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Throwing Without Knowing

(Education, Leadership, Photos) Permanent link

By Kelly Matyas Magyarics, Pittsburgh, Fraternity Public Relations Chairman

Kelly_Headshot

Every day, we see photos on social media sites of smiling sisters at recruitment or sisterhood events, silhouetted in front of a setting sun, and posing in far-flung places during a semester abroad. Many of these images contain a common element:  members “throwing what they know,” i.e., using their hands to represent the letters KKG. Likewise, each day we receive via email photos of members proudly displaying this Kappa hand sign, and asking us to share them on the Fraternity’s official social media sites.
 
For sure, Kappa Kappa Gamma is not the only women’s group whose members have adopted an unofficial hand sign; a quick Google search will return photos and articles with many NPC groups “throwing what they know.” We are positive that all of these photos are meant to highlight unity, friendship and sisterhood, and the pride that members feel to belong to the membership of Kappa Kappa Gamma. But as we know, social media is not just about intention— it’s also about interpretation.
 
A member of my family (who needs to remain anonymous due to safety and security considerations) works for an organization that investigates gangs and hate groups. As an experiment, I sent him a photo I found online of two Kappas posing together while doing the hand sign. I explained to him that it’s a current trend among sororities to post photos with hand signs on social media, and asked for his thoughts on the concept. I also polled him to see if Kappa’s sign is similar to any that an unsavory organization might use. This was his response:
 
“Do they resemble gang hand signs? Sure they do. That’s what members of such gangs do to represent their crew by throwing up their sign. So I guess it’s not too surprising members of sororities and/or fraternities, who see themselves as close-knit groups (just like gangs do), may adopt a similar display of representation.”
 
Again, a quick Google search for hand signs will render photos of hand signs by members of organizations that promote violence and intimidation. Just as with Greek hand signs, these are designed to show unity, solidarity and loyalty to an organization to which these members took a pledge or oath. However, when my family member pointed out to me that Kappa’s hand sign is startlingly similar to one used by a white supremacist group, I was stunned. He sent me two images of this group “throwing what they know,” accompanied by the following explanation:
 
“They’re throwing up the SS bolts, a common white supremacist symbol. In fact, it even looks a little like the Kappa hand sign—it’s just that they don’t have their fingers open in the pics below, like those for Kappa do. That may be compelling to make them want to stop doing it.”
 
Compelling, indeed. Did you ever stop to think that the photos with hand signs that members of our Fraternity take, post and repost—which are meant to show Kappa pride—could be misconstrued as a symbol of white supremacy? Or that the very concept of a hand sign may be associated by the general public as not a symbol of membership in a Greek organization, but in an organization that uses violent and intimidating tactics? Again, we always need to be mindful of interpretation, not just intention, when posting online or to social media sites.
 
Starting now, the Fraternity will no longer post any photos on our website or our official social media sites of members displaying this hand sign. We encourage you to help this trend fade away by not posting images with it on your chapter or individual websites or social media sites, either. As a symbolic representation of Kappa Kappa Gamma, this hand sign is unnecessary to show our loyalty. Instead, continue to share with us those images that show your chapter’s personality and tell a story. Those are the compelling photos we want to share with the world.
 
Loyally,

KellySignature

 

Posted by Blog Admin at 01/06/2015 04:20:18 PM | 


I am quite disappointed to read this. Lots of research shows that using symbols like hand-signs helps reinforce a sense of community. Moreover, the continuity that this common hand sign creates across chapters empowers our sisters to reach across boundaries and bridge traditional social capital limitations that come from the bonding of Greek life (i.e. bridging and linking, See Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone).
As an active member, I would hope that the Fraternity will reconsider. Yes, interpretation of the images are important on social media. It would be more empowering for Kappa to then structure exactly what they would expect from members and standardized what would be and would not be approved by the Fraternity. In other words, defining whether the Key over the heart, the Fleur de Lis with fingers, or what is most common now would be ideal.
As strong women with voices, we should silence ourselves because we are worried about how others may see us. Instead, we should take control of the situation and stand our ground.
*This is only my opinion and not at all representative of my chapter or any other sisters.
Posted by: Emilie Burke ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 11:16 AM


These images have bothered me for some time; so I welcome this policy!
Posted by: Eileen Dickinson Parker ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 11:22 AM


This saddens me. Why would a group of strong women allow the negative connotation of "gang signs" dictate how we symbolically represent our sisterhood? By doing so, we are giving those involved in gangs so much power over our fraternity, to the point that we are being asked to stop a tradition various chapters have embraced. I see no problem in throwing what we know, it unites all of us the instant we make acquaintances with other woman wearing or letters.

