Three young women, dressed identically, stand in front of a large door. They yell-announce their names, their elected titles. They confess that they’ve been waiting for you all summer (they have?) and are so glad you’re finally here. The doors open. “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Your eyes adjust to the flutter of movement that you realize is hundreds of twinkling fingers, fingers that belong to more identically dressed women, standing in leveled rows that seem impossibly neat. The women are now yell-singing and clapping.
This is called a “door stack,” and if you haven’t seen one in real life, you very well may have in one viral sorority recruitment video or another. It’s easy to understand why the clips become internet sensations, with their eerie, Stepford-like quality that comes courtesy of the matching outfits, the plastered-on smiles, and the fact that most, if not all, of the girls are white. They probably have the same hairstyle, too — long and straight or tamely curled.
When the doors fly open, and the initial screaming and spirit-fingering evolve into choreographed chanting, the effect is so visually ridiculous that it feels like a sinister punchline. “Horror movie of the summer,” read one headline in response to last year’s most infamous video, from the University of Texas at Austin chapter of Alpha Delta Pi. More intrepid tweeters remixed the video to look like the doors were, in fact, opening the gates of hell. Get Out references will surely be incorporated into this year’s crop of memes.
Even to the literally initiated, those who have participated in sorority rush several times over themselves, the scene can be unsettling, dredging up memories of the worst week of the year. (Anyone who disagrees is lying.) The girls in that Alpha Delta Pi video will probably execute their routine a dozen more times that day, for several days. It’s Texas, in August, so it’s blazing hot. They’re packed in that doorframe like sardines; some schools have even banned this formation due to reported injuries, ranging in severity from minor cuts and bruises to concussions.
After the singing ends, the sorority girls will engage in small talk with potential new members, known as PNMs, for the remainder of the round. Then they’ll scurry to their voting groups, where they’ll rate the girls they just met, before setting up to do it all again for the next batch of PNMs. They’ve been rehearsing every aspect of this performance, down to their conversation points, for at least a week, and preparing for recruitment more generally since last spring — planning their coordinated outfits, scouting incoming freshmen, maybe even putting up pictures of girls they definitely want around the house. When they tell you, “We’ve been waiting for you all summer,” they aren’t exaggerating.
College is an opportunity to start anew — away from the watchful eyes of parents, from friends who knew you back when, from the reputation that stuck to you for the past decade or so. It’s a chance to be the Very Cool person you know yourself to be, but that your high school wouldn’t allow for on account of all that history and the unfair social politics of adolescence. In college, you get to leave all that behind. But when your labels — honors student, theater kid, “friends with Suzy and them” — are gone, you’re left with a difficult question: Who am I?
Fraternities and sororities offer a quick solution to the “who am I?” conundrum. Rush at the beginning of your freshman year and get a brand new label before you even step foot inside a classroom. It’s an identity to assume during those first few weeks of endless introductions: I’m a Delta Zeta. I’m an Alpha Chi Omega. I’m a Phi Mu. It provides you with activities to partake in and people who are obligated to socialize with you. For those who are used to in-group status, or who seek in-group status after being denied it earlier in their teens, Greek life promises not just a sense of self, but a sense of belonging.
Read more at Racked.