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What Do You Really Mean When You Say "Basic Bitch"?

Natalie Raphael |
March 11, 2015 | 12:48 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

By Mac McDonough
By Mac McDonough

So what’s a “basic bitch?” Who’s a “basic bitch?” Wait, am I “basic?”

Over the past few years, this vague term has created much controversy because it seems as though society has gotten itself into an ironic situation. The style surrounding a stereotypical “basic bitch” is seen by some as the modern version of  “chic.” Yet, to call someone “basic” is insulting and considered to be the furthest thing from chic - ironic, right? Maybe this is just because the term “basic” has developed a complex web of meanings. 

Although the term originally was submitted to Urban Dictionary in the Summer 2009 as "a bum-ass woman who think she the shit but really ain’t,” the expression has evolved into a much more complicated saying containing multiple meanings depending on the context. Several adjectives USC students use to describe a “basic bitch” are “unsophisticated, unoriginal, narrow-minded, and cliché.” USC junior Alexander Herold describes a “basic bitch” as someone who “follows trends” but to the point  “where everyone else is doing it, so it’s not really trendy.” It seems that “basic” people are interested in keeping up with the latest items on the market.

But, Freshman George Sakopolous states that “you can be basic and you can be original,” which brings us back to the question, what really makes a person basic? Some assert that certain clothing items distinguish a “basic bitch” from a “non-basic.” However, certain items that are particularly common in one part of the country are not common in others. For instance, the go to East Coast look contrasts the common California girl style. Katie Wasserman, east-coast native, shares that “brand names on the east coast that are considered basic, like Patagonia, North Face, and Bean Boots, are not popular in California.” So perhaps the term “basic” is more or less contextual; depending on what kind of culture one congregates in and what lifestyle one partakes in. What is regarded as “basic” in one culture might be considered avant-garde in another.

The issue with the term "basic" is its implications. Nobody necessarily wants to be called “basic.”  In fact, the term is often used in a derogatory or offensive context. “People use the phrase to put someone down or group somebody within a stereotype,” says Ashlin Pemberton. Sometimes, when the term “basic” is used to describe someone else, they are asserting that the materialistic items owned by the "basic bitch" embody more of a personality than themselves. Regardless, “basic” items are deemed basic for a reason: they are used by a large quantity of people because of their widespread appeal. If an item did not have a redeeming quality about it, then people would not buy it, and the item could no longer be considered basic. Permberton says, “honestly, being basic is sometimes good because at the end of the day, leggings are awesome and Starbucks is delicious.”

In other words, basic things are “basic” for a reason. For instance, Lululemon leggings are the stereotypical brand of  “basic bitch” leggings, but, they are also extremely durable and long lasting. On the Lululemon “About Us” page, they explain the importance they place in creating items of great values and that “it takes hundreds of hours of meticulous tailoring to create a piece of gear that fits and performs so well it almost feels like you’re wearing nothing at all.” Therefore, there seems to be rationale behind the basic bitches’  “basic” choices. Sakopolous points out, “if what you’re doing is what other people are doing that’s fine, we can’t all be 100% original all of the time, and if we did, we would live in a weird place.” If everything everyone did was was entirely original, nobody would be able to connect with one another through common interests.

But why don’t guys call other guys “basic?” Although the term “basic” primarily has a female connotation, USC students assert that just because certain guys do not get called out for taking part in prominent trends does not mean they are not taking part in such trends. Pemberton states that there is a correlation between one’s outer appearance and the judgments people make about a person’s inner-self. Pemberton states that whenever people picture a “basic bitch” in their heads, they picture a “girl wearing a specific outfit, but to be honest, guys are doing the same thing—they have khaki pants or khaki shorts and a t-shirts.” So is it really fair for girls to be the only ones given a hard time for choosing to style themselves similarly? Junior Alex Spring thinks the rationale behind this term could just be a product of the “sexism in society,” but Herold objects, saying “honestly, we (guys) give each other shit for everything, regardless of if they are being cool and original or copying the rest of the crowd” and that boys do “use the term basic all the time.”

Given the various specificities of what a “basic bitch” is really like, it seems as though there has yet to be one succinct, clear, definition of what being a “basic bitch” is. However, whatever the term may mean in each partiular context, we can all admit to ourselves that being basic is not so bad. And, let’s face it, USC, we all have a little bit of “basic” in us.  

Contact Staff Reporter Natalie Raphael here and follow her on Twitter here



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