“Basic” has devolved into a derogatory, gender targeted insult

Mary McDermott

I recently had a lot of homework to do, so I decided to get started by going on Buzzfeed for about an hour.  

One quiz in particular caught my eye: “How basic are you?”  

The term was familiar, so I decided that I should find out if I am, indeed, basic.  

The question implies that I am at least partially basic, anyway. If you’re going to live as “a basic,” you might as well know that you are, right?  

Even The Villanovan’s Coffee Break did a short poll asking students if they are basic or not.  

Clearly it is imperative that I know this information about myself. I awaited my fate as I clicked through the questions asking if I order my bagel “scooped,” about my gym-going habits, and whether or not I hold to the belief that my astrological sign determines my entire life.  

The results came through with my final diagnosis.  “Congratulations, you are not that basic.”  

Maybe I’m missing out on something then, if I’m not that basic. Is everyone else more basic than I am?  

But more importantly, why were congratulations in order?  Clearly being “basic” has a negative connotation according to Buzzfeed, yet there are articles, videos, pictures claiming to give insight into this relatively new classification. 

I see #basic regularly on Instagram and Twitter.  How bad could it be? 

Basic used to refer to things that are elementary.  

The alphabet, using a number line, telling time: these things are basic.  

The very root of the word, “base,” suggests foundation that is meant to be built upon. There were “basic necessities” like water or candles in the event of an emergency. A “basic” was a wardrobe staple like a white t-shirt that anyone can use for an easy layering option.

  So if we describe people as basic, what does that say about them or us?  Now basic refers to something entirely different from its original definition.  

Mostly used to describe women, it seems to mean someone who enjoys Starbucks (pumpkin spice lattes, in particular), wearing yoga pants without actually doing yoga, walking around in Sperry’s and eating frozen yogurt (probably calling it “froyo”) while writing a to-do list in her Lily Pulitzer day planner.  

There are a lot of people (not just women) who can identify with at least one of these basic activities.  It seems unfortunate then, that basic has become a derogatory term. “That’s so basic” is an insult, whether delivered seriously or ironically.  

People are blamed for enjoying these things that so many other people enjoy too.  

Taking pleasure in things that are popular with the masses is now grounds for insult.

I hate the term basic. 

I hate that, in particular, it is supposedly appropriate to describe women in this way.  

Basic has become a classification as common as any high school stereotype you can think of.  

The problem is that basic does not even describe anything specific about a person. 

 A “jock” plays sports, a “drama kid” acts in plays and a “band geek” is actually in the band. 

But basic can describe almost any popular activity that women enjoy.  What does a basic do? 

If I want to pin recipes all over Pinterest without actually having the interest in making them, if I want to describe my friend’s puppy as “totes adorbs,” if I want to wear riding boots and a Northface vest every single day for the month of November, why are any of these things immediate grounds for criticism?  

Many of the things that comprise the classification of basic are only about being comfortable or doing things that are popular. 

As far as I am concerned, that is not a bad thing. 

Calling someone basic has become equivalent to calling someone stupid or shallow, and that’s something I don’t think anyone wants, or even really means to do.  

It suggests lacking substance.  

Shortening words: “babe” into “bae” or ordering salad dressing on the side are simple things that should not be grounds for calling someone stupid.

Basic describes a pH, not a person.

What I hate in particular is that the term basic groups women together in a way that fails to acknowledge their unique qualities.   

Most of the things that classify someone as basic are material things: what a woman wears and what she eats.  Kale and Lulu Lemon say nothing about who she is as a person other than maybe the fact that she likes kale and Lulu Lemon.  

Failing to get to know someone to the point of describing them in only one word, reducing a person to that one word, seems pretty basic to me.  

Call me basic as I sit here next to my pumpkin spice latte candle, but I wouldn’t mind if this term retired from the fad world, sooner rather than later.