I believe this issue should have be thoroughly discussed in each of our strong Kappa chapters, so all opinions can be heard and then a decision could be made. I agree with Emilie Burke, as strong women with voices, why should we allow those involved in gangs silence us, because we are worried about how others may see us. I am positive anyone in their right mind would not assume Kappa is dedicated around white supremacy, when they see supporting images of our sisters doing much needed and wonderful charity and philanthropy work for all kinds of people around the world.

*This is only my opinion and not at all representative of my chapter or any other sisters.
Posted by: Brianna Layman ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 11:47 AM


I wholeheartedly agree with Emilie Burke's comments. We should not give "gangs" power by believing that something they do is only reserved for their use. I don't have the statistics, but I would say that there are more Greeks in the world than gang members. The critical mass of the Greek community using hand signs to show positive solidarity and sister/brotherhood, than maybe we can change the negativeness that gangs bring to this act. I am in marketing and a previous Chief Marketing Office once told me "there are no sacred cows." In other words, just because something has historically been one way doesn't mean that it has to stay that way." in my eyes the Greek community's use of hand signs should be embraced and used for good. By saying you don't support that, won't post pictures, etc you are not standing up for what Greek believe and are letting the bad guys win.
Posted by: Sarah ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 11:48 AM


Thank you for writing about this trend. I've been bothered by it for some time. I'm not sure it is too far removed from a culturally insensitive theme for a social. If anyone is interested in how this is perceived by people outside of our own organizations, simply Google "White girls flashing gang signs" or "White girls throwing gang signs."
Posted by: Andrea G Stanfield ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 12:04 PM


I find this absolutely ridiculous. A sorority will not suddenly be judged in the same light as a gang or white supremacy group just because they're "throwing what they know". It is not the hand sign that makes these groups bad it is the violence, and last time I checked throwing a hand sign didn't make me want to become violent towards a member of another sorority. If you're going to base this decision on what may resemble "gang" behavior does that mean we should stop all wearing blue too as a symbol of our unity? As I'm sure you know, blue is the color of the famous "crips" gang and they use it just as much as a symbol of unity as the sisters of Kappa do. So since this gang behavior is similar to our own we should ban that too, right? Of course not. However, this logic is exactly the same as the logic that has prompted you to post this. I urge you to reconsider.
Posted by: Nahal ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 12:14 PM


Your timing is astounding.

Yesterday, 3.7 million people marched in France in defiance of radical, violent groups, and in support of freedom of expression. Today, you tell thousands of women to give up an innocent tradition in fear of association with similar groups.

Please reconsider this embarrassing and weak position. Until then, I will actively discourage my sisters from following this guidance.
Posted by: Alice ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 12:42 PM


I welcome the change. Kappa needs to respect all its members and the image of this symbol has bothered me for some time. We are a society of collegiate women. We are not a gang. I welcome the new policy and I hope the active chapter understands that the symbol may be hurtful to some of its member and that there are many ways of representing a cohesive and supportive group without adopting symbols created by the lowest criminals or most intolerant in our society, hand symbols.
Posted by: Karen Marriott ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 12:42 PM


First of all, correct me if I am wrong, the person who gave the negative opinion about the hang sign is a non-member of Kappa, as well as the only source fueling this decision that affects Kappas nation wide. From this perspective, it appears as if the writer was clearly biased in approaching this situation, making large assumptions based on one opinion of someone who is not a part of the Kappa community. As an alum, I find this personally hurtful - no one asked me or my chaper how we felt about this decision, and it seems no other chapter or member were asked. If there is going to be a decision this large being made, the members of this organization should be consulted first.
When members of Kappa go to volunteer, they often throw their sign with pride. The community sees these pictures and respects Kappa members for their hard work and dedication. We are known not only by our letters, but also by our sign, as women who are dedicated to being sisterly, scholarly, and giving back to those in need. Every picture of a graduated Kappa throwing her hand sign in her cap and gown is now being insulted, when it should be held high as an example of what our members can achieve.
Posted by: Kaitlynn ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 1:08 PM


Thank you, thank you, thank you! For years I have talked about this with others in the F/S community and was confused and sometimes upset by the use of hand signs by NPC sororities (of which I am a member, joined in 2003 and we never did hand signs at that time).

As someone who worked closely with culturally-based organizations, specifically members of the NPHC, it was disheartening to see NPC groups making up hand signs without understanding any of the context in which they could be viewed. Many groups (including my own) would use signs the same or so similar to the NPHC organizations. Those NPHC members would see this and feel disrespected as those signs are a part of their organizational identity and not something appropriated in the past decade or so.

I'm not saying I think we should ban hands signs (maybe I think we should but it would be hard to enforce), but I definitely think it is important to have these conversations and try to look at things from others' perspectives. How do those outside our bubble see us? Are we offending our fellow Greeks? Do we even know anything about why other groups use hand signs? This is a great opportunity to educate ourselves about culture outside of just our own organizations and culture.

