This student decides to join a sorority, not—as she tells others—because it is fun or good for the community, but because she wants to fit in. Most of the members of the sorority are white, well-dressed, and upper-class. They are so powerful that people do everything they say.
This student associates being normal and powerful with a particular race and economic status, equating fitting in—abandoning a measure of individuality in the adoption of a group identity—as a form of power and authority.
While, at the beginning, the pledging process seems fun, she and one of her friends, Sarah, soon take part in an interview in which they are interrogated about their sexual experience. While the student herself doesn’t have anything to share, her friend Sarah begins to cry when she is asked about her boyfriend. Instead of comforting her, the interviewers ask her more embarrassing, crude questions and show that they had prepared a cap with “slut” written on it. At the end of the interview, Sarah comes out crying and decides to drop out of the sorority. This decision leads the two girls to stop being friends.
As in gang initiations, where violence is physical, the sorority members use verbal and emotional violence to select which members are desperate or resolute enough to join the group. Despite being an all-girl group, the sorority humiliates girls for their sexual experiences, displaying not solidarity but cruel judgment toward their own future members. The fact that Sarah and this student stop being friends highlights the power of such groups to bond as well as alienate people from one another.
Later on, pledge night proves scary, as boys are also involved and everyone is forced to obey their orders. After the girls are told to lie on the ground, the student sees that one of her friends, Shannon, is made to kneel in front of a popular junior boy and move her head back and forth while he holds in front of him something that looks like a bottle. While Shannon is crying hard, the rest of the boys yell insults at her. When one of them sees the girl watching, he calls her a whore and tells her to lie back down.
The verbal violence displayed earlier in the pledge becomes more explicitly physical and sexual when girls are forced to perform sexual or pseudo-sexual acts for boys. The association of sex with shame and violence continues, affecting girls only, as Shannon is forced to yield to the boys’ commands and accept their superiority.
At the end of the night, the student comes home physically and mentally exhausted, and covered in beer and raw eggs. Her mom is aghast when she sees her daughter’s appearance, and the student herself begins to cry, realizing that she cannot get out the sorority since she has already gone through so much and doesn’t want to end up friendless like Sarah. She feels relieved, at least, to not have been treated as badly as some other girls. She heard that one of the senior boys peed on one of the girls.
This student’s feeling that she cannot leave the sorority mirrors gang members’ inability to leave gangs, as they face external dangers as well as the emotional cost of leaving their social group. She considers violence from a personal, self-interested perspective, relieved to not have suffered herself but not morally shocked enough about other people’s experiences to do anything about it.
Now that she is in the sorority, though, she is primarily concerned with parties. She feels that, in the end, all the humiliation she had to endure was worth it, since everyone is nice now that pledging is over. She realizes that she probably wouldn’t have dropped out even if something really bad had happened during the pledge, because she wanted so strongly to be accepted by the others.
This student’s desire for group allegiance proves stronger than her individual sense of self-protection or self-respect, as she is willing to endure pain and humiliation in order to join a larger group—a self-sacrifice strikingly similar to gang initiations.