Girl on Girl: The “Basic Bitch” Phenomenon
Originally published on CUIndependent.com on Feb. 14, 2015
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The behavior of women in media is often analyzed in regards to how they are portrayed, objectified, made up or dressed down. It is easy to criticize all that is spoon-fed to us by Hollywood entertainment — but it’s not so simple to discuss the portrayal of women where it is in our immediate control.
There is a relatively new term that is being thrown around social media called “basic bitch.” If you’re not familiar, perhaps #basic or #basicbitch will help trigger an image. Girls are using this hashtag as the descriptor for photos posted of UGG boots, North Face jackets, Starbucks lattes, RayBan sunglasses, Lululemon yoga pants, and other white upper-middle class materials.
In order to discuss this topic, it is important to first acknowledge that the Internet is a very active part of our world, specifically on college campuses among young people. There are, of course, many criticisms of how the Internet has been used and abused over time, but in order to address this aspect of it, we must understand that social media is a platform for self-representation.
As long as this platform is present in our lives, the way in which we demonstrate our experiences on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other mediums is the way that the viewers of these pages will perceive us. We each individually possess a great deal of Internet real estate. There is a reason that people change their names on personalized Internet pages when applying to schools, internships and jobs. The information we post is readily available, so why are we depicting ourselves in a light that we are not proud of?
We are contributing to a certain stereotype in the way we choose to exemplify ourselves online. Why not promote oneself positively? Why do we choose to coin ourselves as basic bitches?
While the term “basic bitch” is a popular term used to describe oneself, it has increasingly become a phrase that women use to describe each other, and therefore a way that men have come to identify certain women.
It is important to address why it is that women are talking about themselves as basic for purchasing certain items. Advertising is a tool used to attract a certain audience and to sell a product. Social media, if you really think about it, is implicitly a way to advertise or “sell” oneself. Now ladies, why would you want to be seen as “basic”? Labeling ourselves as such is conforming to the idea of women having a dull and simplistic history that says we are limited to a kitchen. Perhaps we are tagging our belongings as “basic” without notice to the damage it does, but it’s time we take a second look at ourselves.
The “basic bitch” phenomenon is just a chapter in the book of a woman’s misrepresentation on social media. The representation, or misrepresentation, of women is ever-present in the media, and this is a larger battle. But the self-representation on personalized social media does not need to mirror unkind, untrue and damaging stereotypes depicted by the public. By calling oneself a basic bitch because of privileged indulgences, one implies that they are simplistic and limited with exclusive concern to materialistic goods, longing for nothing more.
It is possible that we label ourselves as basic in fear of someone else thinking of us in that way. If I address my behavior as basic, then I have already acknowledged something about myself that can no longer be offensively pointed out by someone else. But what about the alternative? Expressing a sense of humor in one’s own action is one thing, but normalizing self-deprication is another. If I depict myself as special and encourage myself to take pride in my choices, then perhaps I will be perceived as the spectacular person I aspire to be.
An excellent way to think of this issue is echoed in Tina Fey’s line in Mean Girls, in which she tells a gym full of high-school girls, “You’ve got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.”
My Instagram page is in my control: what I post and how I tag it is my decision. I refuse to apologize or to belittle my character for loving the taste of fall in a Starbucks pumpkin spiced latte—and it’s soy because I’m lactose intolerant, thank you very much. I can, and will, enjoy this drink and remain an extraordinary individual.
“Basic bitch” is not cute nor is it playful—it is disrespectful and damaging. In order to remove this label from our vocabulary, we have to make a conscious effort to be aware of how we are advertising ourselves. We must understand how deprecating this phrase is for women against women, and how unacceptable it is for others to depict women in this light.
Women cannot afford to degrade themselves, especially in a media driven society which already knocks them down time and time again. Women must choose not to punish themselves for the brand of their leggings or shoes, or denounce their credibility because of the brand on their snow jacket. Women cannot equate themselves to a cup of coffee. We must hold ourselves to a higher stature than that.
We must choose to promote ourselves as the multifaceted, exceptional, extraordinary women we truly are. We are not “basic bitches,” and so we must not identify ourselves this way. Women have too much to offer, and far too much to lose, by exemplifying otherwise.