Not knowing or not intending to be offensive is not an excuse at this point from educated and intelligent women. Continuing to "throw what you know" without knowing what you are actually throwing is not acceptable.
Posted by: Natallie Shaak ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 1:28 PM


First of all, correct me if I am wrong, the person who gave the negative opinion about the hang sign is a non-member of Kappa, as well as the only source fueling this decision that affects Kappas nation wide. From this perspective, it appears as if the writer was clearly biased in approaching this situation, making large assumptions based on one opinion of someone who is not a part of the Kappa community. As an alum, I find this personally hurtful - no one asked me or my chaper how we felt about this decision, and it seems no other chapter or member were asked.
When members of Kappa go to volunteer, they often throw their sign with pride. The community sees these pictures and respects Kappa members for their hard work and dedication. We are known not only by our letters, but also by our sign, as women who are dedicated to being sisterly, scholarly, and giving back to those in need. Every picture of a graduated Kappa throwing her hand sign in her cap and gown is now being insulted, when it should be held high as an example of what our members can achieve.
Posted by: Kaitlynn ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 1:38 PM


I'm extremely bothered by the seemingly caviler attitude with which a long-standing symbol has been cast aside by nationals. Because one person says our hand sign, when done **incorrectly**, MIGHT be similar to another group with a bad message, we have to eliminate the symbol? I think there should be a little more effort into investigating and discussing this before making a unilateral decision that affects the entire organization. It's not like we can (or should) go through our old pictures and blot out the hand symbol. And it seems near impossible to go back and recreate all of these photos, old and new, to eliminate the "offending" symbol.

Further, the universities at which chapters are located also often have similar hand signs to indicate belonging to or liking the school. Would Kappa be so crass as to suggest that Miami should get rid of the "U". Should FSU do away with the tomahawk chop? What about USC's "victory" V or Texas's "hook 'em horns"?

Let's look at Arizona State's "Pitchfork". When done correctly, the first, middle, and pinky fingers are extended and spread apart. When done incorrectly, with the first and middle fingers together, one could say this looks like the hand sign for "the shocker" intended to be a generally sexual gesture. Should they eliminate their hand sign because if done incorrectly it is similar to a lewd gesture?

Should we also suggest to our fellow fraternity brothers that they should not call themselves a "brotherhood" because some terrorist organizations use the same word to describe their groups?

I just don't understand why, after all this time and use, Kappa has suddenly decided to eliminate this harmless identifier. This seems like a convenient excuse to get rid of something that one or two higher ups decided they didn't want to do anymore.
Posted by: Jordan Balke ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 1:55 PM


This is ridiculous. I echo the disbelief from my sisters above. I really wish you had consulted with other members of the law enforcement community before issuing this edict. Like your unnamed relative, I too investigate gangs and hate groups every day as part of my job. I completely disagree with your relative. The Kappa key symbol, and other sorority and fraternity hand gestures, are clearly not gang symbolism. Your prohibition on hand signals is the equivalent of telling people not to wear hoodies because gang members might wear hoodies. Ridiculous.

It's clear from the comments that most people disagree with this snap judgment. It's time to reconsider-- and possibly to consult with the rest of our membership before making silly decisions, particularly when based on the advice of someone who is not a Kappa.
Posted by: Allison ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 2:25 PM


Thank you for your feedback. We appreciate your concern. The hand sign, unlike official Fraternity symbols, is something that has become popular in the past five years, and something about which Fraternity Council has had concerns for several years. As it is not an official hand sign or symbol of our Fraternity, we feel that it is not necessary to use it in order to show our unity and sisterhood. It is our ritual and our official symbols, the owl, the golden key and the fleur-de-lis, that are a better representation of the women we are and the women we strive to be. We want to share photos of our members showcasing our founders' ideals, and demonstrating what it truly means to be a member of our organization. We encourage you to share photos with us that reflect your personality, and help us share the greatness of our sisterhood.
Posted by: BlogAdmin ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 2:26 PM


Andrea,

It saddens me that many people associate "greek women" with "white girls" and use the terms interchangeably. I am sure this was not intended to be offensive but I hope that you will review your comments and understand why that could be hurtful to hundreds of members of our fraternity. I also did google the phrases you mentioned and nothing whatsoever about greek life popped up.

My personal thoughts are that a hand sign does not define my sisterhood and I do not need to "throw what I know" to feel continuity within Kappa. However, I do know some members that do find their continuity in this symbol and they love the connection it brings them with other chapters. I think not posting the sign on social media is a decision to made by the fraternity and I understand the reasoning behind the decision. I just hope the fraternity weighed the loss of some continuity within chapters in the decision making process. If the fraternity felt the possibility of negative interpretations by the public outweighed the possibility of a loss of some continuity within chapters, then I have to respect the decision.
Posted by: Annie ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 2:31 PM


I have never felt so distinctly pushed away by an organization I hold so dear. To have this snap decision made without consulting the membership at large and to have our voices silenced is a slap in the face.

