That typical Western girl - Macleans.ca

That typical Western girl

The truth is more complicated than the stereotype

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She’s the picture of privilege, the epitome of entitlement. She’s the girl you love to hate. She’s the “typical Western girl,” or TWG for short.

When I asked friends and fellow Twitter users to describe her, it seemed that everyone knew what I was talking about. They rattled off physical descriptions: blonde, pretty, and fond of Ugg boots, Lululemon yoga pants or Ray Bans.

Aside from the look, they told me what makes a TWG is her personality, behaviour and, most importantly, her financial background. She’s well-off to the point of being spoiled. She doesn’t care much about school. Primping and partying are her priorities. She’s everything a good teen movie villainess should be. She’s Regina George, the Queen Bee from Tina Fey’s flick Mean Girls and living in London, Ontario.

I went to the University of Western Ontario for five years and two degrees, graduating last year. Although I wore Uggs for all six weather-permitting weeks of the school year, I wouldn’t call myself a TWG, and neither would many women there. On a recent trip back, I observed people who fit the physical description of TWGs, though they now have iPhones and Canada Goose jackets too.

It got me wondering about where the stereotype came from. It’s easy enough to laugh about, but how accurately does this stereotype reflect reality on Western’s campus? And why does the label stick at Western, when you can find people who fit the description at any Canadian university?

Western students like to joke about the stereotype. We even had our own parody Twitter account: @wstrngirl. She bestowed us such unforgettable gems as: “explain to me again why i can’t major in Astrology?” and “is anyone accepting summer applications for an It Girl?”

I asked the ladies behind the @wstrngirl account—now all graduated and working–what they were trying to achieve. I thought maybe they were trying to use satire to show that the women who attend Western, for the most part, don’t fit into that stereotype. It turns out that their aims were more humble. “We didn’t set out to break any stereotypes,” says Romina Cortelluci, one of the creators, “we just wanted to create something our friends could relate to.”

Alicia DeBoer, another one of the @wstrngirl creators, added: “I think this account proves that Western students can laugh at themselves.”

But Western students aren’t the only ones laughing. Recent grad Monica Blaylock, class of 2011, tells me her new friends often give her a hard time for being a Western girl, despite lacking most of the qualifying attributes. She’s got dark brown hair, works as a web producer and only wears Lululemon when she’s kicking butt at the gym.

“I consider myself to be pretty far away from that stereotype,” she says. But just the fact that she went to Western is enough to get her teased and stuck with the TWG label.

So what is it about Western that makes us so prone to the TWG stereotype?

It can’t be that Western has the wealthiest student body in the province, because it doesn’t. Queen’s University takes the crown for requiring the least Ontario Student Aid.

It can’t be that Western attracts airheads, either. The incoming grade average in 2011 was 87.6 per cent, according to the Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities. The University of Toronto, which dodges the blonde bimbo stereotypes, only had an 85.1 per cent incoming average.

So if it’s not the reality, why all the ridicule? I think I have the answer. Western is one of the nation’s top universities, with in-your-face purple pride, so it makes sense that other schools might feel the desire to knock us down a few pegs. If other schools pin a dumb, rich-girl reputation on us, they don’t have to feel so bad when we surpass them in certain ways.

For starters, we’re home to some of the top athletes in the country. We’ve won the Vanier Cup six times, second only to Laval.

On top of that, our degrees are highly sought. We have an 82 per cent employment rate after graduation, compared to 77 per cent for the rest of the Ontario’s universities.

Not to mention our campus environment is rated more supportive by its students on the National Survey of Student Engagement than most other big schools in Canada.

With all this going for us, it’s easy to see why other students might propagate the TWG stereotype. Jealousy can make people do some ugly things. I guess we can’t help it if we’re popular.