Corvese ’15: Demystifying the senior girl

Opinions Columnist

Being a senior girl at Brown is kind of terrifying.

Upon learning of my seniority, some may suspect — or expect — that I am a carefree and perpetually over it SWUG: a “senior washed-up girl.” More than just obnoxious millennial slang, the term was popularized by Yale students and featured in New York Magazine in April 2013. You might be able to identify a SWUG in the wild by her avoidance of emotional relationships and by the aura of sisterhood and white wine surrounding her cohort of fellow SWUGs — as the article puts it, SWUGs possess “utter apathy about their personal lives.”

At Brown, embracing the SWUG lifestyle might mean leaving the Graduate Center Bar to go to bed at 12:30 a.m. instead of wandering Keeney Quadrangle until the early hours like we did as first-years. And instead of the Sciences Library, our living rooms are the prime study spots. While I hesitate to call myself “washed-up,” the acronym is delightfully convenient to use when my fellow senior gals and I resign ourselves to watching Netflix over going to the house party that 126 people said they were attending on Facebook.

Though I’m not quite sure I’m a SWUG, I’m definitely nervous.

The senior girl must navigate a series of opposite expected cultural positions — either raunchy and promiscuous or sleeping alone, sex-positive feminist goddess or chaste housewife, shattering the glass ceiling or accepting the job that was easiest to get. When we make our declaration of alleged indifference, it becomes open to scrutiny. What if you seem like you’re trying too hard? What if you want a relationship based on more than sex?

And what if you’re too busy to be constantly apathetic?

The SWUG dialogues exclude the countless and overwhelming concerns brought about by our impending post-graduation lives. My mentors who have graduated have told me to enjoy senior spring. Don’t worry everyone, I certainly am — in between writing an honors thesis, running meetings, submitting cover letters and making sure I have time to feed myself. But the pressure to prioritize fun constantly hovers and leaves little room for anxieties.

As alluring as the SWUG life may be, it has the potential to exacerbate our fears of the future. The places we celebrate our carelessness are not even safe — a bar or a party is often the site of the classic “so, what are you doing next year?” that frequently results in a shrug and a whine. Graduation simultaneously thrills and frightens me.

The New York Magazine article notes that some self-identified SWUGs will be “bright-eyed newcomers in New York or Los Angeles,” continuing to practice their youthful ways. But the SWUG is not as widely adored as we may hope. After graduation, it is less likely that we will be met with the same social approval we saw in our insular college paradise.

I don’t intend for this to be a judgment of my peers — this is a condemnation of a society that often does not treat girls at a bar with as much respect as girls in an office. Freely celebrating our twenties is easy now, but many of us will have to reluctantly act otherwise when a prospective employer sits across the table.

Last spring, former Herald opinions columnist Cara Newlon ’14 wrote a sobering column about the difficulties of the months before graduation that was much more sincere than any think piece on being a SWUG.

“I don’t want to worry about rent, insurance and online dating,” Newlon wrote. “I love Brown.” These are the concerns we have to embrace and not be ashamed of while doing so. Go ahead and post that Facebook status about your job search.

From breaking into male-dominated fields to unabashedly celebrating our beauty and bodies, many of us have grown up avoiding traditional expectations of femininity. And while the SWUG has crafted new subversive expectations of apathy and sexual liberation, we shouldn’t let those features restrict us either.

It’s okay to be a SWUG, and it’s okay to care. It’s also fine to pick and choose bits of both. We should feel free to sit on any part of the senior spectrum, from worriless to worrywart. And hopefully, the world outside of Brown will give us a welcome reception — vivacious SWUG ideals or not — with respect instead of ridicule.

To my fellow senior girls who have already accepted job offers, gotten admitted to graduate school or solidified extravagant plans for the months after May: I’m proud of you. And washed up or not, the rest of us will join you soon.

Gabriella Corvese ’15 is a former Herald opinions editor and can be reached at

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  1. “Many of us have grown up avoiding traditional expectations of femininity”

    No, you grew up thinking you were special.

  2. “Being a senior girl at Brown is kind of terrifying”

    can we please send the bdh opinion writers to a war zone for like a week


  4. boozing up, staying in to watch netflix, and being emotionally unavailable sounds more like being a boring a-hole than anything else

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