I have never had aspirations for national leadership in Kappa, but I may have to reconsider that now that it has become so abundantly clear that the national leadership is not only non-representative of our members but is choosing to actively silence them.
Posted by: Jordan Balke ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 2:32 PM


I have never felt so distinctly pushed away by an organization I hold so dear. To have this snap decision made, based on the opinion of a single non-Kappa, without consulting the membership at large is a slap in the face.

I have never had aspirations for national leadership in Kappa, but I may have to reconsider that now that it has become so abundantly clear that the national leadership is not only non-representative of our members but is choosing to actively silence them.

I will continue to "throw what I know" because I am a Kappa, damn proud, and I'm not going to let a single party, some unnamed relative of a Kappa exec, bully me out of my pride.
Posted by: Jordan Balke ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 3:02 PM


This is absolutely absurd. You know what else is startling similar to a white supremacist group? KKG-KKK. Does that mean we should go back on hundreds of years of history because someone might mistake the two somewhere? A hand gesture, an image, words, none of these things have power unless we give it to them. By calling for this ban, you're making an issue out of nothing. These girls aren't bonging beers in letters. There are so many things out there giving the Greek community a bad name. Let's focus on something tangible that really needs a stance. I'm extremely disappointed in Kappa HQ's decision to even suggest stifling the freedom of its members.
Posted by: Julie ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 3:23 PM


Annie - You are absolutely right that the use of "white girls" is problematic; however, that's how the people who find fault with this practice and those who ridicule it describe it. You may not have seen Greek organizations in your Google search because Google filters our searches based on our location and past searches. I work on a college campus and when I searched while on campus, I saw more than one picture with a sorority name in it.

And while I think making efforts to foster sisterhood is important, that doesn't mean that every behavior is an appropriate way to do that. That's why we have rules about hazing.

I think when we consider what is hurtful, we need to look at ourselves as well as those around us. Kelly's post states that some have misinterpreted these as symbols of the KKK. Certainly the implications of that are worth considering when we consider how to use our symbols and letters appropriately.

This is not the first time our fraternity has gone against current trends, and I'm sure it won't be the last. It's one of the things that makes me proud to be a Kappa.
Posted by: Andrea G Stanfield ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 3:56 PM


It's important to remember a couple things: 1) no dictate has been given that members can't "throw what you know" or post it on your own page, simply that, as the Fraternity's head of Public Relations, a decision has been made that this photos will not be posted on National sites and pages going forward. As an Alumni member (Sigma Chapter, 1987), I am acutely aware that Kelly's job is to represent not just the Active members on college campuses; but also the Alumnae members some of whom are in their 80's and still active in their Alumni Chapters. This is more about how we present ourselves and our "brand" rather than about censoring members who throw up the Kappa hand signs. When you take a moment to look at all the implications, hopefully those of you up in arms about this change will see the wisdom in maintaining a traditional "Kappa" persona at the public level. Loyally, Shannon
Posted by: Shannon Dolce ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 3:58 PM


I am extremely disheartened and confused to be reading this. As a woman who dedicated four years of her college career to Kappa Kappa Gamma and will claim to be an alumni of for the rest of my life, this is upsetting to read.
My one question, this gang has been around since the early 2000s, according to the internet. As an organization that was founded in 1870, we should not have to rely on an outside source to have realized by now that our hand symbol resembles that of a gang. As a group of educated women, what took us so long to figure that out?
Also as a member of the Delta Rho chapter of over 300 women, simply choosing not to post pictures of the hand symbol will not change anything. As I appreciate the effort, I cannot help but be confused on why this has taken so long to surface.
Posted by: Alex ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 4:29 PM


Absolutely ridiculous. Let me give you an example: the swastika is a symbol that represents Hitler's rule and all things hitler. On the other hand, the swastika is a symbol worshipped for gods in Hinduism. This DOES NOT mean gods are hitlers? Does it?!
It's a hand sign, not a crime.
Posted by: Riya ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 6:39 PM


Kelly,

I don't think that hand gestures which unite Kappas and have become a special part of our sisterhood should be banned because of the assumption that they link us with violent gangs or their criminal activities. Our hand gestures represent the love and loyalty that binds us. We link our hands with special women that are our sisters we admire. As Kappas, we strive to encourage one another so that we may all 'aspire to be'come the best we can be not only on an individual basis, but as a sisterhood. These hand gestures are in no way meant to be malicious and I will continue to use them because they are special to me and represent the bonds that unite us as a strong group of beautiful women.

