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“Basic White Girl:” Why the Name Needs to Go Away

“You’re so basic.” Yes, and?

The 21st century came with the introduction of a new concept: basic white girl. You know her, you are her, you shame her. Being a basic white girl isn’t about being white – it’s about liking a mainstream or “basic” part of popular culture. The Bachelor, Hydroflask water bottles, curtain bangs, white sneakers, obsessions with iced coffee: it’s all there. Yet, combine two or more of these incredibly popular items, and you’re labeled a basic white girl. What does that say about how we look at girls and their interests? [bf_image id="q4s6il-gd0h4-7uero3"]

It’s easy to recognize that feeding into mainstream media and culture just because it’s popular is damaging. But what if you actually, just, like it? The negative connotation associated with being a “basic white girl” tears down girls’ ability to express themselves in a way that the majority population is allowed to do – as long as it’s not a combination of majority opinions.

We’re often so focused on making ourselves unique that we don’t allow ourselves to engage in things we enjoy.

Being “basic” implies there is nothing about you that makes you unique or separates you as an individual. It eliminates your identity down to what “everyone” likes. You’re no longer you: you’re the idea of all majority opinions put into one person. If you like The Bachelor and iced coffee, you must also love Zac Efron. Ugh, that’s so basic. The concept eliminates your reasoning as to why you like something. Appreciating your own identity first comes with understanding your affinity to your interests. Maybe I enjoy The Bachelor in spite of everything that’s wrong with it; I enjoy entertaining a television show that lets me turn off my brain and melt into producer-created drama. You may call it a guilty pleasure, but why is enjoying the show wrong, and why does it carry a negative connotation?

In a world that already criticizes girls for their interests solely based on the history of being female, we’ve welcomed a culture that criticizes girls for engaging in activities that are popular.

Let’s switch the language for a second: what would be considered a basic white boy?

Liking football, being a business student, getting your hair cut every six weeks, and buying 5.5” inseam shorts. That’s pretty normal, right? But you would never tell a boy that watching Monday night football is basic.

We’re cultivating standard language in which girls cannot engage in activities together. “Basic white girl” is separation – if I like it, you cannot. The language has nothing to do with what is majority – it’s about tearing someone down for supposedly not being an individual.

It hurts. It’s almost a slap in the face to be called basic, to be called a white girl, to be told you only like what’s popular. What is popular is just that: popular. We’re damaging girls by insulting their rights to find enjoyment in the little things in life. It damages their identity and makes them question who they are at a fundamental level.

Yet, we constantly accept things as being popular. The idea is not wrong, but the application in the majority is.

We have to stop criticizing girls for enjoying things that are popular. Girls are made up of so many things: facts, interests, personality traits – two small enjoyments do not define your identity.  [bf_image id="q57plu-3sol7c-255jmm"]

ENJOY your interests. Wear your white sneakers, participate in The Bachelor watch parties: let it be known that you’re proud of the little things that make you, you. Stop generalizing girls as being “basic” for engaging in mainstream culture; everything that was popular was also mainstream. Inherently, every argument about being basic implies that popularity is basic; if you have engaged with multiple things that are popular, you are also basic. 

If we're all basic, why the negative connotation? Engaging in "white girl" activities doesn't make you ordinary, it gives you a facet to connect with others. We all have a little "basic white girl" in us; it's the rest that matters. 

Sylvia Clubb is a third-year student at The University of Iowa double majoring in English and Journalism and Mass Communications on the Publishing Track.
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