Stigma around basicness damages interpersonal relationships

Stigma around basicness damages interpersonal relationships

Artisan coffee, Birkenstocks, a high ponytail tied by a velvet scrunchie: just a few of the many attributes of a woman that can be considered “basic.”

In the past few years, the term “basic” has evolved into an insult towards those who are trend-followers. In light of this newly found popularity, Dictionary.com has added a sixth definition of the word: “(especially of a female) characterized by predictable or unoriginal style, interests, or behavior.”

I am writing this article as I sit in Better Buzz Coffee in Encinitas, the Mecca of “basic bitches.”

As the hours pass, I find myself watching a few dozen teenage girls take turns sitting in a seat with a view out the window, as another friend stands outside the shop, taking candid photos of the girls seemingly laughing at something absolutely hilarious when the reality is that it’s all just a charade put on to get the perfect Instagram photo.

I roll my eyes.

But every so often, I see a middle-aged couple do the same: the wife sits in the window seat, the husband stands outside. He tells her to smile, and snaps a photo.

I smile.

When it’s a 50-year-old doing this, it’s cute, pure, heartwarming. But when it’s a 16-year-old girl, it’s abominable, cringe-worthy, obnoxious.

Perhaps, the stereotypes concerning social media are to blame here: we typically assume that the 50-year-olds are doing this for their own cherishing, while the 16-year-olds are doing this for a few seconds of attention on the internet.

However, the issue at hand here is one that deals with the underlying misogynistic tones of the way we categorize these teens, not the intentions of their actions.

It’s almost become second nature for me and much of this generation to categorize every teen who does anything relatively mainstream as “basic.”

In truth, the new definition of “basic” doesn’t differ much from the original, which is synonymous with the word “simple.” It’s also quite notable that “simple” carries a derogatory connotation, which Dictionary.com defines as, “an ignorant, foolish, or gullible person.”

But as social psychologist Steve Bearman puts it, “internalized sexism, which occurs when women enact learned sexist behaviors upon themselves and other women, also takes everyday forms.” This concept extends to the growing trend of viewing anyone who is “basic” as a vain, shallow, carbon copy of any other wannabe.

Bearman categorizes this action as the fostering of “women competition,” where “competition may take the forms of malicious gossip, social exclusion, zero-sum comparisons with other women, and women putting one another down or maneuvering each other into lower status positions in an attempt to make themselves look or feel better.”

Internalized sexism, which lays on the foundation of making other women feel powerless, has been left unchecked, enabling girl-on-girl shaming.

“Everyday conversation is woven from the conventions, motivations, and negotiations that make up life in cultural communities,” Bearman said. “When sexism is part of a culture, sexism, and the internalized sexism that accompanies it, becomes one of the threads out of which conversations are woven.”

Even the smallest comments such as “I’m not like other girls,” “I would never hang out with a normie like that,” or “she’s so basic” hold an underlying message that other females are inferior in some ways. Such phrases can fall under what Bearman refers to as “dialogic practices (manifesting in the form of dialogue)” of internalized sexism. Dialogic practices can have negative implications whether it be a assertion of incompetence or the derogation or invalidation of women.

Upon closer examination, however, the majority of the aforementioned insults fail to hold any water. We deem being “basic” a condemnable characteristic on the basis that liking things that are popular is a negative thing.

But since when did it become deplorable to enjoy something that many other people like as well?

I, like many others, have subconsciously fostered a love for hating. Hating on others’ passions, hating on others’ choices, and ironically enough, hating on what is popular.

Typically, the criticizing of current fads is associated with the cynical members of older generations, but it has become more and more evident with the internalized sexism and shaming that has alarmingly become a fad in and of itself with our generation.

As I sit a little longer in this coffee shop, I realize something that I neglected to notice earlier: all the girls whom I wrongly condemned as being “basic” seemed to have something in common, and it wasn’t just their mutual love for aesthetic-looking drinks.

From where I was sitting, it was clear to me that they were each enjoying the moment, doing something for themselves that they seemed to like, and if it be,   creating a small memento through a lens.

As Bearman stated, “in the absence of internalized sexism and its intersection with other forms of internalized oppression, girls would learn that they are capable of striving for whatever they choose and achieving even highly challenging goals.” So as I finish my last few sentences, I would like to express my sincerest hopes that everyone, not just females, uplift others in their passions—even if their aspiration is to become the next Hydroflask-reviewer, Teavana enthusiast, Tumblr blogger with DIY ombre hair.

And maybe, just maybe, one day the word “basic” will be too “basic” to use.