The misogynistic roots of the “basic” label
C/O Thibault Penin
Young women are disproportionately ridiculed for their popular interests
Time and time again, we’ve heard the word “basic” being used to describe popular trends in mainstream media. Everything from Starbucks Frappuccinos to UGGs to One Direction has at least once fallen under the umbrella of being “basic.” Designating popular trends as basic has extended to an unwanted label on those who consume them.
It’s no surprise that the label of being basic falls largely on what is liked by women. I consider 2016 as the golden era of what was and is still considered to be basic. As an eighth grader at the time, I completely remember the satisfaction of buying that one dark green fall jacket with the gold buttons that everyone around me seemed to wear.
To me, buying that jacket was nothing short of an achievement as its popularity at the time truly cannot be described. Imagine my surprise when that jacket was lumped into the multitude of trends that were designated as “embarrassing” to participate in.
This notion of being undervalued as young women, especially in the context of following the status quo, wasn’t isolated to small-level interactions. Throughout history, musicians have lamented against being known as artists liked by crowds of young women.
5 Seconds of Summer is a band that rose to popularity around the same time that One Direction did. In fact, they joined the latter on multiple tours and consequently gained a fanbase that largely resembled that of One Direction’s. However, in 2014, they expressed that their credibility as a “real band” was hindered by being known as a band that was “just for girls” and revelled in the fact that they had started to gain more male fans.
It’s incredibly troubling to note that the impact of being labelled as basic has led to a perceived decline in credibility of anything with a female-majority fanbase.
While the “basic” label may have peaked in popularity in the 2010s, many other labels have come and gone that seem to only have the purpose of ridiculing women. As a reaction to the “basic” title, internalized misogyny began to manifest in the minds of many young women. Suddenly, the scales tipped in the other direction and being “not like other girls” was highly valued. The only way to gain any sort of unique identity was straying away from what we all loved just months ago.
Eventually, the story repeated itself and the label “not like other girls” began its turn in the cycle of ridiculing what girls choose to like. On TikTok, a social media platform that recently gained popularity in 2020, videos posted under #notlikeothergirls have over 85 million views with the majority of them mocking “alternative” trends enjoyed by young women.
I’m proud to admit that nearly everything I like could be considered basic. Perhaps the most basic of all is my adoration of Taylor Swift’s discography. However, it’s also gratifying to have so many interests that others can relate to when you freely accept the value of being basic.
Why wouldn’t you choose to enjoy the fact that your favourite song is also at the top of the charts in the world right now? What’s the true disadvantage of being able to see yourself in women around the world? On the other hand, if you choose to let the criticism in and affect every aspect of your life, you only compromise your own happiness.
The unfortunate observation from the persistent mockery of both being like and unlike other women has cemented the fact that we gain nothing from trying to please others. We shouldn’t view this observation as a battle we “can’t win,” but rather a battle that doesn’t need to be fought.
Immediate disdain of an entire demographic for their interests isn’t a reflection of your shortcomings, but of those who choose to make such blanket statements.