Unique taste — and the capacity to avoid the basic — is a privilege.
October 21, 2014 3:56 AM   Subscribe

'She (and it is always a she) cherishes uninspired brands — a mix of Target products, Ugg boots over leggings, and Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes (the ultimate signifier of basicness) — and lives a banal existence, obsessed with Instagramming photos of things that themselves betray their basicness (other basic friends, pumpkin patches, falling leaves), tagging them #blessed and #thankful, and then reposting them to the basic breeding grounds of Facebook and Pinterest.' Anne Helen Petersen on why 'basic' is just another word for class anxiety. [Single link Buzzfeed]

Anne Helen Petersen previously on Metafilter.
posted by Ziggy500 (199 comments total) 76 users marked this as a favorite
 
"To call someone “basic” is to look into the abyss of continually flattening capitalist dystopia and, instead of articulating and interrogating the fear, transform it into casual misogyny." Good stuff. Thanks, Ziggy500.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:23 AM on October 21, 2014 [40 favorites]


"But to look around and realize that all of our lofty ideals about the rights of the individual under democracy have in fact yielded a society in which “choice” — at least for a certain demographic — is the difference between two forms of scented body wash… well, that’s existentially terrifying."
posted by vitabellosi at 4:27 AM on October 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


But to look around and realize that all of our lofty ideals about the rights of the individual under democracy have in fact yielded a society in which “choice” — at least for a certain demographic — is the difference between two forms of scented body wash… well, that’s existentially terrifying.

I thought this was spot-on until this last paragraph: I don't agree that this is "existentially terrifying" for the subjects of the article, but for the author. The author has fallen in to the trap she herself identifies: condemning the lifestyle and choices of others as somehow inferior because they do not conform to her own, and therefore makes her (and us) better than them. She makes it okay by saying it's not their fault, there aren't many choices, they don't have privilege.. but it's the same thing.
posted by alasdair at 4:30 AM on October 21, 2014 [23 favorites]


As the poet said

"I don't want more choice, I just want nicer things."
posted by The Whelk at 4:33 AM on October 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


Anybody that thinks I'm a basic bitch for taking photos of my garden ought to be smeared with manure till their last breath escapes them.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:37 AM on October 21, 2014 [29 favorites]


Which is all to say that “basic bitch” was a commonplace adjective within black culture, albeit with slightly different connotations, for years before it went “mainstream” over the course of the last few years.

Oh, White Culture, is there nothing you can't appropriate?
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:40 AM on October 21, 2014 [29 favorites]


In a capitalist/consumerist society, class delineation has always been most easily drawn (aside from the actual pile of money one might or might not have) by the places you shop and the brands you buy/wear. As people become squeezed even further down the ladder, those delineations become even more finely grained in order to salvage some sense that one is better-off than the "other". We're rapidly approaching a point where groups will be drawing those "class" distinctions based on whether you shop at the right dollar store.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:40 AM on October 21, 2014 [31 favorites]


It took me until the end of the article before I even figured out what was going on. (The example of the comedian's spiel was literally incomprehensible to me. I still have no idea what colored hair has to do with anything.)

"Basic" is insulting, and it means you're too unsophisticated to buy anything other than the most well-known brands? Am I understanding correctly?

(Going in, I assumed it was some kind of double-reverse sneer at someone who tries to buy unadorned things like wood furniture in an effort to be folksy that just ends up being consumerist unwittingly.)
posted by Scattercat at 4:40 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, "But that’s not how it was used even five years ago. According to a Google Trends map of the word’s usage, “basic” entered the vernacular around 2011. But that original usage had nothing to do with middle-class white girls. Instead, “basic bitch,” like so many things that become commonplace within mainstream (white) culture, was appropriated from black culture,..."

Doesn't appear to true. At least so far as the author cites Google Trends. As far as "Basic" goes it's been declining for almost a decade. "Basic Bitch" peaked with an Emma Stone reference.

Not doubting but that is not good evidence.
posted by vapidave at 4:43 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Scattercat: I think this article really only makes sense if you're familiar with the term 'basic bitch' already. It's not just all about brands or whatever. According to Urban Dictionary: "a bum-ass woman who think she the shit but really ain't." I would describe it as meaning a young woman who isn't very cool and doesn't have much going on that's of interest to the outside world, yet dares to Instagram her life in detail anyway.

Why are there so many think pieces about basic bitchery in the last couple of weeks, anyway?
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:46 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


We seem to be fully in the "basic" backlash stage. From last week: What do you really mean when you say "basic bitch"?
posted by lunasol at 4:47 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


...why would anyone care that a boring person Instagrams their life?

Swear to Cthulhu, I have no idea about people sometimes.
posted by Scattercat at 4:49 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


Maybe I'm just sheltered, but I never encountered "basic" as a thing outside of BuzzFeed, and I still haven't encountered it outside of there (other than this thread).

But on BuzzFeed, it's been huge for the past few weeks.
posted by Brachinus at 4:50 AM on October 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


I've been finding the pumpkin spice latte backlash far more obnoxious than the drink itself. And it HAS been everywhere, at least in my limited online sphere.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:55 AM on October 21, 2014 [20 favorites]


I would describe it as meaning a young woman who isn't very cool and doesn't have much going on that's of interest to the outside world, yet dares to Instagram her life in detail anyway.

Yeah, but is she happy?

I mean that sincerely. We (the society we) apparently enjoy holding people who like "basic" things up to ridicule, but we fail to take the most important thing into account -- is she happy? Is she content with her life?

We focus so much on "cool". And, in a way, kids (particularly girls) are socialized to understand that "cool" sort of also means "conforms to certain sociatal norms". I wish we focused so much more on "happy" over "cool".
posted by anastasiav at 4:56 AM on October 21, 2014 [35 favorites]


To summarize the groundbreaking work of theorist Pierre Bourdieu: We don’t choose our tastes so much as the micro-specifics of our class determine them. To consume and perform online in a basic way is thus to reflect a highly American, capitalist upbringing. Basic girls love the things they do because nearly every part of American commercial media has told them that they should.

Or to rip off Marx: Everyone creates their own taste and style, but not in circumstances of their own making. There's not only the consumer pressures driven by advertising, but peer approval drastically narrows choice -- I have a friend who used to work at an ice cream store, and he would get groups of undergraduates coming in, and there was a strong dynamic of "one appropriate flavor and one allowable dissenting flavor" going on.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:56 AM on October 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


at least in my limited online sphere.

The part of the internet that's borded mid level office workers has always been at war with the part that is bored underemployed grad students.
posted by The Whelk at 5:05 AM on October 21, 2014 [45 favorites]


MID-level? You flatter me, sir
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:06 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think this article is an example of a piece in which the author mistakenly identifies something she does, as being a cultural trend. I don't know anyone who damns people for their basicness based on what they consume. I have read the "basic bitch" meme as a humorous take on things that are stereotypically done by a certain class of young woman .... but the same game can be played with men, hipsters, academics, ghetto dwellers, freegan punks, Mefites, etc. Attributing all this dark status anxiety to it seems like baggage of the article's author. one thing that is interesting to me about the flattening of US consumer society and the availability of every lifestyle (and information and supplies for every lifestyle) to everyone is that it has, to me at least, forced an attention to who a person really is: I would never assume that because someone has the "right taste" or good style that they are actually interesting or decent people, because it has become clear in recent times that these things are matters of privilege, leisure and free time. I already knew that the "basic" person may actually be more deep, decent, and interesting than the person who has anxiously developed all the right tastes to fit some vision of what a cool or authentic person is like.
posted by jayder at 5:10 AM on October 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


I'm surprised that "basic" had somehow never made it onto my radar despite having a teenaged sister. The latest new insult I learned was "salty".

I like Petersen's work in general but it's hard to understand an analysis of a cultural phenomenon if you can't recognize that this is actually a cultural phenomenon.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:13 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Snobbery is so basic. On which subject, here is an old classic featuring 3 of the best English comedians of the 60s/70s.
posted by epo at 5:19 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


This usage of "basic" seems really recent to me . I don't think I have really heard it used to describe the type of pumpkin-spice-latte-ugg-boot white girl the article describes. It seems like a Facebookified usage of the term.

Which is all to say that “basic bitch” was a commonplace adjective within black culture, albeit with slightly different connotations, for years before it went “mainstream” over the course of the last few years.

That's the "basic bitch" I know. The "thinks she's the shit but she ain't" girl. It never seemed like it was so much about consumer choice, it was more of an attitude - a takedown of unwarranted arrogance.


