The “typical BC Girl” does not exist.
Where is she? She is in our vernacular and in our minds, but she is not a reality. I’d like to explore why.
For clarity’s sake: the “typical BC Girl,” as adopted by the BC student population, refers to the female student who attends Boston College and adheres to a certain set of characteristics, including choice of dress, ethnicity, social status, and other such descriptive sociological terms. Just what these terms entail I will divulge in a moment.
Qualifying the “typical BC Girl” or the “typical BC guy” as defined by BC students does the following: it leaves out anyone who is not white, who does not sport a North Face, and who does not own a Longchamp bag. Worse, it typifies our student population, shoving BC into a single category, a category that is often described as bland.
No wonder people complain about the diversity on our campus.
Statistically speaking, yes, BC is one of the less diverse campuses around. By that, I mean roughly 25% of the student body comprises AHANA students, or people who identify as African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or any other minority not covered by the compact little acronym.
So where does this famed “BC girl” come into play?
The “BC girl,” as far as I can tell, is a label born from the outside. It is most commonly appropriated by the so-called “BC uniform” (a common style of dress sported by students on a daily basis).
The problem is, of course, the BC uniform says nothing about the person underneath. Typifying our student population, more specifically the women, into one form of person creates a negative stereotype that anyone wearing this “uniform” is unimaginative, timid, and not worth socializing with. It is an external judgment, and by now, I think we’ve all learned not to judge a book by its cover.
It leaves out people who do not adhere to that stereotype, whether by personal choice or chance—so because I express my fashion sense differently or because I’m of a different heritage, I’m not a student at BC? Wrong—and no one is saying that, of course. But engendering these terms categorizes the Boston College population as a “boring” one, and this is an insolent generalization to make. Logically, we have a student population that is described mainly by its clothing. Is that a stereotype we’re okay with?
As I look around at the women on campus and at the people I call my friends (ranging from future doctors to future Broadway singers), the only characteristic I can use to qualify them as “typical BC girls” is the fact that they are women who attend Boston College.
My reflections inspired curiosity, and I began an investigation. This is not a new topic, and I am certainly not the only one to think of it.
Now comes the interesting part.
I surveyed a sample of 75 women who attend BC, from all different majors, ethnicities, and ages. The women had no knowledge of the topic or claims of my article, only that the anonymous survey would benefit an article for The Rock at Boston College.
The questions were simple:
- Are you aware of what the phrase “Typical BC Girl” indicates?
- In a few words, what would you say defines the “typical BC girl”?
- Would you define YOURSELF as the typical BC girl?
- Are any of your friends the typical BC Girl? If yes, how many?
- Whether or not you chose yes/no, why do you think you are or aren’t the “typical BC Girl”?
- Do you identify as AHANA?
- What year are you at BC?
The results were fascinating—and they are proof that the BC girl does not exist.
For starters, 77% of the women were aware of what the phrase meant—17% “maybe” knew, and 5% were unaware. Of the women polled, 85% were upperclassmen, and 75% did not identify as AHANA (seeing as BC states its AHANA population to be 25%, I’d say this survey is an accurate sample).
In describing the “typical BC girl,” answers varied, but largely covered the same topics, including many common words or phrases that appeared across the answers:
“Neutral” terms: Preppy, blonde, wealthy, upper class, dresses nicely/wears expensive or designer clothing (specifically, Lululemon, J.Crew, Longchamp, and Tory Burch), loves Chobani Greek yogurt, frequents the “Plex” (BC’s fitness center), skinny, athletic, “party girl,” social, North Face brand, yoga pants.
“Negative” terms: Plexaholic, bitch, “biddie,” rude, no smile to non-friends, judgmental, snotty, shallow, doesn’t eat that much, a “betch,” thinks she’s a little too good for everyone else, sloppy, looking to meet her husband, generally a little egotistical, feels the need to go out drinking every weekend, “slutty but not a whore,” ignorant, image-obsessed, boring.
With these descriptions in mind, the women were asked whether they identify themselves at the aforementioned BC girl.
81% said no.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
When asked if they would describe their friends as the typical BC girl, the majority claimed 3-4 of their friends as the typical BC girl. 13% qualified all of their friends as the BC girl. Only 20% said none of their friends were a typical BC girl.
The implications are manifest. If barely any of us is the typical BC girl, yet our friends tend to be the typical BC girl, there is some contradictory overlap.
Why is this? Why are we quick to judge others as this often-negative ideal, but we are unwilling to identify ourselves in the same category?
Here are some of the reasons these women did not identify themselves with this standard (some with a touch of humor). The majority of answers featured some combination of the following as reasons why they felt they did not fit the BC girl stereotype: not preppy, not rich, different fashion sense, a different ethnicity or culture, an aversion to working out, a healthy body image, or some physical characteristic that did not match up with the “BC girl” definition.
