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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hazing...How Far Is Too Far?

When mentioning to a friend that I was going to place an opinion on my blog about hazing, her first declaration was, “I think it's stupid and usually male-initiated!” But I think the evidence shows women can be as hazeing as men can. Consider the following headline, Sorority accused of hazing in $100 million suit. Alas, my thoughts on this matter are not directed at which species is more capable or contributing, but more about the point of too-farness.

While in the US Navy, I served aboard the USS Boston, SSN-703, a Los Angeles class fast attack submarine. Hazing is a way of life in communities like these. When a person became submarine qualified, an exhaustive process that usually takes about one year to complete, it is considered a big deal. By obtaining this qualification, the person had earned the right to wear the coveted Dolphins insignia that declared them a fully qualified submariner.

After the formal ceremony, the hazing portion begins. The crew ‘tacks on’ your dolphins. This consists of removing the pin backings from the pin, passing the pin through your clothing, and still without the backings, the crew takes turns hitting your pin as hard as they can, causing bruising and the pins to penetrate your flesh. This barbaric display of testosterone is no longer endorsed by the Navy and in fact, is now a violation of protocol even though it still happens.

So, the big question naturally is, why? According to Inside, The psychology of hazing involves several elements, which collide within a specific framework and cause "the perfect storm" increasing the likelihood of hazardous hazing events. The conditions of the theory are made up of the following attributes.

  1. Human Nature
  2. Developmental Needs
    a. Separation from family
    b. Identity and mood
    c. Acceptance in a group
    d. Aggression and sexuality
  3. Traditions
  4. Environmental Circumstances
  5. Personalities and Emotional States
    a. The perpetrators
    b. The bystanders
    c. The victims
  6. Dynamics of the Group
  7. Personality and Style of the Adult Leader
  8. The Sado-Masochistic Paradigm
  9. Attitudes Towards Authority
  10. Unconscious Psychological Forces
    a. Identification with the aggressor
    b. Repetition compulsion

This theory basically states that hazing can occur with any one or all of these attributes present. Obviously, the more of these attributes that are present the more escalated the event becomes. Also, any one of these attributes can be taken to an extreme and become hazardous.

WARNING SIGNS: Hazing may skid into the hazardous zone when:

  • The leaders of the group are very aggressive, and intimidating.
  • You have heard rumors from your peers about activities that are hazardous.
  • Your gut is churning and you sense danger.
  • You have been warned by authorities that the group has a reputation for being extreme.
  • You don't want to acknowledge it, but you have witnessed some events which are dangerous or are inconsistent with your own morals and values.
  • You feel stuck. You are already involved and do not know how to get out of the group or process.

In closing, it seems that a little hazing can go a long way. Being in EMS and working closely with the fire and police services, I have seen hazing on multiple levels; it’s commonplace. Most of the time it is in good fun. It can only be in good fun though, IF both parties are willing participants and as long as it does not cross any moral, sexual, racial, and/or ethical boundaries and is of non-violence origins. Crossing any or all of these boundaries is dangerous.



Anonymous RMS said...

I must say that I still maintain that it is a stupid practice, but perhaps I should have said that it seems as though the male of the species started this behavior. You even mention testosterone in your post but don't mention estrogen flowing freely. I am not saying that women/girls don't participate and may be even crueler than men/boys. Women are probably more likely to prey on the emotional or psychological, whereas men tend to go straight to the physical. Which is more harmful? It's a toss-up as far as I can see.
I personally have never participated either way. I don't have to be humiliated or injured to prove that I belong to something. There is no group or club that I want to belong in badly enough to lower myself by allowing others to control me and I am not interested in treating others that way either.

November 30, 2006  
Blogger Troy Stephens said...

I only said testosterone, because women are not allowed on US Submarines and that was the example I was using.

November 30, 2006  

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“The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depends on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life” - Albert Einstein