This new appropriation of "basic," hurled as an insult against such a broad swath of Middle America, seems, at least to me, to be dissonant with the original usage, which didn't describe an entire class so much as it did someone with, well, no class.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:21 AM on October 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


I'm so basic that I've never even heard or read the term applied in that way, although now that I have, I'm actually kind of happy that I did, since it will make it easier to identify the sort of person who would use it, come the revolution.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:23 AM on October 21, 2014


I've never even heard of "basic" used as part of "basic bitch" and I seriously doubt too many people outside a certain demographic have either.

"Basic" has been a term for eons, and, in my experience, it's been more of a positive signifier, implying a level of thoughtful frugality, as in "stocking up on the basics" or "investing in the basics" when it comes to clothes.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:24 AM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also, I'm amused that this is what the blue is proffering as a "related post", based on the tag.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:24 AM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


But on BuzzFeed, it's been huge for the past few weeks.

Yeah, the only times I've ever heard basic used this way are in the Kreayshawn song and in Buzzfeed listicles, both of which are addressed in this article, which is just super funny to be because the writer is essentially saying, "here is this thing I/we are guilty of doing, we need to stop because it's bad mmkay," while still doing it. Which is about the most basic white girl thing you can do. Have privilege, feel guilty.
posted by phunniemee at 5:30 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


Hmm...it really does seem that calling someone basic is now considered by some to be itself basic. Basic infinity.

Really interesting article.
posted by inturnaround at 5:31 AM on October 21, 2014


"Basic" as an insult is something I've only seen here, and used referencing other pieces.

my mom, who lives in northern Idaho, is so basic that she drinks decaf single-shot lattes at Starbucks, shops online at Chico’s, and posts pictures of her heirloom vegetable garden to Facebook.

That counts as "basic" in Portland or even Boise, sure, but in small town Idaho that is several steps above basic. Basic would be drinking coffee at a diner with a person's or location name (Ed's or Mary's, or the Kalispell Cafe, say) and buying clothes at Walmart or the ranch supply store. Consumer differentiation is way more fine-grained than just basic/non-basic, especially when you are comparing between places and demographics.

That said, I really like how she finishes the piece ("To call someone “basic” is to look into the abyss of continually flattening capitalist dystopia and, instead of articulating and interrogating the fear, transform it into casual misogyny."). The term reminds me of those articles a while back on vocal fracking and downtalking – everything that young women do is subject to scorn and criticism, and there's no path out of that. Either you are a basic bitch or you are a hipster poser, pick your poison and demonstrate your identity choice in your consumption.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:33 AM on October 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


Oh, White Culture, is there nothing you can't appropriate?

I don't know about you, but it's tremendous insight like this that keeps me coming back.
posted by phaedon at 5:40 AM on October 21, 2014 [15 favorites]


I once roomed with a young woman who would have hour long debates with her fiance over the merits of 4 cheese Shake n Bake over "Whatever Flavour, I can't remember" Shake n Bake.

That, to me, was terrifying.

The rest, imho, is Buzzfeed. This generation's Gawker and ValleyWag.
posted by infini at 5:41 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Spending time criticizing things people do as "privilege": also a privilege
posted by DU at 5:43 AM on October 21, 2014 [14 favorites]


Yeah, there really is no win here. If you like pumpkin spice, you are basic. If you like artisianal chocolate milk, you are a hipster. If you like IPA you're a beer snob, and if you serve your beverages in vintage pressed glass punch cups, you're a twee Zooey Deschanel knockoff. (In fact, do we have a name for that one yet? I feel like it's a different thing from either "basic" or "hipster.")

I wonder what percentage of the average person's consumption patterns is determined not by their native preferences (if those even exist given the advertising situation in our world), but by not wanting to be labeled "basic" or "hipster" or whatever.

We're rapidly approaching a point where groups will be drawing those "class" distinctions based on whether you shop at the right dollar store.

The dollar store industry is already making this happen. Five Below is at the higher end of the industry (and as such is the most likely dollar store concept to show up in mid-range power center shopping plazas). Dollar General mostly goes into small rural towns. Not sure where the others fall but I'm pretty sure there's a pecking order there. (There's a pecking order for thrift stores, too, but the relative positions of Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, and Salvation Army vary depending on where you are in the country.)

This usage of "basic" seems really recent to me . I don't think I have really heard it used to describe the type of pumpkin-spice-latte-ugg-boot white girl the article describes.

I'm so out of date I'm still using the term "woo girl."
posted by pie ninja at 5:43 AM on October 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


David Cain:
But when other people enter the picture, when a person can somehow be blamed for something unpleasant we experience, our resentment seems to take on a heightened momentum. It is much easier to resent a person than a situation, (especially a stranger) because we can make moral arguments for why this person should have (or should not have) done this or that.

You see, a moral argument finally gives us what we hapless human beings have always wanted: a way of arguing with what is.
posted by mikelieman at 5:46 AM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


The "basic" put-down isn't a reaction to lack of prosperity but rather the ability to make class distinctions within a broadly held prosperity. Uggs, the gold iPhone, and pumpkin spice lattes aren't cheap. They are consumer totems chosen because they superficially indicate luxury and prosperity but actually connote a sort of cultural ignorance or lack of creativity-- having all that money to spend but lacking the knowledge or cultural capital to spend it on anything interesting.

The term was fundamentally never used for aunt Mabel drinking Folgers and subscribing to Reader's Digest. "Basic" as I've heard it is always directed at the "bland suburban preppy" type. Insofar the term is an indicator of economic hard times, it's used by people of more modest means to mock those fortunate enough to be well off but "undeserving" of their prosperity because they spend the money thoughtlessly and without style.
posted by deanc at 5:51 AM on October 21, 2014 [73 favorites]


you're a twee Zooey Deschanel knockoff. (In fact, do we have a name for that one yet? I feel like it's a different thing from either "basic" or "hipster.")

All the basic boys I know still think she's "adorkable."
posted by phunniemee at 5:51 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have no idea what anyone is talking about. This post desperately needs a tldr. Oh, and the pumpkin spice thing is entirely guerrilla marketing by Starbucks, duh.
posted by Yowser at 5:53 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm just going to link College Humor's take, because Patrick Warburton's delivery is just so damn funny.
posted by Catblack at 5:57 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


They are consumer totems chosen because they superficially indicate luxury and prosperity but actually connote a sort of cultural ignorance or lack of creativity-- having all that money to spend but lacking the knowledge or cultural capital to spend it on anything interesting.

Yeah, I understand the term (at least in its current usage) to be roughly the feminine equivalent of "dudebro," culturally speaking.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:02 AM on October 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


"Basic" has been a term for eons, and, in my experience, it's been more of a positive signifier, implying a level of thoughtful frugality, as in "stocking up on the basics" or "investing in the basics" when it comes to clothes.

Yes from my scanning of discussion on the term here on metafilter I would have thought it was an grudgingly approving term for someone who is pragmatic and no frills.

New insults are always interesting.
posted by winna at 6:02 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


That said, I really like how she finishes the piece ("To call someone “basic” is to look into the abyss of continually flattening capitalist dystopia and, instead of articulating and interrogating the fear, transform it into casual misogyny."). The term reminds me of those articles a while back on vocal fracking and downtalking – everything that young women do is subject to scorn and criticism, and there's no path out of that. Either you are a basic bitch or you are a hipster poser, pick your poison and demonstrate your identity choice in your consumption.

I agree! What gets up my nose about "basic" is the casual misogyny and the "let's mock and scorn young women." To me, it's part and parcel of the memes that women are frivolous shopaholics, and that women are silly, shallow, irrational creatures, with a side of "I'm not like these other girls, not at all!"

I'm old, and very probably basic as hell (I love pumpkin spice, and I pin all kinds of fashiony stuff on my Pinterest), and I really don't care what Other, Cooler People think of me at this point. It's the misogyny that grinds my gears into powder.

And really, does it matter? I agree that whether someone's happy and content ought to be what is important. Given the choice between hanging out with, or dating, someone with bland mainstream tastes who is a kind and happy person, or someone who is Very Interesting And Sophisticated but is bitter, angry and mean-spirited, I know which one I'll choose.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:06 AM on October 21, 2014 [36 favorites]


I've always thought that, if you care so much about what other people think of you that being called "basic" offends you, then you are not cool (or whatever word kids these days have replaced "cool" with). The same is true of anyone who expects others to be insulted by being called "basic."
posted by VTX at 6:08 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


> "The latest new insult I learned was 'salty'."

Wait, this no longer means an experienced sailor who has spent a long time aboard ships at sea?