I treasure all the photos that I took throughout college using our hand gesture with my closest friends and will always remember our sign and the wonderful memories associated with it. I found my sisters in Kappa. Please do not discredit what this gesture means to us by so abruptly dismissing its use and I would appreciate it if you would reconsider your decision.

Loyally,
Dillon Cure
Posted by: Dillon Cure ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 6:48 PM


I fully support the fraternity on this one. But my true question is why is this the first and truly only issue that Kappas across the country are fired up and interested in? Why have we not posted on blogs about bettering Standards or making our Recruitment more values based or about chapters collaboratively working together?

Shouldn't we be more concerned that our actives and alumni are more fired up and passionate about a silly picture than the policies and bylaws that truly affect the success of our organization?

As they teach us at Leadership Academy, one of the 5 principles of a good leader is to Challenge the process and that is exactly what they are doing as an organization. How many more people do we need to offend with this symbol for it to be an "okay thing to stop?" Like the Headquarters women said, our symbols are not with our hands but rather with our heart and represented by the Stately owl, key, and Fleur delis.

Everyone should take a step back and remember what our organization stands for. We should be so strong as an organization and Fraternity that we don't need a silly hand symbol to unite us. That is what our ritual and values are for.

Let's focus all of this negative energy on something powerful and wonderful as an organization!
Posted by: Joanne ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 7:01 PM


Dearest Headquarters,
Well I appreciate your effort to uncover what our "throw what you know" sign may or may not be attributed to, I think you got this one wrong. No one else have ever linked this to an organization, such as the KKK until now. It was also found out by a non-kappa who specializes in gang signs, and the average citizen would not have access to that knowledge. Sisters from my chapter tried to find evidence of Neo-Nazi's using this sign, and instead literally found nuts and bolts, and no humans.
Posted by: Allison Gibson ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 8:25 PM


I'm sorry but this is ridiculous. Someone may have said this already (I didn't go through all of the comments) but has anyone noticed that not all Kappas are caucation? Uhh, there are numerous chapters with numerous variations of ethnicities. I'm pretty sure that the representation of Kappa Kappa Gamma is not solely white nor does is look ANYTHING like a supremacy GANG. This seems to be creating an issue that was never present. Dear God. I'm sure that smiling girls posing together looks very ominous and gang like. You know what else is gang like? Matching red or blue colors. Are we banning that? No. Whoever wrote this needs to look elsewhere for problems to solve.
Posted by: Aubrey ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 8:30 PM


Many hand signs and gestures can easily be mistaken for something else or resemble something that was not meant to by doing it incorrectly. Additionally, it can be interpreted by other people who are not involved as something completely different than what it is meant to represent. Take the "thumbs up" gesture. In many Western cultures, this is a symbol meaning "great job", "yes", etc. Take this gesture to a country like China, though, and you will be offending someone, just like if you had used your middle finger in this country. Does this mean then that we should stop using hand symbols and gestures all together? No because that would be absurd. Different things (like gestures and jargon) will mean different things to different people. For people not involved in any given organization things will seem different than they are. That is how the world works. Someone will always find connections and links to unsavory things if they dig deep enough.
Posted by: Ally ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 10:05 PM


Wow. I am so disheartened by this. As a currently active member, Kappa has never made me feel so unimportant and excluded. I have signed the petition asking headquarters to reconsider. I will, however, still "throw what I know" because I don't believe in ending a new and chapter-spanning tradition just because of your non-Kappa relative's interpretation of the hand symbol that has come to be a beacon of Kappa, especially for girls with friends in other chapters of Kappa. While you're changing things without consulting, you might want to change the KKG. If written incorrectly, our letters could be misinterpreted as KKK, and we all know that that is a white supremacist group. Google KK- and look at the auto complete, because the KKK certainly comes up first in the search.
Posted by: Tara ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 10:31 PM


You know what else is similar? Our colors. Blue is the color of the gang called the Crips. We should just change that too to avoid any sort of wrong interpretation, right?
Posted by: X ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 10:34 PM


This is absolutely ridiculous. I think Kappa has bigger problems to worry about and solve at the moment, for example our Standards Policies and Procedures need to be updated and headquarters need to care more about their initiated members when they have concerns about their own chapter. "Throwing what you know" is not harmful. That's practically saying that wearing our colors and letters associates with being a "gang."
Posted by: Raelyn ( Email ) at 1/12/2015 11:09 PM


