A Few Thoughts on Yale’s #SWUG – Senior Washed Up Girl – Life

by 5 years ago

Scene: Yale University, Sigma Nu's “dayger,” (that's a cute name for day drinking, Yale) with “scores” of female classmates milling about. Excerpts via New York Magazine:

They call it a “dayger” (a daytime rager) and the one at Yale’s Sigma Nu last weekend was huge. Every surface of the frat house seemed coated with a sticky layer of spilled drinks and grime. Young Yale men, many wearing ties and jackets, others wearing much less, stumbled up stairs, gripping plastic jugs of generic booze. True to their fraternal creed, “To believe in the life of love,” the brothers of Sigma Nu were graciously hosting scores of female classmates.


But guess who's not there? Senior Yale girls who are sick of “freewheeling frat hookup culture”:  

Yale senior Raisa Bruner was not one of said women in attendance, because she’s kind of tired of the free-wheeling frat hookup culture that’s so compelling to younger students. The guys know this about women her age, she says, and so they don’t generally hit on senior girls. If she went to Sigma Nu, she’d watch her male classmates focus on that infinitely more fun classmate, the female freshman.


The social phenomenon of senior Yale girls being “over” frat parties (something that happens at many colleges by the time senior year rolls around) is part of a larger group identity at Yale know as “SWUGS,” an acronym for Senior Washed Up Girl:

Bruner is a self-identified SWUG — a senior washed up girl. As she explained in a recent feature in the Yale Daily News, to be a SWUG is to embrace “the slow, wine-filled decline of female sexual empowerment as we live out our college glory days. Welcome to the world of the ladies who have given up on boys because they don’t so much empower as frustrate, satisfy as agitate.”


Pretty sure this is the equilivant of a girl exclaiming “I'm so over guys!” to a group of friends who all roll their eyes knowing that she's not over guys at all. Whether you're a dude or a girl, everyone knows this person. Weird to think someone would call it their identity:

She and her fellow SWUGs are women who don’t bother dressing up for class, or even for fancy parties (though they might still attend them), don’t seek out meaningful (or even just sexual) relationships, spend weekends at their shared homes drinking in the company of other self-identified SWUGs, and feel utter apathy about their personal lives — all at the age of 21. “Whatever empowerment we’re supposed to be deriving from this version of the feminist moment is looking pretty thin on the ground,” she explains.


So your life is over at 21 — the same year it begins for many people when the door to the bar scene is opened — because you've grown tired, weary, and generally snarky about your school's social scene? You'd rather spend time with your close friends than hanging out with a large group of probably horny, hive-minded douchebags you don't know? That's life! That's growing up! Once you reach a certain age, people tend prioritize things differently, meaning people just generally stop giving a shit. Happens at all stages of life. How is this a socialogical trend?  

Bruner’s was only the most recent in a series of essays by female seniors about being a SWUG; all year, the identity has become a pervasive part of student life at Yale. The concept isn’t quite new, as it seems to have been invented at Cornell and imported to Yale in 2010, but it’s still only in New Haven’s confines that it has become a celebrated social badge and meme for Facebook and Twitter posts. Bruner conducted an informal survey this year of 135 students and found 43 percent considered themselves SWUGs at least some of the time. (The SWUB — a male version — has also been thrown around, but only as a casual joke among SWUGs.)


More definitions of SWUGs from other Yale students. For the most part, this is what every college student acts like by the time senior year rolls around, including “alcohol-fueled” behavor:  

Indeed, if you visit campus, every student knows what a SWUG is, even if they can’t agree on the definition. Sophomore Greg Kelley told me that “it’s a girl who has been through the meat grinder. A seasoned veteran who knows the ropes.” Senior Richard Gilliland put down the 30-pack of PBR he was carrying and took a moment to formulate his response.“It means different things to different people,” he said. “I’m not sure there’s one coherent overriding concept to SWUG.” Carl Carbone is a co-owner of Box 63, a popular student bar, and sees “SWUGiness” as “very much alcohol-fueled. I see behavior I wouldn’t expect from some of these senior girls,” he says.