Well ... that's a lot of applesauce! You slubberdegullions can brabble about this as much as you want, but I'm going to hop in my flivver and get whiffled down at the blind pig until I forget I ever heard about this.
posted by kyrademon at 6:11 AM on October 21, 2014 [18 favorites]


I quit looking down on people when I realized that they are all engaged in a theater of self parody, where the degree of unknowingness is part of the characterization.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:16 AM on October 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


I had always thought, based on my teenage-early 20s nieces' and nephews' usage a few years ago, that "basic" was used for a woman who thinks she can steal your man (whatever that means) because she thinks she's extra-special somehow and better than the woman that the man she wants is seeing, but she really isn't, especially since her behavior apparently plainly lays out her intentions, but "she think she so slick" and can hide them. Personally, it sounds like a bunch of teenage drama crap that makes me roll my eyes like in the Beyonce GIF everyone likes to use.

So when I saw it on Buzzfeed to make fun of white girls who wear Uggs, I was a little confuzzled. And that this term always refers to women, for both overly dramatic teens and Buzzfeed staff (but they're all pretty much 20-somethings anyway, yes?), is ridiculous.
posted by droplet at 6:19 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


like so many things that become commonplace within mainstream (white) culture, was appropriated from black culture,..."

Doesn't appear to true. At least so far as the author cites Google Trends. As far as "Basic" goes it's been declining for almost a decade. "Basic Bitch" peaked with an Emma Stone reference.


No, that is completely, completely true. Basic is an AAVE term and white people have completely misunderstood its meaning:
You see, the term “Basic Bitch” has been Columbus-ed. White people want so badly to be in on the joke of making fun of white people (so as to seem hip and down and to escape criticisms of whiteness, supremacy, and racism themselves) that they picked a group of white people they can lampoon and make fun of, all while distancing themselves from whiteness, a very tragic practice summed up neatly as “White People Be Like ‘White People Be Like’”. And that group they usually choose is 15-25 year old white girls. But while they do so in a misogynist way, they are also erasing the original meaning and usage of the term, and engaging in appropriation.

“Basic” does not mean liking plain, normal, or everyday things. It does not only refer to being your standard all-American white girl, though many of them are by default pretty basic. It means being a simple motherfucker. It means being new, childish, obtuse, unimportant, forgettable, or obvious in your behavior, mentality, workings, machinations, bullshittery, and drama....

Now, while “Basic” is not about gender or liking white girl things, there’s what actual criticisms of “Basic Bitch” things like enjoying pumpkin spice lattes IS about from a racial context, which is lampooning that American culture has seen white people and, yes, even white girls and their tastes as the staples of society and elevates their desires and their consumer habits as ideal (“oversized sweaters, messy buns, xoxoxox”), specifically the way white women can be fun, light-hearted, adorable, and carefree, while Black people, especially women, aren’t so much. What are our fun, lighthearted Fall activities and habits? The one thing that all these articles have in common is calling all these weird ass subcultural tastes and identifiers that are absolutely foreign to me as an Afro-Latina and to many other women and girls of color something that ALL girls are into, and therefore an insult to ALL women. But no, it’s just white girls. Which is why we make fun of it.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:19 AM on October 21, 2014 [62 favorites]


I have no idea what anyone is talking about. This post desperately needs a tldr.

Some people are way too caught up in other people's shopping habits and that's a bad thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:20 AM on October 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


To consume and perform online in a basic way is thus to reflect a highly American, capitalist upbringing.

An even more interesting article if you take pumpkin spice to be a metaphor for say, opinions in general. The notion that online conversation itself is an expression of class anxiety. It's not just our consumption that is continuously flattened by capitalist dystopia, it's our thoughts.
posted by phaedon at 6:24 AM on October 21, 2014


(In fact, do we have a name for that one yet? I feel like it's a different thing from either "basic" or "hipster.")

Sadly, I think that falls under "Manic Pixie Dream Girl."
posted by nonasuch at 6:33 AM on October 21, 2014


And yea, there came upon the earth a time of war and pestilence,
when rising from the west a fearsome and powerful tribe did proclaim against all others
"thou are a basic bitch"
and so answered from the east a band of kin,
"haters gotta hate;"

And such was the roar that swallowed the earth,
that for a hundred years smoke and ash choked the sky,
and the rivers ran red with the blood
of sister upon sister, brother upon brother;

Until the time of silence,
when the creatures of the earth reclaimed their throne,
howling in great unison,
"YOLO MOTHAFUCKAS!"
posted by Muddler at 6:33 AM on October 21, 2014 [16 favorites]


Until reading this stuff I had never heard the terms "basic" or "basic bitch." I feel like I've woken up in a slightly different universe from the one I went to bed in.


For one of her college-age students to be excited about the September arrival of the Pumpkin Spice Latte...

No. See, that's the problem. The damned things started appearing in mid-August. when it was 94 degrees outside. So much for the pumpkin spice = pumpkin = fall semiotics (because of course there is nothing honestly seasonal about pumpkin spice lattes). It was a blatant cash grab exactly like the way stores start setting up Christmas decorations immediately after Labor Day.

As for the rest of the PSL semiotics... I don't know why it's associated with women. Is it just a "real men drink black coffee" stereotype? Because the excitement about PSL on my Facebook feed when was mostly from men, and the agreement with me that chai is better was entirely from women.

Pumpkin spice latte is the new plate of beans.
posted by Foosnark at 6:41 AM on October 21, 2014


In a world where the marketers shove NEW AND IMPROVED down our throats on a daily basis, and where individuation, customization and pseudo-choice are the watchwords of all product design, it is a legitimate option to mold one's unique outward identity by opting to consume only the oldest, blandest, least interesting versions of products. Bring on the unsweetened black coffee, the Nacho Cheese Doritos, the Traditional Chex Mix, the Original Old Spice deodorant. Sweet cream ice cream, flavored only with sugar, is the flavor of choice for those of us who find vanilla too stimulating.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:47 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Maybe it's just me, but this article seems like flibbertigibbetry nonsense. I got better things to worry about. Like cats.
posted by CincyBlues at 6:47 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Snarl Furillo, I read that article a few days ago, and while I thought that most of what she had to say was spot-on, I took issue with the fact that she's doing exactly what she accuses everyone else of doing - taking one definition of the word and privileging it over any and all others. Hers may be older, but I've heard the term basic used to mean a lot of things a lot of ways long before it got glued to pumpkin spice lattes, and her definition is only one of them. Hell, I've heard it used to refer to dudes (in the context of 'basic dick') to refer to what most people on the blue would call douchebags.

That being said, my single favorite basic bitch-related quote came from a podcast earlier this week (and I can't for the life of me remember who says it and I hope someone else can come in and attribute this properly): "I prefer to call them simple sweeties."
posted by Itaxpica at 6:53 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Another crisis! I'll prepare an editorial.
posted by thelonius at 6:54 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Slag 'em off all you like, I'll take a basic bitch over an acidic one any day.
posted by forgetful snow at 7:04 AM on October 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


Just bought some Pumpkin Spice Latte mix at a frikkin' Amish outlet in Yeehaw, Missourah for my friend's daughter, who is a college frosh.

I guess this makes me a ... BFE basic bitch enabler? With a side of appropriation?

I don't know what's going on anymore.
posted by adipocere at 7:05 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I took issue with the fact that she's doing exactly what she accuses everyone else of doing - taking one definition of the word and privileging it over any and all others. Hers may be older, but I've heard the term basic used to mean a lot of things a lot of ways long before it got glued to pumpkin spice lattes, and her definition is only one of them.

But...I mean...she's saying that white people heard black people use the term, assumed they knew what it meant and started using it incorrectly, and that's what she objects to. It's not that people can't say that they just want a basic sweater or that they basically quit their job this morning.

Hell, I've heard it used to refer to dudes (in the context of 'basic dick') to refer to what most people on the blue would call douchebags.

That's specifically the male equivalent of "basic bitch." It's not a different thing.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:08 AM on October 21, 2014


I like how most of the related posts for this here on MeFi have to do with BASIC, the programming language, rather than any other definition of basic.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:15 AM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


I agree! What gets up my nose about "basic" is the casual misogyny and the "let's mock and scorn young women." To me, it's part and parcel of the memes that women are frivolous shopaholics, and that women are silly, shallow, irrational creatures, with a side of "I'm not like these other girls, not at all!"

I really am on the fence about whether this is misogynistic. I mean, I know women can internalize misogyny and inflict it on other women, but the "basic bitch" thing seems to have originated in women scorning other women online which, to me, is less troublesome than men picking on women for stereotypical tastes.

