A Feminists’ Outlook on the Term “Basic”

Chloe Stefani '24, Fashion Editor

When I was in the 6th grade, the majority of my friends were boys. I didn’t have a problem with it, but it was clear that we definitely had some different interests. In fact, I actually remember the day I decided to abandon all of my “traditionally feminine” interests so that I would be cool enough to hang out with. My interests in makeup, clothing, and even certain movies and TV shows were being buried under a mountain of fear of losing my friends. I was under the impression that, if I openly liked the things that most girls liked, I would be seen as just another “basic girl.” I would hear them make fun of and refer to completely unfaulted girls in our class as “basic” just because they liked things that most girls also liked. I had been so brainwashed by this term, that it wasn’t until about a month ago that I stopped and questioned how we had allowed boys, and even ourselves, to use the term “basic” for this long. 

What Does “Basic” Mean?

As teenage girls, we’ve probably all been confronted with this term, whether we’ve been called basic, or referred to other girls as basic. However, in case you don’t know its meaning, the Urban Dictionary defines basic as “someone only interested in things that are mainstream, popular, and trending.” I’m not proud of it, but up until recently, I would see girls who used VSCO and watched makeup tutorials, and think to myself: “They are so basic.” About a month ago, I stopped and asked myself the question: “When did liking something popular become a bad thing?” And when we think about it logically, when something is popular, it’s popular for a reason, right? Why should we tear each other down for being interested in something that is widely liked?

“Traditionally Masculine and Feminine”

What never made sense to me was that boys I knew would make fun of me no matter what interests I had. If I told them about my interest in fashion, I was “just like every other girl,” but if I told them about my interest in Marvel movies, I was “trying too hard.” I think we can all relate to having boys try to bust us for “lying about our interests to them.” They would literally grill me on Marvel facts because they didn’t believe that I could possibly like something they also liked. I felt like I couldn’t win. I would go home every day and think: “Why do interests have to be associated with gender?” And the truth is, they don’t. Gender stereotypes have been around forever and have trained us as a society to recognize that some things are for girls, and some things are for boys. From a young age, we are told that “pink is a girl color” and “blue is a boy color.” This never made sense to me either, because how could a color be masculine or feminine? When my sister was little, she didn’t care about traditionally girly things such as Barbies, dressing up, or the color pink, as her preferred toys were cars and trucks. And guess what? Your interests, no matter how “basically feminine ” or “masculine” they are, do not make you any less than. Hopefully, one day society can take these labels out of our day to day lives, and just let interests be interests.

Why We Should All Remove The Term “Basic” From Our Vocabulary

I’ve had the feeling for a while, that as teenage girls, society loves to tear us down. Whether it’s what we wear, how we talk, or what we like, teenage girls are constantly judged. Before we adopted the term “basic” ourselves as a way to describe other girls, men have been using this to describe teenage girls and women for over a decade now. In fact, the term “basic girl” was actually coined in 2009 by a male comedian. Have you ever noticed how nobody ever calls boys basic? It would be so easy to categorize them as basic for liking “traditionally masculine” things such as sports and video games, but we don’t. That’s because the message of the word is clearly directed at making fun of what girls like. The most upsetting part is that this misogynistic language has seeped its way into the vocabulary of girls too. We’ve been trained by society that in order to be accepted, we have to abandon our “feminine” interests and be “not like other girls.” I have to acknowledge the double standard that we never ask boys to be “not like other boys” because, as a society, we don’t think there’s anything wrong with their “traditionally masculine” interests. And, when we as girls weaponize this word “basic” against other girls, we are further enforcing the narrative that we shouldn’t be ourselves in order to be accepted by men. 

This Women’s History Month, let’s all work on taking the term “basic” out of our vocabulary in order to spread positivity and acceptance to other women and girls. From now on, if you are called “basic,” hopefully you will be able to look at it as a silly, meaningless term that does not define you. No matter your interests, you are so much more than what others categorize you as. 

Chloe Stefani ‘24, Fashion Editor