In response to "Confession: Why Getting Hazed by my Sorority Was Weirdly Worth It" -- I sent this email after reading this article. I figured it was worth sharing on this blog.
Dear Ms. Odell,
I am writing in regards to your publishing of Tess Koman's story about her experience being hazed by her collegiate sorority chapter, as well as your open call for anonymous stories from readers about hazing experiences.
Shame on you.
Shame on you, for using your power as the Editor of the foremost women's magazine in the country (and one that's pretty popular with men, too) to condone something that is not only morally wrong, but also illegal.
Shame on you for allowing Ms. Koman to justify her hazing as bonding and for reducing the sorority membership experience to degrading, immoral, and illegal experiences.
And shame on you for downplaying the abuse and trauma experienced by other victims of hazing, especially those who are too afraid to come forward.
I am also a sorority woman, and I did not have the same membership experience that Ms. Koman had.
During my New Member period (we don't call it pledging, anymore), I learned about the values my sorority was founded on, about the benefits that were offered to me as a member, and about my new sisters. I was considered a sister on my bid day; membership was something that I earned on day one as I signed my bid card and made a mutual and lifelong commitment to my organization.
During my four years in college, my sorority membership gave me countless leadership experiences that taught me real, marketable skills -- my collegiate officer positions are on my resume and I am frequently asked about them in interviews. Like Ms. Koman, I also made some of my best friends in my sorority -- not because we were forced to sexually dance for fraternity men but because we shared the same common values.
I suppose that my biggest issue with Ms. Koman's piece is that it ignores all of the wonderful things that Panhellenic organizations offer to their members -- scholarship, service, leadership, and networking opportunities, of course, but above all else, deep bonds based on shared values -- while praising the transgressions of Ms. Koman's initiating chapter.
Does hazing occur? Of course it occurs. It occurs within groups of all kinds - professional sports teams, marching bands, and, yes, sororities and fraternities. And it is heartbreaking when hazing occurs, even when it is the exception, and not the rule. Hazing causes physical, mental, and emotional damage, some irreversible, and is contradictory to the founding values of any fraternal group.
Publishing this article was insensitive and demeaning to victims of hazing who may not want to come forward. Ms. Koman has reduced their abuse and pain to just part of the experience, which it absolutely is not.
I hope that as the Editor of a progressive women's magazine, you realize that forced subordination of women by other women is anything but progressive. It seems just slightly counter intuitive to suggest that we have to earn our place among our own gender through humiliation and abuse while demanding gender equality in the workplace, don't you think?