I think the comparison with "bro" culture is interesting. There is something I have noticed, especially in the south where I am from (maybe it's a phenomenon everywhere), where young frat dudes all dress identically ... I am talking about the kind of uniform where they all wear starched long-sleeve buttondowns with pastel-colored chino shorts and loafers (another pic), and yet, somehow, they think they are God's gift to humanity? For some reason I find this conformity far more sinister and threatening than the innocuous conformity described in the article we are discussing. (FWIW, I actually think the uniform shown in the pictures I linked is really just a few shades less offensive than a KKK hood.) I don't know if this frat conformity is what is referred to as "bro" culture, but it offends me, and it strikes me as the emblem of a very open and conspicuous desire to be an oppressor.

The "basic bitch" term being discussed in this article seems really weird to me, in the sense that I can't imagine any self-respecting person with taste actually using it. As someone implied above, it is a stupidly trendy term to denigrate people who are stupidly trendy. Is it only used by people with no self-awareness? In any event, it seems to denote a person who is unimaginative in the things they like, and so it seems simpler and less cruel to just call such people "boring" or "unimaginative." We could easily come up with a list of things liked by her male counterpart (call him the "basic bro") that are equally innocuous ... drinking Redbull, liking MMA, etc.

One reason I find this term really unhelpful is that it gets us nowhere in identifying who is actually interesting or not. I think there is a standard range of Metafilter tastes that cause me to roll my eyes (for a while it seemed that every request for book recommendations led to an invocation of House of Leaves and Infinite Jest ... aren't you passionate about any book that we haven't all heard about?) and actually, I think Mefites who recite this standard litany of tastes are just as boring as your standard issue Uggs-and-Pumpkin-Spice woman.

I sometimes think that people who I find most interesting are people in whom there are big blind spots in terms of how they live ... for example, the woman who buys her clothes and home decor at Target but is writing her Ph.D. dissertation on Baudelaire and couldn't care less what you think about her. Or the really hip looking girl with a love of punk who is a paralegal at a huge law firm. People who are an odd mix of being culturally on-point and staid/boring are often interesting to me. The person who is just painfully "correct" on every dimension is often the very worst type of conformist.
posted by jayder at 7:16 AM on October 21, 2014 [12 favorites]


Maybe it's just me, but this article seems like flibbertigibbetry nonsense.

Actually, the tail end of the article is where she turns it on its head in a thought-provoking way; after dissecting the whole definition of "basic" and trying to define it, she then asks, "but the better question is, why do we even turn a whole brand-identity thing into yet another way to attack women? Why do we not let people just like what they like?"

She's actually sympathetic to people who like "basic" things, because - as she rightly assesses - in many cases, that "basic" stuff is the only option for frill and pleasure available to you.

I know someone now who is originally from Seattle but is now in grad school in the very rural part of Connecticut where I'm from. We recently were talking about music and he was teasing me for being a little "backward" musically when I was in high school - until I finally said that "okay, when you were growing up you had fucking Bumbershoot happening in your backyard every year; I shouldn't have to tell you what it was like where I grew up , where there's only the one FM station and we didn't even get wired for cable TV until the late 80's so I didn't even have MTV until I was 16." (I mean, the dude was complaining about having to buy his coffee at the T.J. Maxx because his only other option was Maxwell House at the supermarket and he was too much of a Seattle coffee snob to do that.)

If you'd have seen my tastes back when I lived there, I would have also been glomming onto things like Starbucks' coffee flavors and such, just because they were the only taste of glamour available where I was. And people should be able to have some fucking glamour in their lives now and then, because we are not all automatons. So you go with what you can have.

But, the author is saying, the problem is that if you do, you run the risk of having people sneer at you for your glamour not being glamorous enough, rather than letting you just enjoy your thing. And that tendency to sneer is troubling, the author is arguing, because it's pointing at a tendency to "blame the customer" rather than blaming the economic inequity that keeps lots of things out of many people's reach, and it's also pointing at a societal kneejerk move to pick on women.

Not so nonsensical, if you ask me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:17 AM on October 21, 2014 [38 favorites]


Also, it has been amazing/horrifying to watch in real time as the black origins of something are completely erased. The first wave of white people think pieces on the term all cited Kreayshawn for "popularizing" or "introducing" the term, and then would have a whole paragraph like, "But where does the term originate? Who thought of this? No one knows." Like, black people know. Because they coined it.

Even Anne Helen Petersen is like, "Oh, yeah, this is appropriative and not really what black people meant, anyway, pumpkin spice and Chico's..."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:19 AM on October 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


Also, it has been amazing/horrifying to watch in real time as the black origins of something are completely erased.

Oh God. And the speed with which this is happening is amazing. I am so sick of hearing soccer moms and Dockers-wearing dads say "that's how I roll." Jesus Christ, would those people fuck off.
posted by jayder at 7:22 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


The "basic" put-down isn't a reaction to lack of prosperity but rather the ability to make class distinctions within a broadly held prosperity.

This. It's absolutely an implication of "basic-ness" that more elevated patterns of consumption are accessible. Class and status aren't the same thing, and "basic" isn't a term about class. "White trash" (e.g.) identifies lower status directly with lower class, whereas "basic" marks out status against an implicitly fixed if chimerical (middle) class background. It's interesting to read this in conjunction with this. Whatever else is going on, it seems like some longstanding cultural markets have gone post-scarcity enough to upset received modes of consumer culture identity construction. When the same record collection is available to all, what do we do now?
posted by batfish at 7:25 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, for me, this article really brings to mind some of the same issues that are brought up in the "Streaming Music has Left Me Adrift" piece that was linked on Metafilter yesterday.
posted by jayder at 7:28 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


10 PRINT "METAFILTER: "
20 PRINT "THE CAPACITY TO AVOID THE BASIC"
30 GOTO 10
∞ END
posted by sylvanshine at 7:30 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Oh God. And the speed with which this is happening is amazing. I am so sick of hearing soccer moms and Dockers-wearing dads say "that's how I roll." Jesus Christ, would those people fuck off.

The thing is, I think that kind appropriation actually hinges on both memory and racism - people maintain this vague, nebulous knowledge that it's some kind of "rap" or "hippety hop" slang or whatever, and there's this "oh, it's so cute and funny that I, a white person who would not know hip hop if it bit me on the ass, am using this "street" slang". It's not conscious racism, but it's like rap covers on the ukelele, where the whole idea is the piquant contrast between the white person and the imagined Other who originated the slang, etc. There's class mixed in there too. I think it much more reflects when we white people do not internalize the real of racism and inequality - that using AAVE isn't just a cute little affectation like using 1900s British slang that you got out of kids' books when you were little.
posted by Frowner at 7:31 AM on October 21, 2014 [17 favorites]


This is such a perfect MeFi topic: a tiny, tiny percentage of quasi--> semi-privileged people up in offended arms about stuff that the majority of humanity neither knows nor cares about, yet is assumed to be of huge societal importance. Never heard of this beforehand, hopefully never will again.
posted by umberto at 7:32 AM on October 21, 2014 [16 favorites]


We're running out of things to hate each other about aren't we.

The cake clock ticks inexorably closer to midnight.
posted by fullerine at 7:35 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


But...I mean...she's saying that white people heard black people use the term, assumed they knew what it meant and started using it incorrectly, and that's what she objects to. It's not that people can't say that they just want a basic sweater or that they basically quit their job this morning.

Let me clarify - I've heard it used in AAVE to refer to things other than the definition she gives; I'm not talking about the dictionary definition of basic here. In fact, the way it's used by the comedian in the main article is itself a different definition than the one she uses. Like a lot of terms, it has a whole bunch of meanings that vary based on who's saying it and who they're talking about, and she seems to erase all that in favor of her chosen interpetation. Granted, when she does it it doesn't have nearly the same angle of appropriation that it does when Buzzfeed makes it about Ugg boots, but it still kinda rubbed me the wrong way.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:49 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is such a perfect MeFi topic: a tiny, tiny percentage of quasi--> semi-privileged people up in offended arms about stuff that the majority of humanity neither knows nor cares about, yet is assumed to be of huge societal importance. Never heard of this beforehand, hopefully never will again.
posted by umberto at 7:32 AM on October 21 [+] [!]


