Amelia Olson
November 02, 2014 6:45 am

You probably remember Elle Woods. She’s a lawyer, former sorority girl, who loves hot pink, her Chihuahua, and lattes. The entire premise of Legally Blonde works to explore the societal and cultural tension between Elle’s taste in style and vernacular, and her wildly evident intelligence. And pink pen or no pink pen, the woman is a lawyer, and she’s boss.

Jess Day is a middle school music teacher, loves rom-coms, wears glitter and once tried winning over an unenthused and somewhat stiff ex-girlfriend of Nick’s by baking her cupcakes and putting a blanket over her lap while they talked. She also owns her emotions, is committed to being honest and generally wants the best for everyone, but never at the expense of her own happiness or dignity. She too is a boss.

Mariah Carey is famously in love with Sanrio’s Hello Kitty, has albums called Butterfly, Rainbow and Glitter (released in succession), and isn’t afraid of boas, high heels, fancy drinks and all things pink and sparkly. She’s also one of the best-selling music artists of all time, selling over 63.5 million records worldwide, has a career that spans nearly three decades, including playing a profoundly moving, truthful and compelling counselor in the movie Precious alongside Gabourey Sidibe.

You see, all of these women, whether fictional or real life, have aesthetic interests that some people have deemed unintelligent or uncool or “basic.” And there’s no way of telling, but I’m pretty sure Elle Woods would love pumpkin spice lattes if they had been around back then.

The “basic bitch” phenomenon has been talked about a lot lately. Many have attributed the new (ish), co-opted use of the term to class anxiety, and just as many people think we are over-analyzing the term too much, and that in-and-of-itself is “basic.” And while I enjoyed reading several different posts about the “basic bitch,” I find the most compelling resistance against this newly appropriated, overused and co-opted term to be found in just not believing in, supporting or participating in summing up women by what type of coffee or boots they like. Because in spite of all the healing, movement and progress we’ve made as female allies, we’re still falling into a game of differentiating between which women matter and which women don’t, based exclusively on topical observations and aesthetic choices.

A few weeks ago, the Internet horrifically proved how insipid and off-balance our opinions regarding women really are when Renee Zellwegger attended an event looking different. And while some took the opportunity to point out why it wasn’t any of our business, others voiced their cowardly and ignorant opinions with attacks on her worth and character, despite having a massively successful career. These controversies imply, once again, that we think we own women’s interests, we own their faces, we own their opinions and we own their bodies. Again, we find ourselves in a position of disempowerment because the system continually creates impossible landscapes and environments for women to exist within.

With a quick Google search you can find out if you are a “basic bitch.” And if you’re a dude, and you’re concerned your girlfriend isn’t exotic or cool enough (and are a jerk, who, let’s face it, is lucky to be dating anyone at all), you too can take a quiz to see if she is a “basic bitch.” And while it’s up to a rando quiz technology to decide whether you’re a basic bitch or not, and you might even argue that online quizzes don’t mean jack, a brief scroll through Facebook exemplifies how commonly we are using “basic bitch,” and there is nothing menial or insignificant about that. We are very literally creating and celebrating a new demeaning name for women, and perpetuating girl-on-girl bullying.

People I genuinely love and respect continue to defend the use of “basic” and “basic bitch,” insisting that some people are just basic and not very good people. And I can agree, really. Now I might argue that everyone has the capacity to grow and heal, but, yes, ultimately, some people are just icky and make things crappy for everyone else. However, my refusal to feel comfortable about “basic bitch” comes not from denying crappy people exist but acknowledging how vapid and marginalizing the co-opted meaning has become, and how as an ally to women and overall cheerleader to any human trying to do their best, I just can’t get down with the term anymore.

This isn’t a pitch about owning your “basic bitch”-ness, or about defining what the “basic bitch” is. It’s an article about denouncing its existence. That there will always be someone out there who wants to make you feel small, and if we really think deeply about it, none of us can ever be absolved of being the so-called “basic bitch.” “Basic bitch” is just a new way of establishing potentially dangerous otherness amongst our female companions, and gives people permission to call us a new variation of “bitch.” I refuse to participate in popular ways to make girls feel like garbage about themselves. And if you like “margs” at happy hour, good for you! If you wear Uggs, it doesn’t matter! You see, your preference in physical expression is none of my, or anyone else’s, business.

You know what matters? Standing up for yourself. Being honest. Learning to forgive. Being kind to yourself and to other people. Owning mistakes and learning from them. Being allies to folks who are underrepresented or forgotten about. That stuff matters, and I hope you never ever feel anything short of how fantastically and wildly authentic you are. Just because some jerks hijacked a once-generic insult and turned it into an online war against women who like the taste of pumpkin, doesn’t say anything about you. It says something about how society continually chooses to objectify, stereotype and disempower women.

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