While what goes into the curation of every TikTok user’s For You page remains a mystery, one thing has become clear–content from University of Alabama students vying for a spot at the school’s sororities has dominated the app over the last week. TikTok users have referred to this trend as “RushTok”. It began when potential sorority members started making videos of themselves, and what they were wearing, for “Bama Rush,” University of Alabama’s Greek recruitment week.
A RushTok video’s formula is simple but captivating. First, state the rush day and activity. Next, name the brand of each accessory and clothing item you are wearing. Bama Rush TikTok videos with typical characteristics share a number of common traits, such as blondes with Southern accents and an affinity for brands like Shein, Steve Madden, Michael Kors and Kendra Scott.
It’s not surprising that the videos went viral last week. The videos featured mainly thin, attractive, and homogeneously beautiful white women (the TikTok algorithm’s most popular demographic). RushTok offered a glimpse (or an escape!) into a niche world full of parties and promise. It was a refreshing look at a world that is still reeling from a difficult year, and the world in chaos. RushTok not only gave the internet a break, but also inspired a slew parody videos. Popular acronyms such as PNM (potentially new member) or OOTD (outfit-of-the-day) have been used to describe rush videos of other schools in the country. This has created a vested curiosity among viewers about where recruits landed, a fantasy league for the Bama Rush.
RushTok’s obsession serves to remind us of the many long-standing critiques of racism, elitism, and sexism in many Greek life organizations. In universities across the U.S., sororities and fraternities have faced reckonings in the wake of hazig violence, sexual assault and even death. In 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, several students and alumni across the nation at multiple schools called for reform when it came to racial discrimination in Greek life, which, as TikTok user Cedoni Francis noted in a viral video, is based on being exclusionary, often along race and class lines. Some ex-Greek life participants left their sororities and fraternities to protest.
The University of Alabama’s current viral moment with #BamaRush (to date, the hashtag has received over 327 million views via TikTok) has also led to a review of the school’s recent dark history with racism in Greek Life. This is a troubling legacy considering the state’s history of brutal racial violence as well as its role during the Civil Rights movement.