It was sometime in October of last year that I stood in line at Starbucks, trying to settle on a drink order, when I saw their new pumpkin cream cold brew — I was instantly intrigued. As I stepped up to the counter to order, I suddenly became exceedingly self-conscious — here I was, a young woman, ordering something pumpkin-flavored…at Starbucks…in the fall. I was inexplicably embarrassed as I ordered my drink in hushed tones, so the other customers wouldn’t hear my order and roll their eyes, thinking to themselves, what a basic b*tch.
Millennials and Labels
Millennials have a strange love/hate relationship with labels. We’re now more than ever devoted to correctly labeling our own and others’ heritage, sexuality, and gender, among so many other things. It can sometimes feel like even last year’s terms are outdated.
We bristle at the thought of our own individuality being summed up by a one-word label.
And yet, as the generation that longs, even strives, to feel special and unique, we bristle at the thought of our own individuality being summed up by a one-word label. Even so, we’re awfully eager to smack an identifying label on each other’s style, actions, or preferences. We readily dub others a hipster for wearing glasses and plaid, a VSCO girl for liking scrunchies and Brandy Melville, and basic for…liking very normal things that countless women like?
Where Did “Basic” Come From?
The modern perception of female basicness emerged sometime in the 1980s, though at the time, the term was airhead. Eventually, basic became a popular female-oriented putdown after being coined by comedian Lil Duval, being used in songs by Lil Wayne and Kreayshawn, and after College Humor joined in on the fun, it became unstoppable. And so, our obsession with calling out the basics for being so unoriginal, thus ensuring our own originality, was born.
What Makes a Woman “Basic”?
A woman can be labeled as “basic” for, well, the most basic reasons: liking Starbucks, taking pictures of aesthetically pleasing food, enjoying brunch or white wine, wearing leggings, rejoicing at the arrival of autumn (read: pumpkin-flavored everything!), listening to any Top 40 music, or loving avocado toast.
Young women are berated for liking things that are entirely common for women to like.
Essentially, young women are berated for liking things that are entirely common for women (or honestly, anyone) to like. But why is it so bad to like popular things? And more importantly, why are things that specifically women like considered inane, superficial, and frivolous?
The Problem with Calling Women “Basic”
So is internalized misogyny to be blamed for our hatred of the basics? Maybe somewhat, but it also points to the very nature of women — our obsession with labeling the likes of young women as basic speaks to our inherent proclivity to be in competition with one another as women, and in this case, using the sexist tactic of putting down all things feminine in order to achieve dominance.
But honestly, a woman tearing down other women is probably the least original thing she can do.
It’s the textbook definition of women tearing down other women by way of claiming I’m not like other girls. Calling another woman “basic” is not only asserting that there are endless carbon copies of such women, therefore stripping them of their value, intelligence, and life experience, but that we ourselves are not one of these carbon copies — we’re different.
But in reality, much to the chagrin of every Millennial, there’s no such thing as being truly unique — nothing we think, feel, or even say is totally original, because none of us are insusceptible to cultural influence, including those who make it their life’s mission to be different. So we’re all “basic” in some sense, while remaining incredibly complex human beings. But honestly, a woman tearing down other women is probably the least original thing she can do.
All in all, the reason it’s time to retire the term “basic” is because as long as we’re not hurting anyone, what we like or don’t like, wear or don’t wear, eat or don’t eat, really doesn’t matter. It’s okay to like Starbucks, listen to Top 40 music, and get giddy about autumn. There’s a reason they’re popular, right?