many other offenses, “wearing or carrying any obscene, offensive, or physically burdensome article.” The gear is often offensive to the pledges and to the community as a whole.
Despite the sense of unity and loyalty that these outfits may hold, there are other, more productive ways in which sororities on our campus can create and promote sisterhood. Using pledge gear as the only means by which to identify a pledge of a certain sorority shows a lack of genuine effort and ability to build sisterhood.
Additionally, having a hierarchy in a sorority that does not consist of executive and leadership positions is a blatant disregard of sisterhood. Being hazed by people who are supposed to love and nurture you can be extremely hurtful, the ridicule gained from other students is humiliating, and the visual distraction is a detriment to our community. If the sororities on this campus cannot find more kind and caring ways to promote strong membership and love among our sisters, then we do not deserve to have pledges.