If you like the homogeneous white feminine aesthetics of enforced social hierarchy, boy, do I have a time-sucking viewing recommendation for you: Last year’s viral Bama RushTok is back for Season 2, featuring the sorority rush process across southern campuses including Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and more. So gather all your favorite voyeurs for 10 days of Vera Bradley quilted bags, a sea of bejeweled platinum blond hair, and an army of aspiring yuppies tripping their roommates in the fight for a chance at the top of the door stack amongst the most palatable and conventionally attractive.
For those who didn’t tune into last year’s Greek Life Hunger Games, sorority rush content produced at the University of Alabama, a college campus that was integrated by force in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, went viral on TikTok. The school’s rushees, or PNMs (potential new members), posted their outfits of the day (OOTD), the contents of their rush bags (“first aid kits in case anybody falls or gets a cut anything like that”), and the houses they were desperate to join. And when I say “desperate,” I mean that literally: When you’re a teen in an entirely new environment with no friends, not getting into a “top house,” or any house really, can really destroy one’s social status for the next four years.
Although the vast majority of humans could not be less affected by the outcome of a given university’s sorority rush, middle-aged men and millennial women everywhere have found themselves sucked into the vortex of sisterhood. Despite the banality of teenagers in dorm rooms highlighting their Shein blouses, Tory Burch flats, and David Yurman accessories, these posts have racked up millions of views at an inexplicable pace. How? Well, for one, the fact that young women willing and able to pay dues of up to five grand per semester, according to the New York Times, have assembled rush-approved outfits around garments from Shein is a feat to be witnessed. And two, as Rebecca Jennings noted in her Vox piece last year, TikTok has a propensity for pushing niche content to users’ For You pages. Still, the enduring obsession with teenage Americana, collegiate debauchery, and content of pretty white girls doing just about anything made for a paradoxical viewing experience of “What the fuck am I doing watching rush videos” and “Oh my fucking god, I can’t look away.”
Let’s for a moment pretend we can set aside the blatant racism perpetuated by a Panhellenic system that wouldn’t allow Black women to rush until 2013 (I mean, hey, last year Bama sororities were 89 percent white, down from 96 percent white in 2021, back pats for all of you!!!). As spectators with bulging cartoon eyes, we can appreciate sorority rush for what it is: an extreme sport. Could you survive a system that judges young women on their looks (i.e. ethnicity and/or perceived ability to “pull” frat bros), familial background, nail polish color, adherence to the rules of their sister overlords, and willingness to purchase fuzzy rave leg warmers whenever the president of their sorority declares it Zeta Rave Day? Rhetorical question.
Rushing at a school like Bama, then, where the pecking order is determined by perceived likeability, class politics, and the legacy of a PNM’s last name, is more of a trauma bonding experience than an exercise in chit-chat: The stakes are high and the girlies prepared for all outcomes. Returning to the dorms without a bid or getting rejected by your top house, while swarms of squeaking sisters cement their bonds in the hallway, is, according to one of last year’s failed PNMs, akin to getting “dumped.” It’s a little like being a migrating animal, whereby those rejected from the herd will be ostracized—sentenced to be devoured by the lions that are social irrelevance.
If you’re here to dunk on hyper-effeminate women with Southern accents and aggressive spray tans, the door is over there. If you’re interested in gawking at women performing femininity at Fear Factor level (I can say this because I was once in a sorority, where I was herded to the house of my choosing in tube socks and a bro tank), come on in and bring a fan. I hear the weather’s weird as shit in Alabama.