Design by Leilani Baylis-Washington

When I walked into my kitchen on the first day of September, I wished my roommate a Happy Christian Girl Autumn. It’s a holiday, folks. A holiday to celebrate the turning of the seasons and the return of the white woman’s fall aesthetic. My roommate and I are intimately familiar with the style that constitutes a Christian Girl Autumn: bouncy curls, skinny jeans, scarves larger than the girls rocking them, knee-high boots and, inevitably, a pumpkin spice latte. It’s the aesthetic that dominated the early 2010s and turned fall into a veritable cultural phenomenon. But how did we get here? How can I wish my roommate a Happy Christian Girl Autumn with the enthusiasm of an actual holiday, and how do we both know precisely what the other is talking about? Well, it’s more than a holiday — it’s a meme. 

In August 2019, then-college student Natasha tweeted this photo with the caption “Hot Girl Summer is coming to an end, get ready for Christian Girl Autumn.” Both Natasha’s Twitter account and the original tweet have been lost to the sands of time, but its aftershocks have not. The women in the photo are Caitlin Covington and Emily Gemma, friends and influencers from Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Tulsa, Oklahoma, respectively. Both became the subject of online vitriol in response to Natasha’s tweet. The original meme was retweeted over 12,000 times with many responses labeling the women as homophobic, racist and Republican based on their appearances. Other jokes were tamer — riffing on white name memes and assigning “Christian Girl Autumn energy” to pop culture characters. The meme’s use and meaning have certainly softened today, but it exploded at its inception and unexpectedly raised questions about internet feminism and the virality of being basic. 

When I was in my early teens, I avoided pumpkin spice lattes, One Direction and makeup like the plague for fear of being labeled a “basic bitch” — that is, liking things that are stereotypically popular among young women. I was like that until I had my feminist awakening as a sophomore in high school, and decided that being “basic” was a concept and not a valid marker of any kind of societal value. Still, the basic bitch phenomenon dominated the early 2010s whether I rejected it or not. Basic was a “useful insult” that did not make its user “stoop to calling someone a slut or a halfwit or anything truly cruel.” Calling someone — almost always a woman — a basic bitch started like any other trend, which is to say virtually out of nowhere. Things like reality television, Uggs and pumpkin spice lattes had a veritable heyday among young women in the early 2010s, and with this came a lazy, casually misogynistic way of shaming women for not being unique or cool enough.

Luckily the basic bitch insult has since faded considerably, but it would be ignorant to say that the internet doesn’t still spend a lot of time dunking on women for conforming to things they enjoy and the communities they’re a part of. Caitlin Covington and Emily Gemma donned fall styles that Southern, wealthy, church-going women have been copy-pasting for years now. Since these identities have generally negative connotations and their associated aesthetics are so distinctive, frustrations with these identities were aired at the expense of two strangers. They became the punchline of sexist, politically-charged jokes, and were memed to hell and back based solely on appearance. In reality, they were wearing, in my opinion, cute, cozy, practical outfits that happened to fit a “basic” stereotype and were popular at the time. They went viral for being women that fit a mold the internet had deemed as bad, and while some points made about homophobia, racism and religion among the upper classes were fair and accurate, they had not found fair or accurate targets.

Covington and Gemma, however, were more than capable of getting the targets off of their backs. In a 2019 interview with Buzzfeed News, Gemma remarked that she’s “white and Christian but none of the tweets were accurate” and that people “assumed we were anti-LGBT, but we’re not at all.” Covington took to the replies on the original Christian Girl Autumn tweet to tell commenters that she is in fact not a Republican, and she told Insider that she is “a gay rights and Black Lives Matter supporter, and I think all people should be accepted for who they are.” Both women were quick to say that they thought the meme was funny, but Gemma hit the proverbial nail on the head when she said “I think people realized that not all white girls who love fall fashion and pumpkin spice are what we’re all categorized to look like,” because just as quickly as the jokes had come rolling in, they were replaced with praise over the women’s responses. Suddenly they were allies and icons worthy of the highest accolades simply because they did not fit the stereotypes assigned to them. As recently as 2020, Covington continued to prove her mettle by donating $500 to Natasha, the creator of the original Christian Girl Autumn tweet, to help cover the costs of beginning her transition.

I love fall. It’s my favorite season — I can’t stand the heat of summer, and the gray of winter is demoralizing. I love spicy drinks and big sweaters and the smell of my heater in the morning. And, call me basic, but I love the Christian Girl Autumn meme. I love what it’s become, and in recent years I’ve come to view it in a warm, loving light. Still, when I get philosophical at night, it makes me wonder what women have to do to prove that they’re not who you assume they are. Why did an innocent meme have to turn into Covington and Gemma jumping through hoops to prove that they’re not bigots when their only crime was wearing big scarves and drinking pumpkin spice lattes? Their efforts in defending themselves, however, are a huge step forward in dismantling “basic” feminine stereotypes and their weaponization. As the internet progresses in its treatment and celebration of women and past its “basic bitch” phase, I too might be inclined to call Covington and Gemma “queens.” Because of them, I feel a little better about my cozy sweaters and my pumpkin spice lattes. Because of them, I feel a little better about wishing a happy Christian Girl Autumn to all who celebrate. 

Daily Arts Writer Maddie Agne can be reached at