There are few eras more difficult in a woman’s life than adolescence. Within these years, every action she takes is analyzed and critiqued, not just by friends, parents and teachers, but by society as a whole. In the past few years, one common critique has been directed at young women: You’re basic. From Snapchat filters to song lyrics, “basic” has become a foundational slang term for young people of the 2010s. So what does the term mean? For many, calling someone basic recalls the Ugg boots-wearing, pumpkin spice latte-drinking girls of 2015. Over time, these “basic bitches” have evolved beyond their original form, becoming the image of anyone deemed a follower. Or, for the most part, any young woman that dares to have interests.
I want to take a look back at history — the year 1964, to be exact. In the music industry, this year would be the catalyst to the British Invasion, as The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show and threw America into a frenzy. When you look at images from this iconic moment, they do not show the cliché Beatles fan we might picture today. There are no 54-year-old white men in faded ringer tees lamenting over the death of “real music.” In fact, it’s quite the opposite. “Beatlemania” was characterized by screaming, crying, obsessing teenage girls. Yet this did nothing to discredit the band, and they are still remembered today as one of the greatest groups of all time. Ironically, today a teen girl wearing a Beatles shirt is usually scoffed at by exactly that cliché fan. And if they can’t name the title of the first demo off of a scrapped album that John Lennon wrote in 1963 well, then, they can’t even call themself a fan.
This disdain for alleged imposters stretches beyond popular music. Teen girls listening to Led Zeppelin are try-hards. Electronic fans are festival hoes. Rap fans are bandwagoners. Name any genre and it conjures the face of someone who represents something wrong with the fans of that style, and all too often, that face is young and feminine. And all too often, it is the men of a particular fanbase who scoff at their female counterparts as if they are of less worth and credibility than them.
You may be thinking, “Hey, it’s really not that deep.” And in some ways, you would be correct. Calling someone basic has become so common the word barely has meaning anymore, and there are much more harmful words and actions thrust at women — so many, that talking about them could become an entire anthology. But ridiculing any interests of a young growing girl can be impactful in ways beyond just forcing them to spend summers listening to sad indie white boys instead of Megan Thee Stallion. Everybody has an individuality complex: the desire to be special, to be one-of-a-kind. To be able to say “I liked that show years ago” or “I wore that shirt first” and somehow derive superiority from their taste. This superiority often manifests itself as internalized misogyny, actively rejecting femininity or what are traditionally considered feminine interests because they inherently see womanhood and everything associated with it as less than.
At least in my life, dealing with internal misogyny can be an everyday battle, especially when many older generations of women base their worldview in it. I buried my nose in books and barely brushed my hair as a child because I thought caring about looks would mean I was superficial and stupid. And these mantras never end. Women should cover up to make a man’s life easier. Women shouldn’t have ambition because that hurts their family. Women need to wear dresses and makeup and keep their hair long to be pretty. Women are forced into little boxes that others construct for them in order to be accepted, and in order to preserve such a system, they must constantly have their worth attacked.
I have a radical request: Just let women live. Someone’s intelligence and worth as a person is not determined by the culture they consume or produce. Being “basic” does not exist. Whether one views themself as alternative or mainstream or somewhere in between, there are a million other people in the same position as them. There are enough forces acting against the interests of women, we don’t need to drag each other down as well. Watch “Love Island” with your friend in the Slipknot shirt or throw on your Air Force 1’s to go see that new foreign film with the girl from class. Individuality is a waste of time when there is a world of interests to be tried out and different people with whom to engage. If all else fails, get a group together and stand in your local record store comparing One Direction to The Beatles; sometimes it’s nice to just have a laugh.
Daily Arts Columnist Samantha Della Fera can be reached at email@example.com.