What's funny about your comment is that there are several levels of discussion here and I am not sure who you are referring to as "quasi--> semi-privileged people up in offended arms":

-- the people referring to others as "basic bitches"?
-- the people (like the author of the linked piece) criticizing the term "basic bitch" as a symptom of "class anxiety"?
-- the people (like me) criticizing the author for bringing her own baggage to the term "basic bitch"?
-- the people who believe the white use of the term "basic bitch" is an example of racist appropriation of a term from U.S. black culture?
posted by jayder at 7:49 AM on October 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


Jesus Christ, black and white Americans physically exist as human beings on the same geographic land mass; despite the attempt to socially construct some deep existential separation between the two. In light of that, it's not that interesting that both "groups" mutually influence each other, and have done so since the birth of the nation.
posted by deathmaven at 7:51 AM on October 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


Just bought some Pumpkin Spice Latte mix at a frikkin' Amish outlet in Yeehaw, Missourah

Do the Amish have "plain bitches"?
posted by thelonius at 7:51 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have never read or heard the use of the word basic outside of its generally accepted definition. I'm 43 and an internet obsessive. All I can weigh in with is that in today's age of self publication and social media, derogatory terms for a despised "other" propagate like never before. Whether it's bros, hipsters, "the blacks", Trixies, or whatever.

How does pornography and video games fit into "basic"?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 7:57 AM on October 21, 2014


no they have 'plain britches'
posted by ian1977 at 7:57 AM on October 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


I appreciate your perspective, EmpressCallipygos. I tend to sympathize with your expression of the basic idea better than hers, which strikes me as containing no small amount of posturing. Everyone wants to feel special from time to time.

As a former long-term resident of Connecticut myself, I smiled at your "very rural" description. I think I more or less know the area you reference and I would suggest a road trip up Route 6 through Bolton to the Shady Glen in Manchester. That's some good basic food right there!

And, cats.
posted by CincyBlues at 7:58 AM on October 21, 2014


Trust me, there is no need whatsoever to acquaint me with Shady Glen.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:02 AM on October 21, 2014


I have never read or heard the use of the word basic outside of its generally accepted definition. I'm 43 and an internet obsessive.

There was a video going around about 6 months to a year ago that I thought I learned about on Metafilter but maybe it was posted on Facebook. That was my first exposure to this usage. I searched for it but all I found was this deleted post from four days ago.

Here is the video.
posted by jayder at 8:03 AM on October 21, 2014


I rtfa and she's way off...well a bit off. "Basic", as Kreayshawn clearly used it and how I've always known it is a dismissal of clueless aspirational consumption (or "misguided" aspirational consumption). Kreayshawn didn't followup "Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, Fendi Fendi, Prada / Them basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother" with more expensive brands that she buys, she continues to talk about how she drives with stolen plates and sells Adderall.

That counts as "basic" in Portland or even Boise, sure, but in small town Idaho that is several steps above basic. Basic would be drinking coffee at a diner with a person's or location name (Ed's or Mary's, or the Kalispell Cafe, say) and buying clothes at Walmart or the ranch supply store. Consumer differentiation is way more fine-grained than just basic/non-basic, especially when you are comparing between places and demographics.

No, this is an illustration why "basic" would mean the same thing in the same thing in both places; it's dismissing the type of person from Idaho, who might have moved, like many others from the Midwest these days, to a coastal town, who thinks of Starbucks and Chico's as a "step up". Someone drinking Starbucks in lieu of diner coffee in an attempt to seem fancy is the definition of "basic", during this era of Midwestern migration and the importance of disavowing your hick roots it brings.
posted by deathmaven at 8:07 AM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


That being said, my single favorite basic bitch-related quote came from a podcast earlier this week (and I can't for the life of me remember who says it and I hope someone else can come in and attribute this properly): "I prefer to call them simple sweeties."

That was Lisa Hanawalt on Jordan, Jesse, Go! this week.
posted by gladly at 8:09 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Spending time criticizing things people do as "privilege": also a privilege

Yeah, that W. E. B. Du Bois, he was the Soul of Privilege when he wrote The Souls of White Folks.
posted by maxsparber at 8:11 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


It seems suspiciously like "basic" is a derogatory term for someone who might be having more fun in life than you, and/or doing so unironically, which of course is a cardinal sin in some circles.

The class analysis is interesting but I'm not entirely sure that it holds water, particularly since the definition seems so nebulous. (There would seem to be some parallels to "hipster", which arguably has some class implications as well, but is [over]used so heavily that it's hard to pin down exactly what, if anything, it means, aside from "somebody whose sense of style irritates me".)

Also now I want a Shady Glen cheeseburger.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:13 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Thanks, jayder. Though IMO that video was awful. One joke flogged for 3+ minutes. I guess I'm just getting old and out of touch, but why would something that shallow become so popular?

It's like those "Scary Movie" jokes that are just lists of various pop culture references. The enjoyment as an audience member is "HA HA I RECOGNIZE THAT! AND THAT... AND THAT!"

Also, anyone putting sugar and/or spice in coffee is a fucking weirdo.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:14 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ, black and white Americans physically exist as human beings on the same geographic land mass; despite the attempt to socially construct some deep existential separation between the two. In light of that, it's not that interesting that both "groups" mutually influence each other, and have done so since the birth of the nation.

Wow, that's a really dismissive way to describe the segregated lives most Americans live and the resultant gaps between black and white culture.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:18 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


It means being a simple motherfucker. It means being new, childish, obtuse, unimportant, forgettable, or obvious in your behavior, mentality, workings, machinations, bullshittery, and drama. It means “We all see you, boo, you are not clever.” It can insinuate having a simple style, yes, but it is an implication of being painfully transparent in the saddest ways.

See, this right here is why the original article made little sense to me. This is what I think of as the definition "basic (bitch)"


AND YES "basic" is a word with a lot of definitions, but the definition that the FPP article is addressing is, in fact, an appropriation and misunderstanding of the insult "basic bitch," which is not something that anyone would call ANYONE'S GRANDMOTHER, ever.

It also isn't about any other than the truncated version of "basic bitch," because it IS addressing the insulting usage, and particularly the inherent misogyny (which would come from the unspoken "bitch" part.) It falls apart because just because a girl likes things that other people like (which would hew to the dictionary definition of "basic") it doesn't mean she is doing anything wrong*, or bothering anyone - she's not doing anything to warrant the silent "b."

Unless she's a trifling shady man-stealer. Then it absolutely applies. same, I suppose, for Grandma.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:20 AM on October 21, 2014


Dear Jayder:

You neglected to add:

-- All of the above.

Which would have been my selection.
posted by umberto at 8:22 AM on October 21, 2014


Wow, that's a really dismissive way to describe the segregated lives most Americans live and the resultant gaps between black and white culture.
I read that entire article, and then Ctrl+F'd "culture" to make sure I didn't miss it, because I was very intrigued by the implication that a black author in Slate mixed up the economic results of segregation with the development of separate "cultures" (there were no matches in the article for "culture").
posted by deathmaven at 8:24 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


This article has painfully misread what "basic" means and then proceeded to take that misreading and drive it off a cliff. It's painful to read, like listening to someone trying to use slang when they don't understand what it means.
posted by aspo at 8:25 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Let me clarify - I've heard it used in AAVE to refer to things other than the definition she gives; I'm not talking about the dictionary definition of basic here. In fact, the way it's used by the comedian in the main article is itself a different definition than the one she uses. Like a lot of terms, it has a whole bunch of meanings that vary based on who's saying it and who they're talking about, and she seems to erase all that in favor of her chosen interpetation.

Oh, yeah. Obviously I don't know your background or where you are hearing stuff. I think she's objecting to the particular strain of basic that white people are misinterpreting. Like, "Black people use this term in many ways, and in this specific case white people 100% misunderstood it and are now off and running."

I THINK that the image of the basic white girl "made the leap" to white people because a lot of black people were commenting on the idea that black people have to do twice as much to get half as far, which is where Emma Stone comes in. There's a new "cool, fresh (white) face" in Hollywood every other second, but it's a lot harder for young black actresses to break through, and they're rarely tagged for that America's Sweetheart role. So Emma Stone is "basic" in the sense that there's nothing special about her, which white people misinterpreted as "basic" meaning "mainstream," when it's maybe closer to "Nothing special white girls are mainstream, but exceptional black girls are an afterthought." And the author of the piece I linked is frustrated that people have picked up the first half of that meaning but not the second.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:29 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also now I want a Shady Glen cheeseburger.

Yes, you absolutely do.

Mefi's Own Zippy at one time had a photo dissection of a typical cheeseburger up on Flickr - hoping he'll come in with links. But the key is - they FRY part of the cheese.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:36 AM on October 21, 2014


It's news to me that "basic" could be used as an insulting way describe someone's tastes. I use basic in much the same way as a few people have mentioned upthread: to describe simple, useful things that may not be exciting examples of design but that are staples. A long-sleeved t-shirt or white cotton ankle-length socks would be my idea of wardrobe basics.

