Opinion | It’s time to let the ‘basic girls’ stereotype die

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Columnist Talia Duffy argues the term “basic girl” creates a bad stigma when there is nothing wrong in being basic.

By Talia Duffy, Columnist

A girl walks toward you on the street. Your friend turns to whisper in your ear, “Look at that girl. She’s so basic.”

What do you expect to see? Blonde hair swept up in a messy bun? Lululemon leggings and white Nike Air Forces, perhaps? Or a face caked in layers of concealer, just a shade too dark to pass as normal?

No. It’s worse. In her hand, monstrous, cylindrical and orange, rests a grande pumpkin spice latte. The Starbucks logo on the side of the slightly perspiring cup taunts you, grinning.

Bile rises in your throat. You stop for a moment to dry heave in the grass next to the sidewalk.

This image of the “basic” girl — a caricature of shallowness and unoriginality  needs to die. Using “basic” as an insult exacerbates sexist mindsets, especially impacting young girls on social media.

Being “basic” shouldn’t be a bad thing. Just because a lot of people watch a certain movie, dress a certain way or listen to a certain song doesn’t mean they’re shallow or forcefully assimilating themselves for approval. Things are popular because they’re generally enjoyable.

But, for some reason, girls are ridiculed for engaging in common interests. Anything associated with teenage girlhood becomes something of a societal taboo and is viewed as inferior and trivial.

Memes reflecting these ideas are everywhere. “Basic” white girl starter packs and side-by-side comparisons of “basic” girls and real girls abound — as if drinking iced coffee or reading “The Fault in Our Stars” makes you disingenuous.

Each time one of those memes is liked, upvoted or retweeted, the ideas spread. As a result, girls start to turn against each other. They believe they have to change if they want to be accepted. They internalize the stereotypes accentuated by these memes. “I’m not like the other girls,” they say. “I’m better. I’m different.”

Even then, they cannot find salvation from the suffocating pressures of society’s expectations. A girl who emphasizes her unique traits becomes a “pick me” who acts a certain way just to snag the attention of men — and it’s almost always assumed that she’s lying.

This stands to prove that women are only acceptable in a box of predetermined traits. Society is only comfortable with women if they’re kept in a place where they can be attacked, where they are vulnerable, where they are “basic.”

Indirectly, men are negatively affected by the “basic” stereotype as well. By creating the taboo around “basic” traits and interests, men feel pressure to avoid — or, at least, never admit their enjoyment of — these things if they want to retain their status as a legitimate man. Masculinity becomes a standard defined solely by what it refuses to be.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. People are bombarded with jokes about “basic” girls, solidifying the image in their minds. In turn, to avoid association with that image, men and women alike spew more jokes and insults. The entire vicious cycle is fueled by insecurity, division and sexism.

The amount of time and energy people waste berating the “basic” stereotype is sad and embarrassing. Don’t people have anything better to do than critique the way teenage girls live their lives? 

They’re not dangerous. They’re not harmful. Let them be. Basically, f— off.

 

Talia is a freshman in Media.

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