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Please Don't Label Me a Basic B*tch

I am not basic and I am not a bitch. But I like brunch, drink mimosas on the reg, collect decorative coffee mugs, own several monogrammed items, love puffer vests and plaid scarves, think fall is the best season, recently had my hair ombréd, and if I liked Pumpkin Spice Lattes (henceforth known as PSLs), would drink them daily.

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 perpetuatesWe 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!

What are your thoughts on the emergence of the "basic bitch" trope?

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).

Ashley B
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  1. Loved this! You are amazing!

  2. Okay, I am so happy you posted this! Seth and I were having a discussion about this yesterday over how degrading and rude the term is-- I am so glad that someone is writing about this!

    Prep on a Budget

  3. I totally agree with this! I love your blog, and I love many of the same things. I've been called a 'typical b****' for the same reasons. But frankly, I've never seen men calling women 'typical' or 'basic' - it's always been from women, toward women. If women want to defeat sexism, it starts by setting a positive example within our own gender. You can't tell men not to be sexist when you're being sexist toward your own people.

  4. Thank you! This is something that has been needed to be said for awhile! This whole "basic" or "white girl" attitude was semi-funny at first but now I'm just getting tired of it. I actually just had a discussion about this with my friend the other day. But just because I like things like Starbucks and Target, that doesn't make me any less of an individual. It's the same as the whole "dumb blonde" trope, the fact that my hair is blonde doesn't make me any less intelligent. I think our culture also just feels the need to stereotype people into certain categories.

  5. Finally!! The BuzzFeed article about the basic trope as an indicator of growing class anxiety may in fact be true in an economy characterized by increasing separation between the haves and have-nots. But what I find more worrying is the way this stereotype is encouraging women to be even more critical of themselves AND other women. I teach high school history, so I have a front row seat to view the daily impacts of social media competitiveness in the next generation. In a world and industry that is already biased against women, how on earth can this conversation lead to anything positive? Perhaps it is our job to prove that these stereotypes are pointless by continuing to pursue excellence for the sake of it, not the hoped-for accolades of our society. I love fall, Target is my mothership, I watch chick flicks and wear bright, 'girly' colors, but I also have an advanced degree, I work passionately at something I view as my vocation not just my occupation, and I'm pretty good at it... but I am anything but "basic."

    1. I agree Maggie, women are constantly encouraged to judge other women!

  6. Thank you!! I see the "basic white girl" stuff on tumblr all the time. Sometimes I'll even make fun of myself and call myself that, but it does get old after awhile. I drink starbucks, shop at target way too much, etc etc, but there are so many more layers to me. There are so many layers to everyone and I think it's unfair to just focus on one.

  7. Preach sista!! Labeling women this way just because they like certain things makes them appear lesser than their male counterpart. As women its our job to not promote those stereotypes that degrade women and instead continue to promote ourselves professionally to prove who really is on top, haha! Great post.

  8. THIS. Thank you so much for posting this. You said everything I want to, but far more eloquently.

    I love Starbucks (though don't like PSLs either), Lilly, Kate Spade, sunset pictures, Target, puppies, and nautical decor, among many things. I also have a degree from a top university, an MBA, run my own small business while working a full time job, and am working on my second masters degree. I like to think/hope I am a great friend/daughter/sister, and I love to travel. NONE of those things individually define me, and I'm certainly not a b**ch! Unless you wake me up right after I fall asleep, then I might be one for like 30 seconds. I believe in women supporting other women, and men and women supporting each other. Why do "we" (general we) insist on tearing each other down so often?!

  9. I wanted to clarify - I don't want it to sound like it's just those of us with advanced degrees who shouldn't be called basic/basic b**ch, I don't think ANY girl or woman should. We are ALL defined by more than the material things we happen to like or dislike.

    1. Clare I didn't get the impression from your first comment that just women with advanced degrees shouldn't be called basic (and I hope I didn't give that impression either), but it's an excellent point of clarity!

    2. You didn't at all either! I just felt like maybe I did but glad to hear it didn't come across that way :)

  10. I have hated the whole "basic b*tch" thing. First off I immediately dislike even calling people names even as a joke but to call someone basic for the things they like is something I'll never catch on with. I love myself some Ugg boots in the cool weather, Chai tea lattes (not PSLs... just don't like the taste) and inspirational quotes and will keep on publicly loving them because that's what I like!! Awesome post, definitely on the same page. Preach honey!!!

  11. So glad someone is speaking out about this! It's a trope that I also see popping up around the net quite a bit lately and each time I saw it posted somewhere (or saw someone called one) it just rankled. It's true to an extent that we do find an outlet for expressing individuality through consumerism - but that is not to say that one person's tastes are "basic" in relation to another. Let people enjoy what they love and let's not get needlessly judgmental, for crying out loud. Great post, as always :)

    this sojourner

  12. THANK YOU! I cannot say that enough for this post. I have been fighting all of this "basic bitch" labeling for so long and refuse to let it define how I act. Instead of resisting it I am fully okay with accepting it. Call me all the basic names you want but my Starbucks worthy Instagram pictures and Hunter rain boots are here to stay.

  13. My friend just sent this to me as we were discussing the topic. I have toyed with the idea of writing this very similar post. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us want to say!

  14. You also misspelled the word "category".

  15. Whoops! It took me a while to realize what you were talking about, but then I realized it was on the image. I completely missed that, thank you!


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