Played off as humorous, the overuse of “basic” is anything but funny. It actually reinforces the marginalization and subordination of a specific group of women; calling yourself “basic” merely perpetuates a toxic habit.
We all know who the quintessential “basic girl” is. She wears UGG boots, she drinks pumpkin spice lattes, she posts pictures of her boozy brunch, she poses in front of Los Angeles’ infamous pink wall, she overuses the word “literally” to the point of exhaustion and she enjoys romantic comedies.
This basic girl is just an archetype that people rely on to judge others. Just like the “cool” girl and the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” the basic girl is only a stereotype. A core part of popular culture revolves around this manifestation of a bunch of stereotypes that make it easier to classify individuals on surface-level qualities. The basic girl does not actually exist in the real world, yet we use this model as a means to denigrate other women.
The stereotypical basic girl is steeped in the idea of being white and middle-class. It takes large amounts of leisure and income to sustain a basic lifestyle — UGG boots, Starbucks drinks and SoulCycle memberships are not what one would call “affordable.” The reasons others hate on basic girls so much are not always misogynistic. The use of the term can also stem from commentary on race and class as well. It’s hard to relate to, and easy to hate on, someone who has a seemingly endless supply of money to spend on Lululemon leggings.
The essential characteristic of this stereotype is that a basic girl lacks any sense of originality. “Basic-ness” depends on what and how many popular trends a person follows. The conundrum of this phenomenon is that basic girls believe they are “cool” for following popular trends while those who judge basic girls believe they are “cool” for critiquing basic-ness. It’s as if being cool is some elitist club and its members hold a higher place in society. The reality is that nobody is actually cool. If a person likes pumpkin spice lattes and owns it, who are they hurting? Nobody.
The concerning part of this insult is not the word itself, but the fact that it is thrown around so casually by women and men without any regard for the misogynistic message that is relayed. The definition of misogyny is “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women, or prejudice against women.” Using the word basic may seem harmless but intentional or not, this is how misogyny is perpetuated.
Notice the repeated use of the word “she” in the reference to who is basic. A basic person is almost always implied to be a woman. Men follow popular trends all of the time, yet seemingly no one spends half the energy making fun of basic bros as they do girls. Using basic to describe women is yet another attempt at making them feel less valued and worse about themselves.
The worst part of this trend is that the term is mostly used by women about other women, setting up an antagonistic relationship between women and reinforcing the hatred and prejudice women face as a gender already. The truth is women aren’t a united front, as many of us living in the UCLA liberal bubble would like to believe. It’s the use of words like basic to tear each other down that only furthers this divide.
However, this separation among women goes beyond just calling each other basic, as exemplified in the recent presidential election. Despite a campaign deeply rooted in misogyny and sexism, 53 percent of white women, 26 percent of Hispanic women, and 4 percent of black women voted for Donald Trump. Regardless of their reasons, these voters participated in legitimizing the mistreatment and prejudice of women. More than ever, in an era of president-elect Trump, it is important to reconsider the use of the word basic, as turning against one another cannot help in the years to come.