#BamaRush - a trend emphasising problems of preference
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
There are many trends that come and go overnight on TikTok but #BamaRush is one that seems harmless at first but highlights TikTok's preference problems - further emphasising societal ones.
A very American trend has taken off in the past week on TikTok. It's called #BamaRush from 'Alabama Rush' and it involves the recruitment of sorority houses at the colleges of the University of Alabama. UA has the USA's largest "Greek Community" (think sororities and frat houses) of any university at around 11,000 students or 30% of their total 37,000 total student population.
As Vox explains the lengthy process of sorority recruitment: Designated activities include convocation (the big introduction), philanthropy day (you go to a bunch of sororities and learn about their charitable causes), sisterhood day (you sit down with members of different sororities and decide which ones you like), pref day (you chat with members of the two sororities you like best), and bid day (the one where you find out which, if any, sorority has offered you membership). This week, as you might imagine, is extremely busy and stressful and emotional and exhausting, especially for students at schools where Greek life is a major determining factor of not only your college experience but the friendships and career track you might have for the rest of your life.
Many of the videos that have been trending are OOTD (outfit of the day) where the young women run us through their recruitment outfits - each round of the process has a specific dress code. These have been huge in the USA in particular, filling many TikTok users "for you" pages - regardless of whether they had any prior interest in sororities.
The "for you" page is curated by TikTok's algorithm, which has faced much heat in the past for being exclusionary. As the New York Times article on Bama Rush puts it:
"There's no way to tell for sure why this kind of video took off on the platform, but the stars of Bama Rush do resemble other big TikTok personalities: they're mostly white, thin women showing off their outfits."
TikTok hasn't just served up the whitest, thinnest applicants though - the whole culture is steeped in classism and racism - The University of Alabama was only desegregated in 2013 if you can believe it. Beyond this the very materialist process favours those with the wealth to attend the universities, buy the clothes and look the way that sororities want them to.
In this case it's a problematic societal preference culture being amplified by a platform known to play into similar issues of exclusionary preferencing.