TV & Movies

ICYMI: We’re All Basic Bitches

Scaachi Koul on why "basic bitch" isn't really an insult anymore, nor should it ever have been

basic bitchesThe term “bitch,” as applied to women in ways other than “she’s being a bitch,” can be a panacea to common misogyny. “Boss bitch,” for example, is the ultimate expression of feminism, and on its own, the word “bitch” can be someone who is—to borrow a term from a RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant—“being in total control of herself.”

But “basic bitch” is something entirely its own: neither a concrete insult, the way “bitch” can be when lobbed in anger, nor a compliment like “boss-ass bitch” is when hollered at a club. No, basic bitch is just subtle enough to be a kick in the ovaries, but one that not everyone can see.

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(Photo: iStock)

The term started to gain popularity in the early 2010s, after comedian Lil Duval and YouTube star Lohanthony employed it in separate viral videos. It swiftly gained popularity thanks to the influx of cute girls in Uggs and Pink-branded sweatpants carrying pumpkin spice lattes to their Jettas in the parking lot of your local mall. Ask Urban Dictionary, and the definition for “basic bitch” is utterly ruthless: “They all share the common thread of being expendable and unnoteworthy and, in some cases, having no redeeming qualities.” All this for a PSL!?

But 2015 was the year we reached peak basic bitch, what with Etsy selling T-shirts emblazoned with “basic,” Penguin Random House publishing a parody Little Miss Basic book and Kate Moss and Marc Jacobs mimicking the Lohanthony clip in their own viral vid. (A few days after it surfaced, Moss was kicked off a flight for calling the pilot basic.) Even still, the term has splintered: basic bitch could mean your style is simplistic; your musical preferences, lame; your attention spent on a man, pitiful. Add this to the already robust list of things women have to worry about, and the fact that you like Taylor Swift and infinity scarves is just another reason to be judged. The meaning of basic bitch may have evolved, but its roots are clear: that you, as a woman, are just not enough. You like bedhead and wearing layers? Ew.

But hey, maybe being basic is coming back in style, thanks to fallout from another now ubiquitous but maligned trend: normcore. Remember when dressing like a normal schlub suddenly became incredibly fashionable? Now, everyone’s wearing simple tees, white sneakers, torn jeans. More and more, “basic” means simplistic but trendy, a cultural and fashionable mash-up of normcore’s (bear with me here) basic tenets.

Are you basic? Possibly. But hey, getting excited for seasonal lattes is OK. Infinity scarves keep you warm. Stan Smiths really do go with everything. The pendulum is swinging.

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