Apparently this makes me a “basic bitch” and I am supposed to be ashamed of consuming these things. Sorry, but I disagree. These items alone don’t define me, nor can they define any woman. FYI, I can drink a mimosas, eat brunch, and wear Tory Burch while also being a hard-working, intelligent woman pursuing a PhD in history. I can still discuss gender as a useful category of historical analysis while holding a PSL… it’s not that hard!
Both men and women can drink too much at parties, both can (and often do) wear sexy or revealing Halloween costumes (exhibit a and b), and both can enjoy popular food and beverage items. But no one calls a man basic for loving beer, having an iPhone, or watching football. Bottom line, the basic trope is sexist. True, a “basic bro” trope has emerged, but it doesn’t have nearly the same cultural momentum (#patriarchy).
For example, I’ve noticed most of the young women who attend the university where I work often wear norts and t-shirts. They also wear Sperrys, love monograms, and brave ridiculously long Starbucks lines on campus for their daily fix. It’s these types of trends that popular internet sites, like Buzzfeed, make fun of in their “basic bitch” posts. What no one ever points out or makes fun of is at the same university most of the young men walk around in similar tank tops, chubbies, Raybans, and can also be found waiting in that same Starbucks line. Where is the Buzzfeed article or New York Times Op-ed piece about that?
The emergence of the “basic bitch” trope is just another way to degrade and shame women. And ladies, we are actively participating in this conversation, because in our attempt not to be “basic” we point the finger at other women and label them basic. I think this the perfect moment for a Tina Fey (á al Mean Girls) quote – “You’ve got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it OK for guys to call you sluts and whores.”
What you consume doesn’t define your character. But that’s exactly what the basic trope perpetuates. We live in a society, which means there is a collective consensus that drives what is manufactured, marketed, and sold. Both men and women are a part of this consumer society, yet only the consumer practices of women are being scrutinized. This article (which to be fair, is also from Buzzfeed) explores how the basic trope relates to class and consumer anxieties. I think the article makes a great point when it concludes that instead of confronting and dealing with increasing anxiety over our materialistic and consumerist society, which actually affords us less and less choice, we have transformed it into light-hearted misogyny.
I am not less intelligent or less “special” because of what I consume. What is not ok is liking something just because everyone else likes it. I will never like Ugg Boots, Chacos, PSLs, or norts, and that’s ok. It doesn’t make me un-basic or special. It is nothing more than a personal preference. At the same time, it is perfectly ok for you to love Ugg Boots, Chacos, PSLs, and norts, none of which make you basic. Bottom line – no object I (or you) consume or don’t consume can make me basic or a bitch!
PS – In Buzzfeed’s defense they also did this humorous video on what basic means. It takes a while to get there, but his concluding thoughts are good (although he seems to miss the gendered dimension of the trope entirely).