The linked article itself linked to another Buzzfeed list of things white girls do in fall, and I scanned through it getting mildly irritated. Sure, I hate Ugg boots, but the rest of it seemed unobjectionable. God, what's wrong with using pumpkin-scented products and wearing flannel shirts and taking pictures of beautiful leaves in the fall? Pumpkin's delicious. Flannel shirts are comfy. Changing leaves are pretty. You'll have to take my recipe for pumpkin apricot muffins out of my kitchen once I've been carried out of it feet first, thank you very much.

I'm thinking about my own tendencies to criticize other people's tastes and trying to figure out when and how I do it. I don't think I criticize other people for choosing "basic" clothing and household items that suit them and that they're happy with. I don't care about how unusual or common people's sartorial choices are, but only about the overall aesthetic. I hate Ugg boots not because they're ubiquitous but because they're clunky looking. And I get very irritated when other people criticize others's tastes for being too boring or too weird. If someone acts like his or her tastes are so original and looks down on others for being unoriginal, I'll secretly roll my eyes over it because, buddy, there are billions of us, and no one's that original. Remember how everyone was into "alternative" music in the nineties and consequently preened themselves on their discernment and originality? How fucking tiresome was that?

Then there are those who sneer at other's tastes for being different while clinging desperately to the most staid, middle of the road aesthetic they can find. I knew someone who ridiculed her sister for getting into the whole hippy-type alternative lifestyle: for wearing tie-dyed clothes and those long, tiered crinkly skirts and a "long and parted in the middle" hairstyle, for eating a rather austere quinoa and beans type diet, for using that crystal thing instead of deodorant, and for seeing a homeopath. She mocked all her sister's choices of this nature, not because she thought there was anything wrong with any of it, but for being "so cliché". Well, news flash, honey, wearing little black dresses for every formal event and sweaters with cats on them paired with jeans for around home and shopping at Ikea is just as cliché. And I find her choices way more interesting than yours because at least she's honestly interested in trying out things that are new to her rather than playing it safe by doing what everyone else in the suburb you live in is doing.

Personal tastes should really be about what pleases and suits us best out of the options we have, not about impressing others or conforming.
posted by orange swan at 8:37 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


I was confused when suburban white people started calling things basic, but I was also confused when they started talking about twerking 15 or so years after it was a thing.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 8:40 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


This article has painfully misread what "basic" means and then proceeded to take that misreading and drive it off a cliff.

Can someone point to a source that uses "basic bitch" in what is claimed to be the "original" (black culture) sense?

Because I have Googled and all I am finding is the usage that is pretty much summed up in this 2012 Thought Catalog piece.

Orange Swan, I think the Thought Catalog piece is helpful in that it pretty precisely identifies what is being sneered at: it is not just a middle-of-the-road aesthetic, it is having tastes that are perceived as pathetic and sad (tattoos in a foreign language, loving Las Vegas, thinking Eat, Pray, Love changed your life, doing Instagram wrong, etc.).
posted by jayder at 8:42 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I read that entire article, and then Ctrl+F'd "culture" to make sure I didn't miss it, because I was very intrigued by the implication that a black author in Slate mixed up the economic results of segregation with the development of separate "cultures" (there were no matches in the article for "culture").

Black people and white people live segregated lives and one of the results of centuries of racial oppression by white people against black people is that black people have developed language, art and music- I don't know, you might call it culture or something- that specifically excludes white people and white people seem to delight in misinterpreting those things, claiming them for their own, calling them "new" and divorcing them from their origins. In black culture. Which is different from white culture. Feel free to keep missing the point.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:48 AM on October 21, 2014 [7 favorites]



The thing is, I think that kind appropriation actually hinges on both memory and racism - people maintain this vague, nebulous knowledge that it's some kind of "rap" or "hippety hop" slang or whatever, and there's this "oh, it's so cute and funny that I, a white person who would not know hip hop if it bit me on the ass, am using this "street" slang". It's not conscious racism, but it's like rap covers on the ukelele, where the whole idea is the piquant contrast between the white person and the imagined Other who originated the slang, etc. There's class mixed in there too. I think it much more reflects when we white people do not internalize the real of racism and inequality - that using AAVE isn't just a cute little affectation like using 1900s British slang that you got out of kids' books when you were little.


I dunno. The flip side is the person who language polices herself and her family for any uses of slang, particularly black slang, to ensure that their language does not have any lower class associations.
posted by deanc at 8:50 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


kyrademon: "Wait, this no longer means an experienced sailor who has spent a long time aboard ships at sea?"

It just means you're angry. I wouldn't really even call it an insult. For example, one recent post to the smashbros subreddit called this the saltiest handshake in smash history.
posted by pwnguin at 8:55 AM on October 21, 2014


And as far as the hand-wringing over white folks appropriating black language terms...meh.

It's appropriation via TV, movies and music, corporate mass media. It's not like white people are spying on black people's homes and churches trying to pick up new terms or expressions. Language is a virus. This always happens in all different kinds of ways.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:56 AM on October 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


Black people and white people live segregated lives and one of the results of centuries of racial oppression by white people against black people is that black people have developed language, art and music- I don't know, you might call it culture or something- that specifically excludes white people and white people seem to delight in misinterpreting those things, claiming them for their own, calling them "new" and divorcing them from their origins. In black culture. Which is different from white culture.

I disagree.
posted by deathmaven at 9:03 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Okay.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:05 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


We live in a society where character matters less than taste in how we evaluate people and in what we value, which does not bode well for our society.

Black people and white people live segregated lives and one of the results of centuries of racial oppression by white people against black people is that black people have developed language, art and music- I don't know, you might call it culture or something- that specifically excludes white people and white people seem to delight in misinterpreting those things, claiming them for their own, calling them "new" and divorcing them from their origins. In black culture. Which is different from white culture.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that superimposed cultures are fluid and want to mix, that this is a natural thing. The whole concept of cultural poaching is dumb.
posted by echocollate at 9:05 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't know, you might call it culture or something- that specifically excludes white people and white people seem to delight in misinterpreting those things, claiming them for their own, calling them "new" and divorcing them from their origins. In black culture.

Honestly, can we leave discussion of appropriation to actual sacred cultural traditions like religion and such? Because it is a stretch to make some kind of call-out over "appropriation" of underclass slang and fashion by the middle classes. The nature of middle classness is that you are engaged in cultural and professional activities that don't leave room for inventing slang, fashion, and envelope-pushing art, so you're going to end up getting it from elsewhere. You can claim that this is just like invading the Congo and enslaving its inhabitants to mine the local natural resources for you, but it isn't.
posted by deanc at 9:07 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


deanc: The flip side is the person who language polices herself and her family for any uses of slang, particularly black slang, to ensure that their language does not have any lower class associations.

jeff-o-matic: It's not like white people are spying on black people's homes and churches trying to pick up new terms or expressions.

When I got my M.A. degree about fifteen years ago, the announcer at the graduation ceremony kept saying "give it up for" to mean "let's have a round of applause for" and there were people in attendance who were put off by this "ghetto" language being used in a formal setting like that.

The usage by the (white) announcer was, in my view, unironic and sincere, and the people who objected were sort of putting themselves in the role of language police.

However, the particular use of "that's how I roll" by soccer moms and Dockers dads is precisely the way it is described by Frowner. I have never heard it used by a middle class white person in any way other than this ironic, cutesy, annoying way.

There's a big difference between sincerely adopting a term with origins in black culture, and thinking you're cute to use a term with origins in black culture.

The reason I find the use of "that's how I roll" by shiny happy white people gross is that it is a phrase that hails from the bleakest, most violent corners of the U.S. -- urban ghetto gang territory -- and it is taking this phrase with that legacy and turning it into some cutesy emblem of a sheltered suburban person's hipness. It is not respecting the origins of the phrase in poverty and suffering. I'm not suggesting that this appropriated usage can be stopped, but that does not mean I don't judge negatively a person I hear using it in that way.
posted by jayder at 9:11 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


So basic is like some kind of ladies only subgenre of normcore?

And the main symptom that you are normcore is that you fervently believe (or at least claim) to be somehow fully immune to social and cultural markers because you only do things for purely practical reasons.

