Thursday, November 17, 2011

Initiation Week

The end is near. 

With less than 2 weeks left in the semester, classes are winding down and students are preparing for the holidays. Greek life, however, is at its peak. 

For many fraternities and sororities, the end of the semester also means the end of pledging. Hundred of eager rushees have now been weeded out into a select few, the next generation of active fraternity brothers and sorority sisters are now ready for initiation. 

Initiation is perhaps one of the most heavily guarded traditions of the entire Greek system. Each sorority and fraternity has their own method, their own rituals for inducting pledges, followed to a T year after year. 

Generally, though, initiation begins as a week of heightened "hazing" followed by that inglorious moment when it's all over. 
"No matter how big of a hard-ass you are, initiation might bring a tear to your eye. You've survived the hardest semester of your life; you deserve to show a little emotion."

Initiation is one of the best feelings of your life. It's the moment you've been anticipating since the start. After you've been through hell and back, you are finally worthy of sportin' those awesome Greek letters on your chest. So a huge congratulations to everybody crossing over into active-hood this week! Welcome to best four years of your life. 

While initiation is very symbolic to fraternities and sororities alike, I would like to point out that there are significant differences in initiation week for girls and guys. While guys may endure some of the most brutal and demeaning adventures preceding induction into the brotherhood (as depicted in the video below), sororities often engage in a series of nurturing, sisterly bonding activities prior to induction into the sisterhood. Both achieve the same goal, but through starkly different routes. 

In a final hurrah, fraternities embrace everything that embodies masculinity--aggression, homophobia, independence, strength, etc--in order to test their pledges' loyalty to the brotherhood. Initiation week is often the time when fraternities are caught for illegal activities such as hazing. Pledges are inducted into the fraternity at the end of a very long week, when the entire house, pledges and actives alike, have reached the limits of their exhaustion.

In contrast, sororities cultivate femininity during initiation week, inspiring their pledges through gifts and candlelight ceremonies that reiterate the demure and gentle nature expected of women. Come initiation day, pledges are donned in all white, another reference to virginity and monogamy. As a symbol of purity, it is at this moment that sorority pledges are graciously inducted into active-hood by the swift switch of their pledge pin for an active pin. 

I guess differences in initiation can be attributed to the differences between men and women. Women achieve equal status with each other by proving their dedication in a more mental form, whereas men attain status over one another and prove loyalty through physical force. Women are less likely to view physical training as an integral part of the bonding that creates sisterhood; men are less likely to take mental symbolism as seriously.  

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