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Plazing Inside the Fratriarchal Frame: American College Fraternity Men’s Gender Identity and Hazing

Hazing is both common and accepted within college fraternity culture. It also annually results in dangerous or destructive behaviors that have long-term consequences for students and organizations. One of the reasons college administrators have been virtually ineffective at addressing hazing is that students do not identify their experiences as hazing. I hypothesize that students are performing accepted gender identities as a mechanism to achieve group acceptance. This performance of gender manifests as plazing, a term I have coined to describe a form of adult play behavior that meets the definition of hazing. Within the play frame, individuals negotiate gendered meanings of self, and organizations test conformity to group norms. This study explored male hegemonic gender norm conformity and hazing behaviors in the confines of structured play among college fraternity men. Using the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory-46 (Parent & Moradi, 2009) and a hazing and play measure developed for the purpose of the study, the study sampled fraternity men among 11 chapters at a campus in the Northeast to explore the relationship between individual and group masculine identity and the role of hazing activities in ensuring conformity to group norms. The differences between individual and group gender norms were compared to measures of hazing activity participation, the value respondents placed on new member experience outcomes, and the identification of hazing activities as play behaviors. Overall, individual and perceived group masculine norm alignment was found to have relationships with desirability of masculine-aligned new member outcomes, frequency of hazing in groups, and the likelihood that individuals report hazing activities as play. The findings also suggested a hierarchy of hazing play, with structured chaos-based activities occurring in more masculine norm-aligned groups and competition-based activities occurring in groups across the masculine norm adherence spectrum. Recommendations for research, policy, and practice are offered.
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