That's So Basic

“That’s so basic.”

You’ve probably heard someone say this, and it probably was in reference to a teenage girl, right? She’s the VSCO girl; the one who carries around her Hydro Flask while wearing Lululemon leggings and Nike Air Force 1s; the girl that society loves to mock. She’s so basic, we say. In some ways, I’m her. I think all women are her to a certain degree. I complain about being broke but overpay for Starbucks coffee while wearing my pearly white sneakers. But who doesn’t use a reusable water bottle?

“Basic” just means liking and wearing things that are popular or in style. For some reason, we’ve turned this into an insult against young women to suggest that they have less depth and personality because of their fashion choices or appearance. The more I think about this, the more it irks me, because at its core, it’s sexist humor that has been normalized. 

As women, we are constantly bombarded with messages to simultaneously be our unique selves, but also not stray too far from the norm. Women are ridiculed for being “basic,” but also for being “different.” This messaging is perpetrated by Hollywood in particular through the girl that’s unapologetically “different:” she’s “not like other girls;” she reads books in her free time (gasp); and she doesn’t care about trivial things like makeup or fashion. Now, I have nothing against these fictional women. I grew up idolizing characters like Rory Gilmore and Hermione Granger, but as a society, we haven’t quite figured out how to accept and embrace these kinds of women while simultaneously celebrating the women who are basic. 

Empowering women means empowering all women. We continually expand the scope of what is possible and acceptable for women, yet we still have this tendency to criticize one another and define what the most true kind of woman is. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being different, but it implies that there’s a standard kind of woman and that she is lesser for adhering to this standard. Generally, the characteristics that make someone “not like other girls” are things like intelligence, lack of interest in girly things, or a unique sense of humor. But we don’t have to play into this myth in order to be valuable. Being different from the mainstream is awesome and we should celebrate that, but we can do that in a way that doesn’t pit women against each other, and instead embraces the wide variety of lifestyles and choices that being 21st century women offers us.

We must be careful about our language. Basic may not be as charged as other derogatory words used to describe women, but it has implications that don’t help or empower anyone.