Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 2010 Volume 21, Number 3
©2010 Gürze Books
Participating in sorority or fraternity recruitment, or rush, programs is a time-honored tradition on many campuses throughout the country. However, according to the results of a recent study, undergraduate women who go through rush to join a sorority are more likely to judge their own bodies from an outsider’s perspective (self-objectification) than are those who do not take part in sorority rush. As time passes, those women who join the group also show higher levels of body shame.
These are a few findings from a study by Ashley Marie Rolnik, a senior at Northwestern University, Chicago. Rolnik’s study is the first to test objectification theory, a theory that links body dissatisfaction, and shame, eating disorders and associated behaviors to self-objectification. Her study, which was a senior honors thesis, was published online (Sex Roles. 2010. DOI:10.1007/s1119-010-9745-y).
The study surveyed 127 freshmen women aged 17 to 20 years of age. The women were divided into two groups: those who went through the recruitment process and joined a sorority and those who did not take part in rush. At four time points—before rush, a few days into the rush, on the day the bids to join were received, and one month after the rush, participants completed online questionnaires.
Levels of self-objectification were higher among rush participants than among women who did not take part, and this pattern continued throughout the study. One month after rush ended, new members also showed higher levels of body shame. Those with higher body weights were more likely to drop out of the rush process and to feel dissatisfied with it, even though analysis showed that the dropouts were not overweight, but less thin than those who joined the sorority.