You Haven’t Earned The Right To Be A Basic B*tch Just Yet
No one wants to wear five dollar leggings and generic Uggs and spend three hours touching all the display cases at a Super Target more than I do right now. These characteristics are what one might call those of a “basic bitch”:
The basic bitch — as she’s sometimes called because it’s funnier when things alliterate, and because you’re considered a poor sport if you don’t find it funny — is almost always a she. In more sophisticated renderings, her particularities vary by region and even neighborhood, but she is almost always portrayed as utterly besotted with Starbucks’s Pumpkin Spice Latte. It is the setup to nearly every now-familiar punch line about a basic bitch, her love for the autumnal mass-market beverage. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are “mall.” They reveal a girlish interest in seasonal changes and an unsophisticated penchant for sweet. (Noreen Malone, “What Do You Really Mean When You Say ‘Basic Bitch’?” (The Cut)
I have strong basic bitch tendencies. I embrace that. But, as a Black woman, I am not exactly what we mean when we refer to basic.
Definitionally “basic” is generally used to describe a white woman because the concept is built on a type of white woman performance.
Basic is about a kind of consumption. It is the mindless intake of tepid cultural tastes. Basic isn’t really about the Pumpkin Spice Latte or the cottagecore home design or the Hallmark Christmas movies. Those are just signifiers. Basic is about the cultural production and consumption of an apolitical relationship to the everyday world that inocculates the basic from being offended — and perhaps most importantly — from being offensive to others. A basic bitch is, above all, safe.
Times have been wild. We want to feel safe again. The last 24 hours have been especially wild and exceptionally offensive. As of five minutes ago, almost 68 million people in this country who experienced four years of Donald Trump’s irascible, sociopathic administration voted for him again. Biden and Harris may eventually win this thing but they will not have won a clear mandate. And, they may not be able to govern with the basic mandate they’ve won.
Never have we needed the mindlessness of basic cultural consumption more. But we haven’t earned it. Well, some of us haven’t earned it. Since basic is about a certain type of white womanhood, let’s talk about white women and this election.
Looked at another way:
White women…this you?
Seriously, there is a lot to be said about how and why white women’s support for Donald Trump actually outperformed (however slightly) 2016. Maybe it’s religion. Maybe it’s internalized sexism. Maybe it’s uncut racism. Whatever it is, it is a political problem no matter who ends up winning this election.
After four years of pink hats and hashtag resistance and bemoaning 2016’s 53%, we continue to have a white woman problem.
At this point, this is a family conversation. There is nothing that Black books about feminist rage can do for you now. There is no shortcut through Black lives. White people are going to have to work this one out for themselves. The wellbeing of the rest of us kind of depends on it.
I do know that until you work it out, you have not earned the right to retreat into basicdom. The comfort of banality should not be yours until you figure out how to deprogram that 55% or how to make them irrelevant. Mindless consumption is partly how we got into this mess. Those “Live/Love/Laugh” signs were clearly secret political warfare on the hearts and minds of white women across this nation. What the hell was happening in those organic wine clubs, exactly?
Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. I just need white women to know. I need you, white women, to figure it out. And until you do, you can go to Target but you cannot be of Target.
Being a basic bitch is a privilege, not a right. White women haven’t earned it yet.