Sisterhood Blog

You Are Not Washed Up, Yale SWUGs!

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share
thinkstock

Have you heard about “senior washed up girls” — or “SWUGs”? They’re the latest acronym for a sexual trend that affects Ivy Leaguers, in this case young women at the end of their college careers discovering that (either due to free will or lack of options) they do not care anymore: about grades, hookups, relationships or anything but having a good time.

Is this cool or pathetic? Or as Raisa Bruner, a student writer at, Yale put it philosophically:

Is SWUG-ness a…fuck-‘em-all, let’s-do-what-matters-to-us kind of attitude that has nothing to do with the images of lackluster sex and desperate partying that it’s grown to encompass?

I wish. Maybe it was that way once. But right now, SWUG’s social meaning at Yale remains about the hooking up that we women are — and aren’t — doing, and how little we’re supposed to let that bother us. It’s become a signifier of not caring. Alas for the golden era of SWUGs. It was over before most of us out in the real world even knew what it meant.

Yes, another long and rambling “trend piece” in an Ivy League newspaper has been picked up and analyzed, complete with a campus visit, by New York Magazine. The next link in the chain? An older Ivy graduate (that would be yours truly) sits at her keyboard trying to make sense of what the youngsters are up to these days. Is this trend ephemeral or eternal?

I am always eager to write about how ridiculous these pieces are except for the fact that to an extent, aspects of this mostly-manufactured phenomenon ring true for me. My Harvard roommates and I — both straight and gay, all of whom had settled down romantically by senior fall — returned to campus our final year and promptly demonstrated how little we gave a crap by getting our friends to paint murals and collages all over our property-of-Harvard walls. We declared that we’d paint it all back over before graduating, which we sort of did. We turned our common room into a smoking lounge replete with scattered ashtrays and mostly stopped attending parties that weren’t either our own or in the similarly-arrayed common rooms of two-to-three other senior rooming groups. Unlike today’s so-called “Swugs,” we didn’t show up in gym clothes to frat shindigs (showing up to co-op parties was more our thing). But we understood that feeling of being both incredibly relieved and perplexed by our senior status, removed from campus life on the whole while cynically partaking in some of its rituals for the last time.

Based on these somewhat fond memories I will agree that “SWUG” is, as the New York Magazine blogger noted, mostly just a new coinage for senioritis. But there’s obviously a gendered aspect to it, too. First of all, one problem of dating in a patriarchy is that women are seen, and see themselves as either eager participants in the hook-up culture or “washed up.” There is no in-between where they can just be. Furthermore, there’s the recurring situation in which women reach the top of a power structure, whether its a four-year school or a line of work, and discover men at their level are newly-fascinated by younger women, both personally and professionally, and look at their female peers differently — or not at all.

There is something simultaneously depressing and blissfully liberating about this; you don’t have to conform to gender roles anymore! You can be like Peggy Olsen on “Mad Men” and yell at people! And yet, why is no one asking you for drinks after work? Thus the Yalies’ ambivalence about “Swug life.” Blame the patriarchy, ladies.

On a serious note, pervading the trend-pieces about SWUGs — and the other recent trend pieces about romance or hooking up in college that are being cited in these same stories — is an incredible anxiety at how gender politics affect the dating lives of young people. This, in particular the rape culture that persists on campuses, suggests that we have a long climb ahead in terms of giving American kids healthy attitudes about gender, sex, relationships and self-esteem that they can carry into adulthood.

Comprehensive sex education would help. But perhaps part of the problem is our relentless national focus on work above all, whether it’s the spawn of the elite obsessing about getting into college or snagging the coveted job afterwards or the 99% working multiple jobs simply to make ends meet. Even nouveau feminists like Sheryl Sandberg are concerned with getting ahead at work. As a result of this attitude, opportunities afforded to explore out our personal, professional, romantic and sexual desires — let ourselves stumble around a bit in life — are all but nonexistent. So I raise a glass to these young women who are experiencing, and mulling the meaning of, a rare moment of downtime from the world of professional and romantic ladder-climbing. I hope they absorb some senior-year lessons that help make the road easier for the next generation. Here’s a friendly hint from one who was once something like you: Feminism hasn’t failed you. Looking at your predicament through its lens will save you, and help you save the world.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: swugs, sexism, feminism, dating, college

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.