It seems like just yesterday. It was 2011, and lady-rapper Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci” was on rotation in my freshman dorm. The viral hit which would be brilliantly spoofed by Lil Wayne in due time carried the attitude that I wanted to embody: Gucci Gucci, Fendi Fendi, Louis Louis, Prada / Basic bitches wear that s— so I don’t even bother. Translation: I am so convinced of my own awesomeness that I don’t need status symbols. God forbid someone would ever consider me “basic.”
Urban Dictionary tells us that “basic bitch,” the alliterative diss, means “one who has no personality; dull and irrelevant.” It certainly did not die out with Kreayshawn’s fifteen minutes fifteen seconds? of fame. The phrase has lived on in pop culture and media. On the same day last week, the Vice homepage prominently featured two articles devoted to the insult: “In Defense of the Basic Bitch” and “The Basic Bitch’s Guide to Coachella.” The former was a sympathetic view of the generic, conformist lady, while the later was a searing, satirical critique of her obliviousness and lack of creativity.
Let’s take a look at the Coachella faux-manual, published through Noisey, which is Vice’s music subsite. Its leading photo depicts four white women sorority-squatting and smirking for the camera, flaunting their bleached hair, designer shades and fringed pseudo-hippie attire. So, a “basic bitch” is always female-presenting and performative, perhaps “trying too hard.” She may conform to every convention of stereotypical female beauty in the way we demand of all women, but she conforms just a little too much. It is so predictable, it’s ugly all over again.
The article proceeds to mock the “basic bitch” for her elementary knowledge of music and amateur festival behavior. She only knows the singles and gets uncomfortable when she hears OutKast songs that aren’t “Hey Ya.” She thinks Lana del Rey is relatable, and MGMT is okay when they stick to their poppy stuff.
For these sins, she must be punished; after all, one cannot attend Coachella simply to have a good time. One must have a deep, even spiritual connection to every B-side from the most obscure artists. One must buy authentic vintage clothing from the late 60s rather than pick up a crop top from Forever 21.
The aforementioned article is a stellar example of everything that is wrong with calling a woman a “basic bitch.” We are maligning women for completely victimless transgressions, for nothing more deplorable than a lack of elitist taste or visible individuality.
Am I reading too much into this? Well, I believe that any socially acceptable, derogatory term for a woman is worth examining because it informs our expectations and perceptions. Casual misogyny is still misogyny, and language still determines who’s in power. The people who label some women “basic bitches” are laying their own claim to elite culture, declaring themselves arbiters of the highbrow.
What it comes down to is that we have managed to create yet another no-win situation for women. I didn’t think it was possible, but we have laid out another manner in which women can fail at proper femininity – liking mainstream things including but not limited to One Republic, Ugg boots and LeAnn Chin.
I’d like for us to stop punishing each other for having individual tastes. I’d also like for us to stop creating useless criteria for the “right” kind of woman. It’s a natural thing to do, and Kreayshawn made it easy for me when I was a first year who wanted to feel like a special snowflake. But let’s make it less easy now.
Abby Grosse ’15 firstname.lastname@example.org is from Shoreview, Minn. She majors in English with concentrations in media studies and women’s and gender studies.