“I just don’t think I am. I wear too many old man sweaters and don’t go out enough.”
“…much more into theatre and dance and the arts scene at BC than the typical BC girl would be.”
“I think I’m in between…[I] have some of the qualities so I blend in, other times I just laugh at how ridiculous typical BC girls can be.”
“I don’t really care about getting married/want to actually have my own career as opposed to most who would give up work for a husband in a heartbeat.”
“I am overweight and do not exercise or try to eat super healthy, really. I don’t drink regularly and I’ve never had a true hookup. I also don’t spend a lot of money on clothes.”
“I have my own style that’s not as New England-y as the typical BC girl (hint: I’m from SoCal).”
“I just live my life as a regular girl.”
“I have different interests, maybe even the opposite interests.”
“I’m too gay.”
“I only go to parties I’m invited to and where I know people, I don’t just show up to any random place. Though I do own Sperrys, I think Lululemon is outrageously overpriced and so are Hunter rain boots…plus I’m too weird to be associated with those kinds of people, as in, they don’t give me the time of day and I don’t really mind since they aren’t exactly the nicest.”
“I don’t hide behind my phone so I don’t have to acknowledge other people and I have enough self esteem to get whatever I want to eat.”
“I’m a f***ing hipster.”
“I think, therefore I am not.”
“I like to think my friends and I have a more unique style. I also am not too concerned about what I eat. BC is a place where I discovered how much I yearn to be different from the crowd.”
“AHANA students don’t usually fit the typical BC girl stereotype”
The few women who chose to identify themselves as the “typical BC girl” were often divided on why they fit the stereotype:
“I go to BC and I’m a lot of fun!”
“While I may not exhibit balance, drive, and care all of the time, I strive to be a well-rounded individual who both attends to her own physical, spiritual, and emotional needs while caring about others. “Ever to excel” isn’t about always being the best or winning, but handling defeat, loss, or any situation with grace and dignity.”
“I think no matter who you are as an individual wherever you go has a certain culture and as you live there longer you gradually assimilate to those cultural norms. I notice I have different habits at home versus at school though I’m comfortable with both.”
“In terms of appearance, I fit right in (I went to a New England prep school so my closet was already full of preppy clothes). I go to football and hockey games, I work out daily (mostly because I’m insanely insecure about my body and I’m no longer playing on a team like in high school). I volunteer because I love it and I’m the “cheerleader type” when I give campus tours because I love BC. I’m short and blonde…pretty typical for BC.”
“I like a lot of the things associated with “typical BC girl,” but I don’t identify with the materialistic reputation.”
“I like the values BC embodies and I try to live up to them.”
“Other people think I am. I’m blonde and I like to go to the gym and party. But I say that I’m not because I don’t enjoy/participate in casual sex regularly, and I don’t believe I am as shallow as the “typical BC girl.” I also love food and don’t pretend not to. I enjoy deep conversations and partying with FRIENDS rather than just getting drunk at any huge party. I also work hard and pay for myself for everything other than my tuition (loans).”
“Half the time I’m a hipster English major, the other half of the time I’m decked out in J.Crew head to toe. Does that make me typical? Perhaps.”
I don’t think any of us is guilty of creating this label. I think it was created much in the same way many labels are. But the label does not own us.
It is a question of exclusion, of “fitting in,” a standard that many girls feel they do not, cannot, and may not want to meet. It is a superficial judgment. This language cannot continue to pervade our vernacular. It breaks down the possibility for connection and empowerment among students and especially among women.
It would be naive to assert that the problem is specific to our campus, of course. One particular movie by Tina Fey, beyond its hilarious satiric façade, reaches at much of the same that this survey proves. Women continuously project negativity onto each other, especially those with whom they are not directly acquainted—why, I don’t understand.
One particular answer stood out to me because it embodied what I am getting at. When asked to describe the “typical BC girl,” one woman wrote:
“The ‘typical BC girl’ is a balanced, driven young woman who follows her passions, cares about making a difference in her community and/or the world, and still sets aside time for relaxation and recreation.”
Yes! YES! An answer that is race-free, stereotype free, and gets at the core of something important. Rather than typify our student population as “a bunch of J. Crew wearing white girls,” I’d rather think of it as one full of creative, socially minded overachievers with some impulsion to make something of themselves—and have a great time doing it. Because quite frankly, the other definition makes me want to stay home on the weekends with a bottle of wine.
If you are of the belief that this language has no real effect on the student population, think again: a recent survey conducted by Boston College on graduating senior women states that a majority of women at BC graduate with a lower self-esteem than when they first arrived at the university.
If that’s not jarring, I don’t know what is.