Teen culture and social media popularize a damaging new insult: you’re basic!

BASIC AF: Starbucks drinks may make many people happy but UGH how basic?! Max Pixel

Sosie Casteel | Head Editor

March 6, 2022

As if women don’t receive enough criticism from our society, a new insult has emerged in the last decade: the dreaded word “basic.” At first, basic was used to describe popular trends such as wearing leggings, white sneakers, or getting a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks. However, the concept quickly devolved into a baseless description of every female who is enjoying anything.

“I’m even labeled ‘basic’ for my name,” junior Ava Miller said. “It’s something I can’t control and it has nothing to do with my personality.” 

The excuse “it’s just a joke” can only go so far with this insult, as it is never really humorous to call somebody basic and certainly does more harm than good. It’s not a question of sensitivity; if a woman feels insulted after being labeled as “basic” that’s because she has been mocked for something she enjoys.

In its essence, calling someone basic is the same as saying someone is not unique, interesting, noteworthy, or special. 

The popular social media platforms TikTok and Instagram allow women to post themselves and their lives freely on one condition: they are willing to put up with thousands of comments labeling them as unoriginal, just like other girls. One creator was considered basic for going on a run in Lululemon attire whereas another creator has been called basic for having a record player and a lot of plants. Currently, there is no rhyme or reason to the “basic” critique and it is simply used to put women down for whatever they may look like or enjoy.

“I’ve been called basic for being blonde,” junior Adison Bellantonio said.

“I’ve been called basic for liking popular clothing brands,” sophomore Olivia Vergopia said. 

“I’ve been called basic for ordering a Chai Tea Latte at Starbucks,” senior Madeline McDonald said. 

Two prominent arguments have opposed the “basic” critique:

One argument has embraced the idea of basic: why wouldn’t a woman want to be like other women? Other women are inspirations so the insult basic can actually be considered a compliment if one is willing to see it that way.

The other argument condemns the critique as “foundless, unnecessary, and rude” as there is often minimal provocation and backup to the insult. Whichever argument may compel you most, it’s important to avoid thinking down on yourself for the things you enjoy. With so much negativity around women, there is no need for more reasons for insecurity. 

The term basic, and it’s more aggressive counterpart, “basic bitch,” have become a cultural barometer for female behavior. According to a Vox article published in 2014, the popularity of the term basic has shot up due to the recent obsession with the supposedly humorous insult. 8 years later the definition of the insult has only expanded to include just about anything the accuser may choose. 

CALLING ALL BASIC BITCHES: Stassi Schroeder’s bestselling novel about the basic phenomenon. Amazon

A New York Times Bestseller, Next Level Basic by Stassi Schroeder, hilariously embraces the idea of being basic and details the key tips and tricks to truly living up to basic bitch criteria. It’s important to come to terms with the idea that the basic critique isn’t going anywhere, so the next best plan is to learn to love it. As Schroeder puts it, “Being basic means being true to what you like, without caving to the pressure of being ‘cool’ or ‘edgy’ or whatever basic-haters are into.” In short, Schroeder encourages us to be ourselves and continue to like what we like, as cheesy as it sounds.

The basic critique does not only apply to women. Social media has popularized making fun of music, clothes, and styles that are popular among men. Although they are rarely described as basic, the same concept still applies and can still cause emotional damage.

The benefits of using the term basic do not outweigh the consequences in many cases. It is not worth it to turn females against the few things that allow them to feel comfortable in exchange for a fleeting chuckle or an ego boost.

If you have the chance to choose, choose to move on and find a better joke. Or even better: find something nice to say.

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