Title: The Zeta Tau Alpha Belt/Sash
Category: Ceremonial Object
Informant: Lisa L. Gabbard
Nationality: American, caucasian
Residence: 5031 Mead Drive/ Doylestown PA, 18902 (Suburban Home)
Date of Collection: 4/8/18
The sash/belt is made by the member being intimated into the Panhellenic sorority Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA). The sash is composed of nine alternating ribbons in the ZTA colors: turquoise blue and steel grey. The sash is worn around the waist and over a white petticoat. The ZTA sash is only worn during two occasions of a woman’s life: ZTA initiation and the woman’s wedding day.
Zeta Tau Alpha is a Panhellenic social and philanthropic sorority. They are best known for founding the “Think Pink” breast cancer awareness campaign. The ZTA sash is hand made during a woman’s initiation ceremony and is worn over an all-white petticoat. After the woman is initiated into the sorority the woman will keep the sash in her possession until their wedding day. On their wedding day, the woman will wear the sash once more underneath her wedding gown and over the white petticoat (if applicable) beneath the dress’s fabric. The woman will generally make a point of letting the sorority sisters present at her wedding know that she is wearing it and show them prior to the ceremony.
It is interesting to gather this sorority tradition from my mother since there is no record of ZTA ever being present on USC’s campus and very few of my friends would know about their traditions. Traditionally, as a member of a Panhellenic sorority, female members are required by secret oath to withhold all secrets and traditions of their respective sororities to death and never tell others of their secrets. Luckily, my mother and I do not hold these secrets between each other and she shared this story with me. I understand this ritual to be a “full circle” sort of deal from initiation (innocence) to marriage (maturity). She explained to me that this was a way for her to share her wedding with her “sisters” and still keep them close as she moved on to the next phase of her life.
There is a legend of hazing in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at USC in which all of the new members are weighed on a scale each week and the “fattest one” is called the Kappa Cow for the following week. The Kappa Cow story is an explanation as to why all of the girls in the sorority are “skinny”.
Informant & Context:
My informant for this piece is a member of a sorority at USC and heard this legend from another member of the Greek system here. She is not a member of the mentioned sorority and makes no claims as to the story’s authenticity—it is merely a story that has travelled around the USC campus over time. The specifics of my source remain anonymous. Other accounts of this story include public shaming in the form of Mooing at the selected individual and various other forms of body shaming.
In recent years, Greek life on college campuses has been highlighted for hazing stories such as this, which have turned out to be true. I make no claims about the verity of this story. I believe that this story may be a piece of fakelore that has sprung out of the fairly popular notion on the USC campus that that the sorority is highly exclusive to “hot, rich snobs” (Urban Dictionary). I find stories around hazing in the Greek community on college campuses especially interesting because of my proximity to it as well as the social barrier to entry they create. Essentially, whether or not they are true, these stories dissuade many people from attempting to join Greek life in schools.
There is a legend that an exclusive sorority at USC had developed a code to ensure that they only recruited girls that met their aesthetic standards (which were at odds with the recruitment plan of their organization as a whole at the national level). Girls that were nice and overall reasonable candidates for the sorority but did not meet the aesthetic standards of the current members would be described by the active members as “pretty, smart, nice” which was a code that they used to reject a reasonable applicant without having to make themselves culpable to their national board.
Informant & Context:
My informant for this piece is a member of a sorority at USC, though not the one that this legend is about. Both sororities will remain anonymous. My informant had heard other members of her sorority talking about this legend. There is no information to confirm or deny its verity. This is a modern legend that has existed for presumably upwards of the last five years.
There are a lot of legends around sorority hazing and sorority recruitment. I believe that this one is an attempt to provide reasoning for the consistently similar aesthetic of the members of the sorority in question. Though, another reasoning may be that these legends are attempts by others to sabotage a reputation and are in fact fakelore. Regardless, I find these stories interesting because they are in effect, organizational gossip.
Informant: Okay, so, um, my sister’s sorority house is haunted. And, um, she’s in AChiO at Oregon, and they were like the first sorority on campus, or first ones to have their house that they live in now on campus, so basically like AChiO here. So like because it’s been there for so long, two girls have died there and one of them died at the turn of the century. I think she fell down the stairs, but it doesn’t matter much, but the other one, this girl died in the seventies because she was on the stairs in some high heels and her sister as a joke, like, pushed her, but she fell down the stairs, and it’s a three story staircase, and she fell and broke her neck. And so she died in their house on like a normal night, and now she haunts the house and um her thing is that her ghost comes in the form of a cat so people hear weird meows in their room, and also she’ll come in the bathroom and like flicker the lights. She like threw paper towels at somebody, like this girl was just in there and paper towels just flew at her like peoples baskets will just get knocked off the wall. Also, they have a cat statue in their house, don’t know why, but they always say that it’s the ghost of the woman, and they’ll put it in people’s rooms and their suitcases when people go home just to scare them. It was really scary when I went up.
My informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is from San Diego, California. We had this conversation in the study room of my sorority house.
This is something that seems to be a basis for some fictional stories. There was an episode of Psych having to do with a haunted sorority house. It seems that in this type of horror story, the person who dies always dies in a certain way, and if there are multiple deaths, they happen in the same way. In this case, both deaths happened on the stairs. It also seems common in many ghost stories and perpetuated by the show Supernatural, ghosts inhabit some type of object to haunt people with.
Regarding a particular legend surrounding sorority hazing: “you have girls sit on washing machines naked and girls circle parts on their body that jiggle.” The legend goes that all of the new (or potential) members of the sorority would go through this process and then be labeled as fat based on the circled (in marker) parts of their body. They would then be insulted and chastised to work out and eat healthier to get rid of those spots.
Informant & Context:
My informant for this piece heard this legend from another member of her sorority, though this story is not specifically linked to her sorority. Rather, this story is linked to sororities in general surrounding their practices from several decades ago. Specific houses and people are not named to retain anonymity. The informant stated that there aren’t many more details because the story is “pretty dated” and this method of hazing is “not used anymore”.
I find that many of these dated hazing stories provide an interesting array of scare tactics that essentially equate to new members being asked to show how badly they want to be a member of this club; how much are they willing to endure. Stories such as this mostly date back to the 1960s-1980s which by all accounts that I’ve heard, sound like a really good time to have been involved in Greek life at USC. Essentially everything from that era seems to have been exaggerated: the parties were epic and the hazing was cruel. Though I cannot speak to the authenticity of any of these stories.