A sorority at the University of Alabama strutted its way onto the Internet’s radar this week with a much-maligned recruitment video—a glimpse of all that life can offer if you join Alpha Phi. In the seven days since it was posted to YouTube, the four-minute video—a slow-motion whirl of frolicking, bikini-clad, glitter-blowing sorority girls reveling in sisterhood and the wonders of blonde hair dye—has spawned a litany of opinion pieces, with writers zeroing in on its all-white cast, its hyper-sexualization of women, and the general criticism that it is as culturally tone deaf as it is mesmerizing.
The video faced so much criticism, in fact, that the original was yanked from YouTube, but not before racking up half a million views and spreading hundreds of copies. In the midst of all of this, the chapter has tried its best to retreat into social media solitude, setting its accounts to private or deleting them completely.
But nothing truly goes away on the Internet . . .
Recruitment videos are nothing new. They’re a way for sororities to put their best foot—or blondest head, in Alabama’s case—forward to attract incoming freshmen. It’s also not uncommon for these promotions to go viral far beyond a school’s recruitment pool. In 2011, Baylor’s Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter posted the “Kappa Rap 2,” a musical genre classification that is generous, at best. Among its auto-tuned verses, performed by a trio of KKG’s donning their best attempt at emcee gear, it includes super ill lines such as: “It’s the rappa rappa jamma/for the Kappa Kappa Gamma” and “Blue is our color/And blue is our other color.”
Despite its 1.2 million views, the Baylor video didn’t spark think pieces or any conversation (other than maybe some “LOLWUT?” in the Internet ether) when it dropped four years ago. But one of the main criticisms of the Alpha Phi was its “racially and aesthetically homogeneous” self-portrait, a point that has been repeated in countless op-eds. The KKG video appears to have many of the same motifs, so where was the outrage for this marketing to the class of 2014?
The key difference might be that the KKG “rap” isn’t overtly objectifying women, one of the primary criticisms of the Alpha Phi video. It’s mostly an affirmation of Greek superiority, not a look-book of perilously short hemlines (although there is one point where a crowd of men showers attention on a clearly uncomfortable KKG, all while her sister brags that they go to frat events “like, all the time”):
Still, it’s undeniable that there is a racial blind spot in both videos. Alabama’s was made clear through its proud showcase of what appears to be a primarily white sorority. Baylor’s was populated by a similar demographic, but it further piled on with misguided appropriation of hip-hop culture.
The Baylor video’s target class (should) have graduated by now. Alpha Phi’s, however, hasn’t even started its college career. Maybe, just maybe, the vastly different reactions to the two videos could be a testament to attitudinal shifts across the U.S. Have we finally progressed as a country enough to a) question that a sorority is made up of entirely white women and b) understand that is a problem? More importantly, can the class of 2018 work to do something about it?
That remains to be seen. In the meantime, here’s glitter in your eyeballs.