I, as an active member of Kappa at the Beta Chi chapter am extremely appalled that this is being brought up. Is there a sensitive group who is bothered by the issue? Obviously we're not a white supremacy group, or the hand sign would've been disbanded years ago when this was more prevalent of an issue in society! It's called freedom of speech. And you cannot enforce something like this. Just because some people may not like the hand sign, they can choose not to do it, but why does their opinion have to bog down the rest of us? If you don't like it, don't do it. It's as simple as that, but our hand sign is heritage and a pride representation of Kappa in photographs. Besides, if we were the only sorority that didn't have a hand sign, we would probably look pretty foolish in the vast majority. Up until this was brought up, I have never even heard a faint whisper about this linking to white supremacy groups. FREEDOM OF SPEECH. VIVA LA KAPPA :)
Posted by: Makenna Lawson ( Email ) at 1/13/2015 2:27 AM


This is ridiculous. I have never read anything that is so utterly misguided and absurd in my life. 19-year-old girls throwing up a hand sign is not "offensive." What's offensive is that this organization is turning into a corporate business so afraid of being politically incorrect that it is willing to sacrifice the happiness of its own members in the process. I am an active alumna and this is quite honestly the straw that broke the camel's back for me. Maybe it's time we need to get some younger girl over at Nationals because you all are running us into the ground.
Posted by: Catie ( Email ) at 1/13/2015 12:05 PM


Thank you Kappa Kappa Gamma for making a statement on this issue and, hopefully, beginning the demise of the use of hand signs among NPC groups. As someone mentioned previously, while this does not preclude members sharing the sign on their own, it reinforces a better standard for KKG at the national level.

I hope other NPC groups follow suit and this trend ends as quickly as it began.
Posted by: Jill ( Email ) at 1/13/2015 1:17 PM


I am appalled that Kappas all over the nation are being asked to stop using their hand sign, which symbolizes the Kappa bond and sisterhood, because our sign uses two hands to create a symbol - which is the ONLY similarity between these two hand signs. There is NO similarity between these two hand signs that should cause such an issue and simply educating yourself on the subject should quickly dismiss any confusion. We should not have to change who we are and what we stand for because of a horrible group of people who also use both their hands to represent themselves. Just doing a one handed K (for Kappa) is MORE similar to a white supremacist group's hand sign than the symbol with the two K's is. Does this mean we should stop doing that sign also? As a matter of fact, we should just stop using the letter K all together because apparently that organization is the only one allowed to use the letter K! Even better, let's just change our entire fraternities name because that may be too similar to this other group's name as well. NO. That is absolutely ridiculous. I completely understand that as an organization we do not want to offend anyone or be confused with such a group. But this is simply a HUGE stretch of the imagination and there are much better solutions to the problem such as educating our chapters on the subject and being aware of the issue so we can educate others on how they are nothing alike.
Posted by: KKG ( Email ) at 1/13/2015 1:25 PM


Freedom of expression? Isn't that a part of being in a sorority? Whoever had the audacity to even bring this "issue" to light is ridiculous and narrow-minded. Throw it proudly!
Posted by: kappa ( Email ) at 1/13/2015 2:44 PM


I'm a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. I am a sister. I am a leader. Being in Kappa has shown me so much and has helped me grown into the lady I am today. Kappa should be allow to "throw what WE know," because Kappa's are sisters, friendship, and leaders of the next generation.
Posted by: Dolores ( Email ) at 1/13/2015 7:04 PM


Quit with the stupid PC liberal b*******. People that are offended by the Kappa hand sign need to grow a tougher skin; it's clearly different than the SS bolts hand sign.
If you're offended by the hand signal, here's a quote from Stephen Fry: “It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so f****** what."
Posted by: Male ( Email ) at 1/13/2015 9:53 PM


If you're one of the many sisters who disagrees with this decision, here's a link to a petition to Nationals asking them to reconsider:
https://www.change.org/p/kappa-kappa-gamma-national-fraternity-reconsider-your-stance-on-the-kkg-hand-sign

If you're the social media savvy type, here's a link to a protest we're staging tomorrow (Thursday, Jan 15):
https://www.facebook.com/events/395733897270902

We're encouraging all Kappas to post pictures of us Throwing what we know and using the hashtag #ThrowWhatYouKnow so we can show KKG Nationals that the handsign is an integral part of being a Kappa today.
Even non-KKGs should join the fun. Show your solidarity with us in our stand by throwing your own sorority, fraternity or school hand sign and using the same hashtag in support!
Posted by: Jordan Balke ( Email ) at 1/14/2015 12:14 PM


As an African American member of Kappa I'm appalled at the ignorance at the basis of this article. Kelly, you're using your privileged position as a white member of a predominantly white organization to stay ignorant of the fact that sorority/fraternity hands signs are NOT a new NPC-invented phenomenon.

NPHC organizations have been using hand signs for a long time, a quick google search would have revealed that to you. You are not just ignorant of these facts, you are, at the very basis of this argument mocking any fraternal/sororal organization that uses hand signs, including NPHC organizations.

