SWUG Life 101: Exploring the nuances of a loaded new title

Many readers are well aware (though perhaps not as acutely aware as the senior authors) of a new acronym that is spreading through campus: SWUG (Senior Washed Up Girl). This word is trending all over the East Coast right now and has been featured in both Yale and Harvard publications, which were then picked up by New York Magazine and The Huffington Post, respectively. The term is so popular at Yale that there was an event titled “SWUGLIFE: A Colloquium.” No, we are not kidding. In honor of this buzzing term that has managed to infiltrate the purple bubble, several of the senior girls at the Record decided to have our own introsective swuglife colloquium on Saturday evening, prior to attending the Goodrich throwback party. #swuglife?

In trying to plan this SWUG discussion, the biggest problem that emerged was confusion over the ethics of the term and what it actually means. Many seniors who use the term use it to joke about their DGAF attitude – another acronym we recently learned that stands for “Don’t Give a F***.” For instance, in a recent Record issue’s “One in 2000,” Katy Newcomer ’14 self-identified her clothing style as SWUG and was quoted saying, “If you see me around and think I look cuter than normal, let me know because that’s not what I’m hoping for,” (“One in 2000: Katy Newcomer ’14,” Oct. 2). That was the first time we had heard the term, and we were pretty much on board with the idea of flaunting the fact that as seniors, we just don’t care anymore.

Other senior girls to whom we introduced the term were not so thrilled. They immediately said it was blatantly offensive and pointed to the “washed up” part of the acronym as proof that the term really does not portray those it refers to in a good light. And then there is the question of definition: What exactly is SWUG life? From what we can tell, it is the attitude of no longer caring about what other people think about you or really caring about college life at all. Spending Friday night on the couch watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with take out from Sushi Thai? #swuglife. Splitting a glass of Cabernet with your friend on a Monday in the ’82 Grill because it’s her birthday and that’s the most effort that you could put into “going out?” #swugsohard. NYMag quoted a junior at Yale defining SWUG life, “a campus-wide narrative and a marker of identity. 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” (“Meet the SWUGs of Yale: Women ‘Washed Up’ at 21,” NYMag.com, Oct. 4).

With all of these mixed ideas, planning a SWUG-themed pregame was difficult – probably because the planning part seemed to go against the idea in the first place. We decided on whiskey sours as drinks, in addition to whatever leftover alcohol the girls had (including a juice box of wine and homemade mojitos that were mostly just cheap rum, which we’d say fit the definition pretty well). The group of women in question was made up entirely of seniors, and so naturally, we decided to start an intellectual conversation (as all good pre-games at the College do) about the pros and cons of the SWUG term.

The gist of the conversation was that the term is offensive and yet something about it is so suited to some senior girls’ attitudes that it is hard not to use. We really do think that the “washed up” aspect of the term completely takes away from the way we want to use it as a positive explanation of why we DGAF. My friend drinks Franzia out of a water bottle during her night class not because she is washed up, but because she does not care what people think anymore. We want to wear sweatpants and a headband to our 9 a.m. class every day because our attitude around what other people think about us has changed. The consensus of the SWUG colloquium was that those things do not make us washed up; instead, they make us awesome.

The two pieces about SWUG that we read from Harvard and Yale were not critical enough of this term and how offensive it is, and yet we see why the term is trending. The senior women of elite institutions like the College have experienced three years of working and trying. Trying to succeed at classes and extracurricular activities while simultaneously maintaining a put-together image (does effortless perfection ring a bell?) is difficult. We think the idea behind SWUG is a good one – senior women bonding together and caring less about public perception. But does that have to come with a negative connotation? We think not.

We won’t be seniors forever. In fact, we will very soon be the younger women in the social scenes of Boston, Seattle, Miami or wherever else we are in the world being amazing. In the meantime, we should enjoy not feeling the pressures of a first-year woman trying to find her way and serve as mentors for those younger than us who need confident self-assured women to look up to. We will have the best, swuggiest, year at the College yet. Because really, when else in your life can you justify caring just a little bit less, just for a little while?

One comment

  1. SWUGs are not necessarily these “confident self-assured women.” They may not give a fuck because they are afraid of being rejected, replaced, and ignored. Not saying all of them identify as a swug for this reason, but some definitely use the term to shield themselves from further rejection. In addition, I think that your conception of being a SWUG as a temporary phenomenon defeats the notion that these senior women are actually self-assured. When else can these girls really not give a shit? Any time, if the societal pressures to “try” were not as strong for young women everywhere. That’s the bigger problem–that they have to “justify” caring less to an audience that will judge them no matter what they do.

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