• Sat. Sep 23rd, 2023

Basic? I call bullshit: why our simple pleasures should not make us feel guilty

ByZara McKinlay

Mar 5, 2021
Image of a coffee mug and journal with a pen on a table with a houseplant and bar-stool chair in the bacground.

You adore Harry Styles. Exclusively live in leggings (bonus points if they’re Lululemons) and oversized jumpers, and of course are an avid iced-latte drinker. No night out is complete without chunky hoops, a pair of Air Force Ones, ribbed flares, and your trusty bottle of Echo Falls to hand. You are, to all intents and purposes, a basic bitch…or are you?

Since the dawn of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, the concept of “basic” has been firmly cemented into popular culture; dozens of niche interests such as yoga, journaling, house-plant collecting, have all been branded basic, along with the people who unabashedly partake in them. Effectively, it has become synonymous with a lack of intelligence, and total banality. This labelling could be seen as a defiant feminist act by some; a rejection of things which are culturally coded as feminine. But in reality, this epithet is anything but. In fact, any feminist should find the concept of a “basic bitch” problematic.

Through labelling someone “basic”, we reduce a multi-faceted and unique individual into nothing more than a reviled stereotype; its blanket-term nature assumes that because girls like X, Y, or Z , they are all the same. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I shouldn’t have to highlight that it is entirely possible for me to be a Taylor Swift stan, post #stunning Insta-stories of my morning coffee and also be enthusiastic about literature, languages, politics, and just about everything else that makes me a complex individual.

However, “basic” remains embedded into our thinking because it is a tantalisingly easy way to assert ourselves as “the cool girl.” It enables us to smugly distinguish ourselves from other women whom we deem to be
unoriginal, and predictable trend-followers. It’s not so offensive as calling someone “trashy” or “slutty,” but stings just enough to assure us of our own individuality.

But in our desperation to prove that we are “not like other girls” we actually perpetuate the idea of the existence of a singular, correct way to be a “girl.” A more accepted expression of femininity; one that isn’t too offensive to the male gaze.

Therefore, the “basic bitch” discourse upholds a dangerous culture of internalised misogyny and girl-on-girl aggression, by establishing such a binary lens of what women should enjoy. Needless to say, this is a toxic mindset which damages not only our perceptions of each other, but of ourselves.

Through this collective cringe at all things “basic,” we encourage other women to shrink themselves into yet another mould, one that squashes our authenticity completely. Perhaps third year me isn’t as concerned about being basic or not, but I wish I could go back and tell my fifteen year old self it’s okay that I like ABBA more than Rejjie Snow, and I’m not boring for liking Gossip Girl more than Black Mirror.

Identity is not a fixed concept, it flows and is constantly evolving. To attempt to define something so complex in such an unoriginal manner is painfully ‘basic.’ So, please – reject the notion that our worth is tied to the
opinions of others. Maybe then we will be free to be just people!

Image: Phrophsee Journals via unsplash