People adopt various cultural markers according to their social status and exposure and personal choice. They have always done this, and they (ALL OF THEM ALL PEOPLE) have always picked them apart and analyzed and categorized them like they were syndromes, which they are. And they have always found them amusing and they have always tended to distinguish themselves from other subcultures by coming up with little disses.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:14 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


The usage by the (white) announcer was, in my view, unironic and sincere, and the people who objected were sort of putting themselves in the role of language police.

I actually find this use worse because the announcer is trying to be "cool" and trying to "relate to the kids," which is patronizing and insulting to the audience.

The reason I find the use of "that's how I roll" by shiny happy white people gross is that it is a phrase that hails from the bleakest, most violent corners of the U.S. -- urban ghetto gang territory -- and it is taking this phrase with that legacy and turning it into some cutesty emblem of a sheltered suburban person's hipness.

Unless the term specifically has a connotation of describing poverty, I really don't see the problem with it.
posted by deanc at 9:15 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I love pumpkin flavored anything, fall is my favorite season, I take pictures of autumnal things (but don't Instagram), and my current jacket was bought from Target. I'm a man, though, so I'm safe.
posted by codacorolla at 9:15 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


So basic is like some kind of ladies only subgenre of normcore?

Except normcore is good, and basic is bad, because a lack of red meat has left it irony deficient.
posted by drlith at 9:19 AM on October 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


Using post-colonial theory to complain about appropriation of ephemeral slang terms is itself appropriation of the actual suffering experienced by the colonized people of the third world and trying to associate it with your own suffering because a middle class person used a years-old slang term that originated in your neighborhood (or, more likely, a neighborhood that you never actually lived but some people you know of used to live in).
posted by deanc at 9:19 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


They are consumer totems chosen because they superficially indicate luxury and prosperity but actually connote a sort of cultural ignorance or lack of creativity-- having all that money to spend but lacking the knowledge or cultural capital to spend it on anything interesting.

A general dislike of gaudy conspicuous consumption isn't exactly new, though. There's always been a tension between those who feel secure in their position and who go for understated symbols of "having arrived" and those either new to prosperity or on the cusp anxious to display their status or pretensions. The former isn't necessarily less of a form of "showing off" than the latter, but it does show the ability of the more socially secure to be less concerned with the particular culture of the day, and at least to worry about appealing to a smaller, more powerful group.

We're all aware of "luxury" brands that don't actually appeal to the people who can honestly afford it; this is marketing preying on the class anxiety not of the well-off, but of those gazing upward.
posted by spaltavian at 9:24 AM on October 21, 2014


Ahem.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15gx-_SAnnw

(That's a link to MC Hammer's huge 1991 hit "This is the way we roll")

"The way I/we roll" was a sanitized term 25 years ago. The idea that some white soccer dad in 2014 using it is an exploitation of poor people in bad neighborhoods is preposterous.

Language changes, that's how it rolls.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:25 AM on October 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


My own experience with the term "basic bitch" comes primarily from drag culture, which intersects with black culture (particularly black women's culture) in a number of ways, some of them problematic, others less so.


In this context, the term usually means that your drag is unoriginal, unadventurous, or generally broke down.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:25 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, I think we all get by now that some people have only heard "basic" in the context of necessities, a basic wardrobe, etc. It seems as though some of you are being willfully obtuse. Words can have drastically different meanings: if I told you to consider your rights in the context of the law, you would probably not be arguing that you also have a right hand and a right foot.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:28 AM on October 21, 2014 [12 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: If you'd have seen my tastes back when I lived there, I would have also been glomming onto things like Starbucks' coffee flavors and such, just because they were the only taste of glamour available where I was. And people should be able to have some fucking glamour in their lives now and then, because we are not all automatons. So you go with what you can have.

When I got my first library job, previous to which I had been working as a janitor on the second shift, I'd take my lunch to a local coffee house and have a cafe au lait to go with it; this cafe would serve the coffee and steamed milk in separate containers, so that you could mix it yourself. And if the weather was good, I'd sit outside, with my peanut butter sandwich and my little mini-carafes of coffee and milk, and I'd be so fucking grateful for these little luxuries, and the not-so-little luxuries of having basic benefits like health care and a job where it was still light out when I went home.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:33 AM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


It seems as though some of you are being willfully obtuse.

This usage of the word "obtuse" is new to me. I've only previously encountered it in the context of angles, specifically those measuring more than 90 degrees. Perhaps this observation is relevant to the discussion.
posted by bradf at 9:35 AM on October 21, 2014 [26 favorites]


My imagined responses from all of the leggings/Uggs/North Face/PSL sipping girls and their starched shirt/pastel shorts wearing boyfriends:

Online: "You sound fat/ugly/poor."

IRL: "Go be fat/ugly/poor somewhere else."
posted by MikeMc at 9:42 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it is wierd that no one had mentioned that blacks and whites do actually interact with each other ! I sometimes even pick up slang from my Co workers or friends and that is normal regardless of race. It isn't like when I hear a coworker say a slang word it comes with a warning by the way don't repeat this because of appropriation issues. It is being appropriated because we do actually share culture between eachother.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:44 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I remember way back when I first heard my lilly white mother use the term "rip off" and marveled at the process of cultural appropriation...then realized she had learned it from her own white kids, who were merely repeating the lingo of the street.
posted by bonefish at 10:27 AM on October 21, 2014


I particularly enjoy the mixing in of psychologically loaded terms to describe sociological phenomena, and the linking to a blog opinion piece within a categorical statement. Very French. It's like the venti dirty pumpkin spice latte with whip of race relations. Mm tastes so good.
posted by phaedon at 10:30 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can't speak to the proper usage of "basic", but in regards to hidden misogyny, someone on fb/twitter made the point that women getting excited over Pumpkin Spice Latte for about a month per year is somehow obnoxious or laughable, whereas guys getting excited over bacon is celebratory and will never, ever fucking go away.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:31 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


"Oh, White Culture, is there nothing you can't appropriate?"

Naw, dog.
posted by Tevin at 10:36 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


I am too old to have experienced this in the wild and did not even know until now that there was a 'white girl' version of basic.

However, among my middle aged, middle class cohort, there is a frequent thing where people criticize others for their cultural symbols while simultaneously denying that they even have any themselves. They seem to genuinely believe that their class markers are some kind of neutral default, and that this neutral default is some kind of ideal. Effectively, that everyone whose consumption habits vary too much from their own is being superficial and pretentious, whereas people who look and consume the way they do are just genuine, normal, practical, etc.

So I do sort of think that pointing out to people that their cultural markers are cultural markers is ultimately a good thing. Not cool it just being a lady thing, though, because in my experience, men are generally far more oblivious and defensive about theirs.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:33 AM on October 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


That article is so hilarious and off-base that it could literally be reprinted word-for-word by ClickHole.

As pointed out above, literally no one uses the term "basic" in any way like "too poor for good taste". Aside from its black origins, "basic" has absolutely come to signify white, upper-middle-class young women in the mainstream. You know, like BuzzFeed's core demographic.

Ugg boots are very expensive. Target is a privilege. Starbucks lattes ain't cheap. Nobody is putting down "basics" because they don't have the privilege of unique tastes. It's a signifier of conformity and comfort.

Is it problematic? Yeah, in the sense that all labels are. But it's not even close to "white trash". And it's asinine to invite the comparison.
posted by graphnerd at 11:34 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


Judging people based on brands is just so deeply, deeply weird to me. I own Uggs, and North Face gear, and I drink Starbucks nearly every day. I even drive a BMW! People here would have a fucking field day if they saw my iTunes library full of mainstream pop bullshit. There is a Hootie & the Blowfish album in there!! BURN THE HERETIC!!

And yet... I doubt one person who has met me would lump me into the same category as the garden-instagramming stereotype. I also wear Doc Martens and leather pants and men's shirts. I've done things you wouldn't suspect of someone who mostly posts cat pictures.

In conclusion, I am a basic bitch of contrasts.
posted by desjardins at 11:41 AM on October 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


* the only reason I don't wear leggings with my Uggs is that I am 80% toothpick legs by height. But I hear they are fucking comfortable, so I would if I could. WITH CHUNKY CABLE-KNIT SWEATERS, JUST TO PISS PEOPLE OFF.
posted by desjardins at 11:42 AM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


I've been buying a lot of home decor items and spending a lot of time on Pinterest. Often I'll be at Target or some other store or online or something and I'll see something teal or with an owl on it and I'll think "Oh, look at that thing, I like that thing, I want that thing" and then I think "Oh so you think you just naturally want this teal-colored owl thing? Like that's inherent to your being, and you're expressing something about your inner self by acquiring and displaying this teal owl? As if the desire to want teal owls hasn't been implanted in you by TargetStarbucksPinterestPepsiCo?? What do you think you're doing?" And then I get a little depressed because I did kind of want that teal owl but I don't want people to think I've been completely programmed/am basic.
posted by bleep at 12:00 PM on October 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


For those who like Anne Helen Peterson's writing, I really enjoyed her appearance on the Longform Podcast.
posted by strangecargo at 12:07 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think that basic is what happens when liking stuff becomes your hobby, and that hobby becomes your personality. I also think that we're all secretly afraid both of being basic, and of being enough of ourselves to risk standing too far out (for good or ill).