Congratulations for being culturally insensitive. After reading this, I am ashamed to say to my NPHC friends that I'm a Kappa.
Posted by: Lauren ( Email ) at 1/14/2015 1:39 PM


There's so many other issues in Kappa that have to be addressed before we try to tear down a symbol of unity. We aren't allowed to have an incentive system, because that is "hazing". We aren't allowed to put girls on social probation, or to remove girls who consistently fail to achieve our cardinal value of scholarship. We're trying so hard to please everyone that we've stopped maintaining our identity as an organization or allowing us to build up strong women.
Posted by: Sam ( Email ) at 1/14/2015 3:39 PM


While I don't find your reasoning particularly compelling, I can understand why --based on the single point of view represented in the statement-- you would chose to err on the side of caution when posting on website or official social media sites. As a PR professional, I get it.

However, as an alumna something about this post immediately rubbed me the wrong way. If you truly believe that this is an organization of intelligent women with exceptional leadership qualities, why didn't you consult some of the sisters? I see a lot of valid and insightful arguments from both sides of the issue in this comments section. Maybe some of the social media fracas could have been avoided if these had been the sources you cited. I mean, honestly, photo policies don't spark petitions, but I can see how feeling patronized and disenfranchised by the way decisions are made and communicated might.
Posted by: J ( Email ) at 1/14/2015 4:00 PM


I'm an alumna who graduated before this trend started, and I gotta say - I'm unpleasantly surprised to see Nationals wasting their time on something SO trivial.

Do you have nothing better to focus your attention on? If not, we ought to reevaluate how much the active and alumni chapters are paying in dues to Nationals. I hate to think that the per capita fees my alumni chapter pays to nationals is funding this incredible waste of time.
Posted by: Rhianon Anderson ( Email ) at 1/14/2015 7:40 PM


I'm not confident that the author of this blog is actually qualified to make a change like this. What is your background in non verbal communication and how the millennial generation communicates? How is it that Kappa cannot see that it needs to evolve to keep in mind that it's primary focus should be on encouraging the actives to be strong, successful and happy women? These women are expressing themselves and connecting to sisters in other chapters to find common ground through a hand symbol for social media posts. This is the world we live in now.

How is a hand symbol different than the grip? The blue? The owl? They are all symbols of pride to these women. It's a way to connect through the largest platforms of communication, social media. They throw what they know when the don't happen to have giant letters, a stuffed owl or a key on hand to feature in their photos.

How can you not see that anything can be interpreted as gang symbols; blue is known to be a gang color, the owl, in some cultures is the symbol of death and destruction, the ritual could be considered cult like to an outsider.

While I believe we should be culturally sensitive, this has gone overboard to the point of offensive, and frankly it's ignorant.

Time and time again, Kappa HQ will come up with these ideas that polarize the sisterhood and make the active members feel bad about doing something that is supposed to be fun. When I was in school, it was getting rid of the Big/Little family dynamic. A fun tradition that was deemed to be hazing or unfair to the sisters who didn't get as nice of gifts as the girl next to her. It seems that the women in Ohio are really out of touch with what it's like to be in a college sorority. Not everything has to be done the way that it was done years and years ago in your chapter.

Just because you have 399 twitter followers doesn't mean you know anything about how to properly create an online visual brand identity. And just because you were in college at one point doesn't mean you understand the behaviors and interpretations of college and post college members today.

This is so disappointing to me because of the manner with which it has been rolled out and decided. Kappa needs to keep it's traditions as much as it needs to evolve. And the focus should be on things that actually matter. Not making members feel bad for harmless enjoyment in connecting with one another.
Posted by: Kassie Camp ( Email ) at 1/14/2015 11:30 PM


I am a Kappa. I love my sorority, my sisters, and this hand sign is a way of expressing that.
I am sorry that a handful of people are overly sensitive and choose to KNOWINGLY and WILLINGLY misinterpret this symbol of so many good things.
If you choose to take offense where none is given, that is a decision you make for yourself. Imposing this decision on others, however, is not right nor is it fair.
You are doing nothing but reinforcing the idea that hand signs must remain linked to violence and hate instead of letting us bring a positive, loving and supportive connotation to it. It is a willing impediment of progress in society.

I really hope that nationals reconsiders this and brings a little common sense to a situation that seems to be lacking in it.
Posted by: Regan ( Email ) at 1/14/2015 11:38 PM


As many of you know, a few days ago we posted a blog regarding the Kappa hand sign. The blog sparked a lot of discussion, and we want you to know we value your input and are paying close attention to the important questions and concerns you've raised.

The Fraternity would like to continue open dialogue with you regarding this matter. The best way to fully hear you and capture your thoughts is through direct communication. To offer your opinion, please email us at kkghq@kkg.org by Fri., Jan. 23.

