Opinion | Don’t call women basic

By Jameson Keebler, Staff Columnist

The “basic girl” loves pumpkin spice lattes and Ugg boots. She’s a One Direction fan and has a box set of all the Twilight books. She is dumb and obsessed with boys. 

This was my definition, at least when I was in elementary school and saw the phrase on the internet and used by my classmates. At the time, I saw it as a normal, childish insult, but now it means more.

As a young girl, I was embarrassed to be feminine. I loved ballet and wearing pink, but I didn’t want boys to think I was basic. Even now I still feel like it is bad to enjoy popular things. 

The meaning of basic has changed since I was a teen, but the phenomenon still exists. Although the discussion surrounding pumpkin spice lattes has left the internet, the insult of calling someone “basic” is still commonly used to degrade women for their interests and the media that represents them. It’s apparent that this is not merely about coffee or fashion trends. It’s really about how society looks down on young girls who embrace their own femininity. 

I have noticed that ‘basic’ means popular with teenage girls. This happens specifically when women are interested in things that don’t fit the male expectations. Like how it’s seen as basic for girls to enjoy buying and wearing makeup to make themselves feel better. It ruins the image of the perfect woman that can exist in someone’s head. 

While Taylor Swift has recently received adoration from fans and the media alike for her more recent work, she and her audience received ridicule based on sexist standards in the past. She released her first album when she was sixteen years old, which featured mostly songs about her first experiences with love. While this resonated with a large audience of teenagers, it also received lots of criticism.

Her music was often called out for only focusing on her love life. As a young woman, she was given a reputation for having boyfriends in the public eye, as if this isn’t something that every pop star does. Critics were really angry that she was representing teenagers and adult media critics thought that lessened its value. 

Young girls deserve representation in the media that they consume without facing backlash for it, especially when the media is about such a tumultuous point in young adulthood. Going through high school and experiencing first love is challenging and scary. 

This isn’t only something that affects female artists. Harry Styles has found an audience in young girls and is constantly fighting for legitimacy. In a 2017 interview with Rolling Stone, Harry Styles stated, “Teenage-girl fans — they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.”

With social media platforms like TikTok on the rise, this kind of misogyny is coming back into the mainstream. Many creators choose their own aesthetics to center their content on — some are cool girls or indie girls or gym girls. And the basic girl is still seen as one of the worst categories. 

This obsession with labels has also led to the inverse of the basic girl. “Pick-me girl” is a newer phrase that has found popularity on TikTok. It describes girls who are not basic, decidedly not girly and impress boys by acting like them. But even this is seen as only for show.

If a woman is feminine and enjoys popular things, then she is basic and too tasteless to make her own decisions. If a woman rejects girly things, then she’s a “pick-me girl” and is just desperate for attention. 

Especially with misogynic creators, like Andrew Tate, finding absurd amounts of popularity on the internet, we should remain aware that misogyny can manifest itself in our language. This kind of misogynistic thinking enforces the idea that girls should fit traits that are desirable to men and not their own desires. 

Popular media is already full of the male perspectives. Minimizing the experiences and taste of women will make it even harder to explore the female gaze. We need more media made from the perspective of women, but first we need to respect the wants of women. 

Since basic is such an unassuming word, this insult gets away with expressing misogyny. Gender is a spectrum and a personal experience for everyone. Embracing femininity should not be looked down upon. As a teenager I was embarrassed about the things that made me feminine. Now I know that putting other women down will not solve my own problems. 

Listen to Taylor Swift and enjoy your pumpkin spice lattes. There is nothing wrong with being “basic.”

Jameson Keebler writes primarily about pop culture and current events. Write to her at [email protected].