Remembering the most significant women’s fads of 2012 and 2013 might conjure up a similar image in all of our heads: a flurry of camel-colored Uggs, black fleece North Face jackets and pumpkin spice everything. Probably included in this flood of middle school memories is the unifying, comprehensive term for all of these trends: basic.
Typically accompanied by the words “white girl” or “bitch,” the use of the word “basic,” as many now know it, emerged from a Tumblr page back in 2011, used specifically to describe girls who tightly conform to popular trends and are, thus, perceived as lacking original thoughts.
With no sign of diminishing use within the past nine years, it is imperative to note that while this term has been in our vocabularies for nearly a decade, the concept of using a blanket term which only functions in the context of insulting women, however, dates back much further.
The term “airhead” was similarly used in the 1980’s to describe mainly middle class white women in an unflattering light, implying a lack of intelligence and conviction among the demographic. The term’s usage further expanded to contexts which included women of all ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses.
The obviously transcendent nature of words that carry misogynistic implications should not be seen as mere coincidence, but as evidence of the timelessness of sexism.
In an Urban Dictionary definition of “basic,” several different qualities are attributed to the term, e.g. buying food from Chipotle, drinking Starbucks Coffee, eating Nutella and wearing LuLuLemon clothing. The issue is not that these actions were deemed basic, but that when a girl involves herself in these perfectly average and acceptable activities, she is deemed basic.
While it seems to be a harmless adjective that simply disparages unoriginality, the fact that it is only used in the context of insulting women means that it holds a much more destructive connotation—one that condemns exclusively feminine consumption patterns and social inclinations.
The use of the word undermines female subcultures entirely and insists that women who partake in actions deemed “basic” are single-faceted and uninteresting.
So the next time the word creeps up in your throat while scrolling through Instagram, remember the implications that its use maintains. Women already have enough enemies—the least we can do is support one another.