We will then gather these responses and take them into account as we further discuss this issue over the coming weeks.

Every member of Kappa Kappa Gamma makes our organization stronger. We are a true sisterhood honoring friendships, self-growth, intellectual development and more. We thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Posted by: BlogAdmin ( Email ) at 1/16/2015 3:04 PM


I believe that our hand sign represents our love and loyalty. It represents the countless hours I spent with my sisters in college: sitting in recruitment and Chapter Meetings, going on Sisterhood Retreats, participating in philanthropy events, going to mixers, and studying for finals. It represents the countless hours I still spend with them now after graduation: catching up at lunch, attending weddings and baby showers, and going on vacation together. It represents the fact that a flight attendant can see me in a Kappa sweatshirt, declare that we're sisters, and become my friend as if we've known each other forever. It represents our bond that no one outside of this organization can understand. Don't taint that. Don't make it something "bad" just because it may look similar to something else. It is not a gang sign. It is a KAPPA sign. We own it, and it represents us, the strong intelligent women that make up this organization that I love so dearly.
Posted by: Cate ( Email ) at 1/16/2015 3:46 PM


As an active member of KKG I am cannot express how disappointed I am of this decision. I am not aware of any sororities that were informed of getting a say in this decision to try and discontinue our own sign. How would you feel as an active member having something so meaningful such as taking a picture with your sisters all doing that sign away from you, now saying that "we" as in all of KKG do not support it when the active members the current "we" do support it and believe it represents our sisterhood bonds in a positive way. You have taken something little that not many people knew about other than those who would study gang signs and have tried to turn it into something. The sign is NOT the same sign either.
Posted by: Brooke Bovee ( Email ) at 1/17/2015 8:18 PM


I became a Kappa a long, long time before these hand signs came along. I think there is nothing wrong with girls using them. We are a society obsessed with being so pc that we put a stop to things that are innocent in nature. When I see pictures of this generation of Kappas I do not see girls who look like gang members and I think people on the outside can also see that. The girls are showing pride and unity not throwing gang signs. Let them enjoy themselves. Shoot I have even taken a picture using the Kappa hand sign and I am 47!
Posted by: Lisa Tate ( Email ) at 1/18/2015 7:56 PM


While our Kappa sign does resemble a gang sign, it is imperative to remember that it also resembles our letters. It should be unquestionable that the members of this fraternity nationwide have absolutely nothing to do with the gang that our hand sign resembles -- that the values promoted by that gang and the values promoted by Kappa are two vastly different things. When members of the fraternity use the Kappa sign, they are choosing to convey that they are a part of a community that represents something bigger, a community that has respectable values. The gang that the KKG sign resembles stands for bigotry and hate, but by shying away from using our sign Kappa as an organization gives that gang a respect and acknowledgement that it in no way deserves. The Kappa Kappa Gamma fraternity holds itself to a high standard, and the national organization should set an example of leadership and pride by refusing to ban the kappa hand signs.
Posted by: Madeline Byers ( Email ) at 2/3/2015 2:33 AM


If you ask someone who works for an organization that investigates gangs and hate groups about a hand symbol, I do not find it surprising that they would have a negative response. I find it disappointing that a member of our fraternity's nationals would go out of their way to condemn our hand symbol. In my opinion a hand sign stands for whatever the group stands for- and in Kappa's case, we stand for something that is beautiful and important to us and women in general.I think it is silly to condemn hand symbols just because gangs use them as well- like there are good and bad words, there are good and bad hand signs as well. Take the peace sign for example- it is a hand sign people throw up daily, but has a positive message. I have a friend that once was abroad and saw someone wearing a Kappa shirt from across the train station. While this person was too far for my friend to approach them and speak to them, she was able to throw up the Kappa hand symbol, to which the Kappa in the identifying sweatshirt was able to throw back, giving them an instant connection and acknowledgement. It is sad to me that this is no longer possible and that we are not even allowed to throw up alternative hand signs such as the fleur. In my opinion, condemning our hand symbol is a huge loss to our sorority. While it isn't what being in a sorority is about, I remember as a PNM being excited about the idea of having future cute pictures with my sisters throwing up hand symbol that represented the amazing organization I would be a part of. Gangs have particular colors, as do we as kappas- should we ban blue and blue too? Just my two cents.
Posted by: Serena Libert ( Email ) at 7/22/2016 8:28 PM


I was reminded of this horror today, two years after the initial post. It's still just as irritating and terrible today as it was two years ago to feel like an organization that you gave so much time, effort, money, love, Sisterhood.... still has no idea what its members want. This isn't the first time, the second time, or even the 10th time, that this organization has acted with impunity. Disappointing to say the least.
Posted by: Jordan B ( Email ) at 1/12/2017 7:33 AM


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