The #Bamarush obsession explained
#Rushtok is back, and it’s more bedazzled than ever.
Reading that title, you can be instantly placed into one of two camps. Those in camp A might be thinking something along the lines of ‘What is a #Bamarush? Does it involve Barack Obama? Where is he rushing off to?’. Alternatively, if you’re Camp B, you’ll be one of the thousands of Tik-Tok users obsessively refreshing the app this week. Why? Well, it’s Rush Week – A.K.A the week that first year students at the University of Alabama try their darn-tootin-est to get into a sorority. And they’re documenting it all online.
OK, a little more explanation for those uninitiated as the current PNMs (rush-speak for ‘potential new members’). If you had even the slightest cultural brush with the American university experience, you’ll probably have heard of sororities and fraternities. ‘Greek Life’, the umbrella term for these groups, involves students choosing which specific sorority (feminine) or fraternity (masculine), called a ‘chapter’, to live in. Stick with me here. Committing to Greek Life involves abiding to a chapter’s set of rules, taking part in secret rituals, learning how to pronounce Greek letters, paying extortionate house fees and tolerating racism, sexism and nepotism. But that’s a story for another, more in depth, article. Anyway, #Bamarush is all about that first part – choosing and applying to a sorority.
Petition to officially add #bamarush to the holiday calendar
— Holly Rety (@hollyrety) August 7, 2022
Which sounds simple enough. That’s until you take into consideration the process itself. Rush includes attending designated social events and undergoing interviews for several weeks. The most prestigious chapters are highly selective, welcoming only the smartest, best dressed and most blonde through their doors. The right sorority can lead to the most socially acceptable friends, invitations to the best parties and, who knows, your roommate might get you an internship with Goldman Sachs. You can imagine the impact of getting into a dud house, or, even worse, getting completely rejected.
While Sorority initiation has remained pretty identical since it began in 1851, everything changed last year. It began (like any good trend) on TikTok. The always-omniscient algorithm began shoving Rush-related TikToks on everyone’s For You Page last July. Those first few days, when we looked out onto a world of frilly dresses and indecipherable acronyms, were unforgettable ones. With so much on the line and so many bedazzled tote bags purchased for the occasion, it’s easy to see how we got hooked. Users went from bemused outsiders, peering into a southern fish-bowl, to participants in the sorority super-bowl. By the end of last summer, users were making fan accounts for their favourite PNMS, one going so far as to make an excel chart of all their favourite ‘characters’.
The season emerged this summer with an initial rush (pardon the pun) of bag tours, which gleaned comments like ‘IT’S STARTING!’ and ‘Is it already that time of year again?’. As the first few days of Rush ticked by with minimal PNM videos, rumours began to swirl that sororities had banned girls from making them. Quick to defend themselves, Alabama University told Insider that no such censorship had been enacted.
Turns out the lack of content was a result of our own keenness – Rush week is only part way done! So, if you were in group B a few minutes ago, don’t worry. You’ll be sure to find your favourite PNM in no time. And for those in group B, perhaps I can tempt you to have a look as well.
Words by Kate Bowie