Just SWUG-ing Around

by Parker Richards | 11/12/15 7:38pm

Netflix. Moscato. Chocolate. Pajamas. Cozy, cozy bed. These are the words that come to mind when describing the typical SWUG. While Dartmouth’s vision of a SWUG — a “senior washed-up girl” — may not jive well with the “party hard, don’t care” vision of SWUGs at many other colleges, it might just be better in the long Hanover winters.

The title itself may be a bit of a misnomer, though, as SWUGness is by no means limited to senior women. The term has come to carry a variety of other meanings — senior washed-up guy, sophomore washed-up girl and essentially any student who is “over” the Greek scene.

“Being a SWUG seems to give me a cooler lens to see past the Dartmouth stereotypes,” Missy Cantave ’16 said.

Self-described SWUGs like Cantave have attempted to reappropriate the phrase and use it to describe an empowered, happy lifestyle of independence.

“Being a SWUG, I feel like a lot of times I forget what it means,” Jennifer Wray ’16 said. “It literally means ‘senior washed-up girl,’ which sounds just horrible, but I think it’s started to become a positive thing.”

Much like any identity label, taking on the moniker of a SWUG can mean a variety of things to different people, not all of which are obvious.

Attending concerts, Collis After Dark events, BarHop and Programming Board functions is typical SWUG behavior, Penelope Williams ’16 said.

“We would rather stay in than go out some nights and rather hang out with our friends than go on a date or something, and that is definitely more than socially acceptable,” she said. “It’s the most socially acceptable I’ve been.”

When a self-described SWUG thinks of “going out,” the options aren’t limited to partying, Cantave said. Instead, it can include any way of experiencing life more broadly, any method of getting outside and taking enjoyment from activities, she said.

SWUG behavior is not a rejection of the Greek system or the conventional Dartmouth social scene, but rather an acceptance of doing what an individual wants, Wray said. She said that now that now she goes out simply to have a good time, without the variety of expectations that can sometimes come with that, like hooking up with someone or attending particular events.

Still, the common stereotype of the SWUG as a creature primarily devoted to staying in on weekend nights persists.

In this context, SWUGdom can become a rallying cry and a common identity.

“If you call it ‘staying in,’ it sounds lame, but if you call it ‘being SWUG,’ other people relate to it and form a community around it,” Williams said.

Sometimes, it’s just better to hang out in pajamas and relax, Wray said.

“I think a lot of people use it in a self-deprecating way, like, ‘Hey I’m going to stay in and watch Netflix and drink wine,’ but that sounds like a great time,” she said.

Still, many SWUGs are “a little bit jaded,” Cantave said. Once the novelty of the Greek scene and Dartmouth social life ends, it can be easy for people to begin to want to focus on themselves and stay in more.

“Freshman year, you tend to go out a lot more, you start to experience a lot more, and after this whole amazing year, you start to see all the little problems in your life and you start to become a SWUG,” she said.

Cantave and Williams both said they entered SWUGdom as sophomores, earlier than many of their friends.

Being a SWUG is mainly about wanting to spend time with your friends, Stephanie Roff ’16 said.

“It’s definitely not something that has to apply only to senior women,” Williams said. “It’s almost a fun way of being okay with not going out and partying.”

The occasional negative connotations of SWUGness has led Wray and some of her friends to create a new term, MEOW, to describe a similar phenomenon.

MEOWs — or mature, experienced, older women — embrace many of the values associated with being a SWUG, but the phrase carries none of the linguistic baggage, Wray said.

“It’s kind of a nice, almost liberating feeling, because a lot of underclassmen are really worried about what their friends think or what other people are doing,” she said.

The evolution from sociable, Webster Avenue-hopping freshman to insular senior is different for many people, but usually involves a rejection of the opinions of others in favor of a positive self-image, Wray said.

“I definitely don’t care as much about what other people think about me,” Roffsaid. “I remember freshman year being very concerned with the person I wanted to be and the person I wanted to portray to other people, and now I’m much more secure in who I am, so I can be that person and call people out when they’re talking out loud in the Stacks when they shouldn’t be.”

Disregarding the opinions of others to pursue one’s own interests and ideas is perhaps the key catechism of SWUGness, Roff said.

To Cantave, being a SWUG is about stepping out of the mainstream to pursue passions and interests of her own.

“I wouldn’t say you’re jaded, but it’s the idea of this person who’s kind of done with dealing with the mainstream, basic, popular things to do on campus,” she said. “You are letting go of stereotypes on campus and mainstream ideas to focus on what is most important to you and how you can effect the world through your ideologies and principles.”

Yale University senior Chloe Drimal’s column in The Yale Daily News about Yale’s vision of SWUGdom — “They’re usually at penny shots promptly at 11 p.m. come Wednesday night,” “danc[ing] at the bar of [Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity] with their shirts off” and “biting into a can with her teeth to shotgun on a Sunday” — reflects a reality totally removed from the warmth of the literal Netflix-and-chill sessions of Dartmouth SWUGs.

The reclamation of “SWUG” by the women of Dartmouth has not been entirely effective, and the term remains a pejorative to some.

The bastion of profanity that is Urban Dictionary has in its first definition of SWUG a vignette of a singularly lonely woman in denial.

“I texted two sophomore guys and got rejected by both, but I don’t even care because I have a bottle of wine and my $150 vibrator — I LOVE SWUG LIFE,” Urban Dictionary user swug4lyfe wrote, the highest-rated definition on the website.

At Dartmouth, some — especially men — use the term “SWUG” in a negative way, partly reflecting its less-than-favorable origins, Roff said.

“The origins are kind of misogynistic,” she said. “It’s the misogynistic concept that senior women who are more chill and relaxed are ‘washed up.’”

It is not always acceptable to call someone else a SWUG, but it remains a label many embrace.

“Girls don’t mind calling themselves SWUGs but would be really upset if someone else called them a SWUG,” Wray said.

Of course, there’s a reason that so many senior women seem to flock to the label of SWUG, or at least the lifestyle that many associate with it. For while some may chide them for staying indoors rather than finding the hottest campus party, there are benefits that come with the lifestyle that emphasizes focusing on what you want for yourself.

“I’m not hungover all the time, I don’t miss class as much, I get to be around people who I actually want to be around, I don’t have to force myself to interact with people I don’t care about,” Roff said.

Going out for drinks in Hanover means you can actually be home at a reasonable hour, Williams said.

And aside from purely practical benefits, there is an emotional health that comes from being a SWUG, Cantave said.

“You’re going to come to a certain point in life — whether it’s in college or beyond college — when you’re going to realize that you should do things for yourself. And take advantage of that, because there’s no other opportunity or life you can live when you’re doing things for yourself, so embrace being SWUG,” she said. “There is nothing wrong with being a SWUG!”

This editorial has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction appended (Nov. 13, 2014):

The original version of this article originally attributed the quote beginning with“I definitely don’t care as much about what other people think about me,” to Jennifer Wray rather than Stephanie Roff, who originally said the quote.