New York Magazine doesn't define what the bar owner means by “behavior I wouldn’t expect from some of these senior girls.” As in getting drunk with their friends and puking in the bathroom? As in making out with random dudes? As in dancing? I don't know, but I picture it looking something like this:

SWUG life means you get a kick out of yourself and your “cray cray” ways. SWUG life, in a way, becomes the college equivilent of a catty Sex In the City brunch: 

Chloe Drimal was the first of Yale’s class of 2013 to write about being a SWUG in the Yale Daily News. (Before that, it had been mentioned a few times in other student publications and on its own blog, swugdiaries.com.) And Drimal — a gregarious lacrosse player who was hoarse from screaming announcements during a game — says she and her friends have been amused by the concept of a SWUG since well before they were old enough to be one, embracing the term in a way that is more playful self-deprecation than complex social critique. As Drimal decoded the SWUG:

“She’s the girl who promised she would never hook up with someone younger than her but now finds herself texting sophomore boys who unavoidably turn her down. She thinks this is funny. She thinks about getting a vibrator; she may already have a vibrator. It may be better than that sophomore boy.”


Meanwhile, Yalies think they exclusively own this concept of college senior females being self-amused by the trivalities of college and ready to move on to a new stage of life. They feel it's something that can only exist at a high-pressure Ivy League school. This is bullshit. Senioritis (that's what this really is, right?) exists everywhere, as does “justifying not having to try so hard anymore” (a.k.a not giving a shit). Someone should really tell them they're just labeling a naturally-occuring sociological college phenomenon: 

“SWUG life is a campus-wide narrative and a marker of identity,” says Akbar Ahmed, a junior at Yale and an editor at the Yale Daily News. “It couldn’t happen at a school that wasn’t as high pressure as Yale. Calling yourself a SWUG is a way to justify not having to try so hard anymore.”


For further reading on why Yale's SWUGLife “trend” is really just a snarky worldview on all of college as a whole, I present this SWUGLife rant on frat stars:

One was in bed with a clothed girl and quickly undressed himself and put a condom on—she ran away.

Some don’t get to the condom on at all, instead they politely ask the girl to have sex, when she declines, they explain that it is a compliment they want to have sex with her — they are quickly called an asshole. They’re confused.

Some have a comb over, some don’t, some attempt a goatee and possibly fail. It doesn’t matter, because in the end these frat stars will inevitably grow up.

Some already have, they grow bored of ‘trying to get some’ and look for a freshman to date. A girl that doesn’t entirely know about their past of one night stands and blurred nights no one needs to know about. And finally the female population sees a different side of them, a side that has probably been there all along, hidden behind late night video games and too much testosterone.

For others, it may take till twenty-five or thirty for the frat star to realize that peeing mid tailgate through their khaki shorts is not okay. But then again it may also take a girl that long to realize that taking off their shirt or bitching about a silly text is not okay.

At the end of the day, SWUG life simply sounds like college girls maturing and becoming more self-aware toward the end of college, realizing that one's life isn't necessarily defined just by college experiences.Via New York Magazine:

Of course, the SWUGs aren’t actually washed up. Three months from now, they will be the bright-eyed newcomers in New York or Los Angeles, the 22-year-olds dancing on banquettes in nightclubs, who still drink too much and still flirt with boys. They’ll go from envying freshmen girls to being the envy of older women. That dayger at Sigma Nu is going to feel very far away.


Yep, just like ranch dressing on pizza and frat letter t-shirts, these things go nostalgically in the rear-view mirror after graduation. I suggest hobbies, a career, and an identify that's a little bit more individualized than the broad brushstrokes of a group mentality. That's so college. It's called growing up and moving on.  

[H/T: New York Magazine]





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