Of all the puzzling lexicons circulating through social media, “Basic Bitch” is probably one with most traction. It has varying interpretations but one theme is consistent: a “basic bitch” is someone we don’t want to be.
Originated by comedian Lil’ Duval and reverberating throughout hip hop such as Lil Wayne’s “I’m a Human Being” and “Basic Bitch” by The Game, the pejorative term identified people – mostly women, who exhibit obtuseness, superficiality, material obsession, and lack of sophistication.
“Basic Bitch” became popular in mainstream media, expanding to predominantly white iterations of the phrase: women with cliché obsession with certain brands, styles, and franchise drinks (Starbucks PPL).
This year, especially during fall, we saw numerous attempts by popular digital publishers to define the characteristics of a “Basic Bitch” – such as someone pairing North Face sweaters with leggings and Uggs, wearing over-sized sweaters and circle scarves, being obsessed with luxury goods such as Gucci, and taking part in the pumpkinspice-themed mania.
However, this trendy term has roots in misogyny.
“Basic Bitch” perpetuates the warped stereotype that the average woman is catty, one-dimensional, and swathed in pink from head to toe. The phrase promotes girl-on-girl hating and male diminishing of the female identity to a stereotypical caricature: OMG, she is such a basic b!”, “My ex is a basic bitch.”, etc.
“Beyonce and Britney have both tried to reclaim it [bitch] as a positive expression, but if you use it like Kreayshawn your message is loud and clear,” writes Daisy Buchanan, the Guardian’s columnist in her article “Why I’m Proud to be a ‘Basic Bitch'”:
“If you like commercially feminine things you’re a loser. If you don’t share the same interests as basic bitches you are not like all the other girls. They’re normal; you’re special.”
“Basic Bitch” is a repackaging of the problematic phrase, “I’m/You’re not like the other girls” – which indicates an underlying illusory superiority and a vast over-estimation of our desirable traits and “uniqueness” over others. It is a bloated stereotyping and pithy dismissal of women we dislike, arbitrarily determined by external observations.
It’s a “holier-than-thou”, misguided ego-boosting attempt mired in pretentiousness and disconnect from others.
With so many disempowering slangs floating in our vernacular, we don’t need to add “basic bitch” to that list. Let’s refrain from calling women, or anyone, “basic” – let’s stop uttering it to insult someone and definitely stop complimenting someone that “she’s not like the basic bitches.”
Empowerment comes from within and not from the put-down of others. Our consumption habits and other observable preferences do not define our multi-faceted identities. We can still be complex characters while listening to Iggy, following fashion trends, and sipping pumpkin-spiced lattes.
We can have overlaps in preferences or no overlaps at all, and be individually complex.