Feminist Discourse on “The Basic Bitch”

by • October 8, 2014 • Featured, Society & PeopleComments (1)1080

Columbus Day weekend is almost here! Barring the fact that this holiday is named for a man who mercilessly slaughtered innocent natives in the name of colonization, this exciting time of the year is perfect for autumn revelry. Those of us who are not traveling to North Carolina to watch our football team get trounced by an ACC rival have three whole days to enjoy the wonders of Boston in the fall!

As a lifelong New Englander, I’ve always enjoyed autumn. Apple cider, changing foliage, giant sweaters—I love it all. Last year, while studying abroad, I was disgusted and horrified to find that pumpkin was not a thing in the 100812_PumpkinSpiceLatteUnited Kingdom, and turned the city of Glasgow upside down in search of something, anything, containing pumpkin. Call me irrational, but pumpkin things are very delicious.

However, in recent years, my over-the-top fondness for fall and its associated flavors and colors has received an unfortunate label. You probably know what I’m talking about; heck, maybe it’s been running through your mind while reading this article. Ugh, you like autumn? That’s so basic.

Before we get into the problematic nature of this nomenclature, it’s important to understand what “basic” means—because it isn’t about bland clothing items or an above-neutral pH balance. Defined by College Humor as “an extra regular female”, and by BuzzFeed as someone “who [gets] excited for things that are pretty normal or popular”, the phenomenon of the “basic bitch” is one used to put down people, especially women, who have a little too much enthusiasm for the finer things in life.

As someone who is grossly enthusiastic about most things, I was concerned. I first came across the concept of the basic bitch about six months ago, when the BuzzFeed quiz “How Basic Are You?” came across my Facebook newsfeed. Fortunately, I only scored 34 out of 119 possible basic-bitch qualifiers. Said my quiz result: “Yeah, you like basic s**t. But there’s a reason why popular things are popular: They aren’t that bad.”

Granted, most people—myself included—don’t use the term with any particular vitriol or ill will. Just the other night, I was sipping moscato with my roommates, discussing brunch, and we tossed the term “basic bitch” around as a term of endearment. What doesn’t sit right with me is people who use the word “basic” as a put-down—or why it’s even an insult at all. Why do we give girls flak for enjoying things that are perfectly delightful?

photo-4Honestly, I don’t have an answer to that question. I don’t know if it’s our society’s disdain for the “mainstream” or for expressing enthusiasm in general—like it’s not cool to care about things, and apathy is in. The fact that most “basic” behaviors are attributed to women leads me to think it may be a feminist issue, and that internalized misogyny enables our society to demonize girls for the stuff they like—because girly is bad, and basic is bad, and the two seem to go hand in hand.

I can think of countless examples of this. Anyone who’s worn Bean boots in the winter or a sundress in springtime or yoga pants when they weren’t going to yoga understands the strange phenomenon of getting picked on for dressing comfortably. In my line of work at Moogy’s, I see guys get crap for ordering Wachusett Blueberry or Angry Orchard—fruity in more than one sense of the word—while the other boys are pounding PBR. And don’t get me started on the whole pumpkin spice controversy. While the obsession with pumpkin things may be a little over-the-top, it’s equally ridiculous to mock someone for liking something that tastes good. I reiterate: pumpkin things are delicious.

At the end of the day, I think we should all remember to live and let live, not to yuck someone else’s yum, and that everyone is a little basic sometimes. Now, who’s up for a coffee date? The pumpkin spice blend in the Rat is totes amazeballs!

If apple picking makes you basic, then I've been a basic bitch since '97.

If apple picking makes you basic, then basic I will always be.

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