An evaluation of the word “basic”: why it exists, and why it’s the worst.
I hate the word “basic”.
It’s problematic that we have a word to describe (almost exclusively) girls as flat, one-dimensional, and uninteresting, i.e., the basic bitch. A male equivalent of the word simply does not exist (three girls Instagramming their margy night is basic, while three boys watching the game at the bar is… normal?), encouraging the idea — if subconsciously — that women can be compressed into the easily discernible, much more so than men.
The word “basic” fits in so perfectly with a major dilemma facing our generation- our obsession with being unique. This obsession is not self-subjected, but rather has been fed to us intrinsically from a young age. We’re all trying to do something different. Calling someone “basic” is often a reactive self-defense mechanism to assert one’s own non-basicness.
It’s a blatantly uninformed insult, concerning only what one might like, but not who she, or he, actually is.
Holly Golightly is a good example. She’s an emotional drunk, reveals her true aspirations of obtaining gold digger status, and eats croissants while staring longingly into Tiffany’s. If it were 2014, she’d be eating an oat bar. She likes throwing parties, clearly has some sort of daddy issue, and is enamored with the romance of New York City. Holly- my classy, long-necked friend, you are a certified basic bitch.
This seems blasphemous, because we’re talking about an Audrey Hepburn character. Yet that is the paradox of “basic”: the term only concerns one’s branding. Of course, Holly Golightly is also incredibly charming, stylish, and sensitive. But those traits are irrelevant when considering one’s level of “basicness”. For such an all-encompassing, degrading word, it says so little about a person.
What is most troublesome to me is that it seems to be used primarily BY girls to DESCRIBE girls.
Hearing myself call someone “basic” made me realize just how wrong the word is. I was describing the ex-girlfriend of a guy I was seeing to my friends: “She’s pretty, but she seems basic.” Without hesitation, I felt a gross cringing in my stomach. It’s obvious that such an unwarranted remark was a reaction due to my own insecurities. In other words, I deeply resonated with the Mean Girls line (with a few amendments): “I don’t hate you ‘cause you’re [basic], you’re [basic] ‘cause I hate you.”
If you and your friends want to joke about each other’s basic-ness over PSL’s and reruns of The Real Housewives, by all means, embrace the title. There is no shame in liking stereotypically “girly” or superficial things.
It becomes a problem when we women degrade our own gender. There’s a lot of dissent surrounding “feminism” as a term. Emma Watson eloquently cleared the air when she declared feminism as something that concerns men as much as it does women: feminism is a human cause, not a female-exclusive cause, and it is certainly not a cause that promotes “man hating”.
While there are a lot of big issues that need to be addressed in ensuring gender equality, let’s keep in mind that the language we use sets a standard. What kind of message does it send when we feed into a culture of girls hating girls, instead of girls supporting girls (“You have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.”- Ms. Norbury’s sage-like wisdom is immortal)?
I know the word “basic” is often used frivolously without second thought, but there are still negative implications behind it. Language, after all, sets the tone of conversation. The agency of determining this tone belongs to you.
Laura Charney, Online Contributor
Photography: Sophie Barkham