Then again, maybe pumpkin-spice lattes and trips to Costco with Grandma are just our modern traditions. Maybe we don't like to admit that these traditions matter to us because too many people are participating in those traditions for them to feel special to us.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 12:07 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have loved owls my whole life and so this owl kick the world is on just gives me more owls, so I consider it a win. You should get all the teal owls and relish the ease of acquisition!
posted by winna at 12:07 PM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


@ bleep and winna. You will have to share the teal owls with me. We can be teal-owl-loving basics together.

And you know what? What someone said upthread about "basic" things being comforting is spot-on. This is particularly true of all things overwhelmingly Autumnal (especially for those of us who live in climates where actual seasons have been outlawed and everything is beige stucco.)

Bring on the owls.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 12:43 PM on October 21, 2014


Wait so now we're saying autumn is basic?
posted by maggiemaggie at 12:57 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


No no, just conspicuous consumption of autumn.
posted by phunniemee at 1:00 PM on October 21, 2014


There are many things of which I would be ashamed to be a conspicuous consumer, but autumn is not one of them. You can load me up with butternut squash soup and chilly nights with a hint of wood smoke!
posted by winna at 1:13 PM on October 21, 2014


When I got my M.A. degree about fifteen years ago, the announcer at the graduation ceremony kept saying "give it up for" to mean "let's have a round of applause for" and there were people in attendance who were put off by this "ghetto" language being used in a formal setting like that.

Speaking as an official young person, I had no idea "give it up for" was ever a "ghetto" thing. Actually so far I've not found any indication that it was, though I am surprised that it does seem to date from the early 90s. But anyway for some of us a term as recent as that or "how I roll" (a better example because it does have a clear "black" origin) has still been all over pop culture our entire lives. There absolutely is a thing where white people use incongruous black slang to be "funny," but in ten years the white soccer moms and Docker dads will be saying "that's how I roll" and not being ironic at all.
posted by atoxyl at 1:24 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Read most of the comments, but not the last few, so maybe someone's posted this already. But, growing up in Central Florida in the mid 1990s, basic was a term that black kids called each other. It was applied to both females and males at the time. At least back then, in that place, it meant you were lame, ignorant or uncool. Like, you had a pair of shoes that kind of are supposed to signify cool or whatever, but instead just betray your lameness because they were easily accessible, either physically, financially or otherwise. Or something, I'm not really sure, but I'm sure I'm not getting across the exact meaning. Anyway, just wanted to chime in that basic is a word much older than the 2000s at least in my experience.
posted by the lake is above, the water below at 1:24 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


One of the fun things about getting older is that you end up interacting with people in lots of different groups and they often turn out to be pretty nice. I used to be the worst about hating on people who were "mainstream", which included golfers, people who watch sports, people who listen to any commercial radio station, people who drive unnecessarily expensive cars, people who wear clothes with designers' names on them ("Tommy Hilfiger" etc.), women who wear a ton of makeup or heels, and then later expanded into guys who are really into fantasy football or bacon or zombies or FPS games, people who text (later rescinded ... ha!), etc. ....

So basically I had some variable level of not that serious dislike of pretty much everyone. Not all the time really ... just sometimes. It was exhausting so I mostly stopped. The music one was the most exhausting of all, since I had been an indie musician but had become a 9 to 5er, with the result that there were a ton of new obscure bands I was supposed to keep up with lest I become the mock-ee. There was another thread about this yesterday I think, where the guy mocked someone for thinking a Jicks CD was cool. Which is funny because I hang out with a lot of music-y people, many of whom listen to a ton of music and go to shows and like 4 of them know who the Jicks are and 2 of those have ever listened to an album by them.

Er, I appear to be rambling. TL; DR ; - in my more enlightened moments I realize that none of this stuff is important and I try to be nice to everyone. In my less enlightened moments, everyone fails my definition of cool because they are too cool, or not cool enough.

I've never heard the term "basic bitch". My wife also says people say "totes jelly" to mean very jealous but I think she's making it up.
posted by freecellwizard at 1:35 PM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


There absolutely is a thing where white people use incongruous black slang to be "funny," but in ten years the white soccer moms and Docker dads will be saying "that's how I roll" and not being ironic at all.

The people I hear use it are being ironic, but being ironically "cool", like that's what a generic cool guy would say. They seem oblivious to it's origin, or may very well think be thinking of a black guy as the generic cool guy. They certainly aren't poking fun at "ghetto speak" or whatever.

Although I just said "cool", so I guess I'm the real appropriator.
posted by spaltavian at 1:43 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Speaking as an official young person, I had no idea "give it up for" was ever a "ghetto" thing. Actually so far I've not found any indication that it was, though I am surprised that it does seem to date from the early 90s.

you can't be fucking serious

Anyway, just wanted to chime in that basic is a word much older than the 2000s at least in my experience.

Yep!
posted by phaedon at 1:51 PM on October 21, 2014


you can't be fucking serious

"Give it up for" does not appear in that song. I'm not talking about "give props," which I'm pretty sure is not related.
posted by atoxyl at 2:04 PM on October 21, 2014


Sure it does, it's the first four words of the first sentence.
posted by phaedon at 2:10 PM on October 21, 2014


I've heard "give it up for" and "that's how roll" from so many different mouths and geographic locations that at this point, I think they've blended into the generic, safe slang for the maintstream culture of the US (and maybe other places).

Should I not use them?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:20 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sure it does, it's the first four words of the first sentence.

Oh, well I don't have audio here so I had to go by the transcribed lyrics of the song itself. But yeah continued searching does seem to point to Arsenio Hall as making it a thing? I was alive for his show but still a little kid when it went off the air - and my parents didn't let me watch much TV so believe me I am being entirely honest when I say I didn't know, which is kind of my point.
posted by atoxyl at 2:25 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm aware that "give it up for" and "that's how I roll" came from hip-hop and/or rap, but I'm middle-aged and both terms seem pretty mainstream (not "cool" and definitely not "ironically cool") to me.

Basic bitch is something that my younger (30-ish?) friends all seem to be outraged about, but the various definitions of basic bitch don't match the AAVE usage described in comments here. I can't tell exactly what the term means from the reading I've done, including the OP link, but it seems to be nebulous and somehow denigrate basic (white) bitches for having stereotypically female interests. Maybe it's nebulous specifically because it's about the female stereotypes; that's how keeping the feminine in its place works, by denigrating that which is female but promising that if women improve themselves enough in the right (unspecified) ways, they'll be the right kind of woman and out of the misogyny zone somehow.

I'm sure I'd be a basic bitch because I like to instagram my brunch (what? those Cajun eggs benedict were awesome), but I'm probably too old ... though if we're now calling the Chico's demographic basic, maybe I'm not too old. If so, I will stand with desjardins in being a basic bitch of contrasts, and also enjoy the middle-aged (white) privilege of not giving a fuck. I've spent most of my lifetime supply of fucks on other things and have none left to squander on being basic.
posted by immlass at 3:07 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


louche mustachio: That's the "basic bitch" I know. The "thinks she's the shit but she ain't" girl. It never seemed like it was so much about consumer choice, it was more of an attitude - a takedown of unwarranted arrogance.


This new appropriation of "basic," hurled as an insult against such a broad swath of Middle America, seems, at least to me, to be dissonant with the original usage, which didn't describe an entire class so much as it did someone with, well, no class.


Someone may or may not have not have made this point already, but i think what's happened to basic is pretty much what happened to "hipster". It went from sort of meaning something indistinct but potentially possible to pin down but still a variant of "person i don't like", to just generally meaning in a really wide angle spray of things "person i don't like".

I sort of saw the pivot with both. When this went from meaning "girl who thinks shes the shit but she aint" to "girl who has no original ideas and is just a main stream generic sorority girl clone or something but isn't aware of it at all"

And the "or something" part is important, because the definition seems to just keep growing and growing like a memory leak.

It kinda takes me by surprise now whenever i hear someone say hipster, because rarely does anyone say it anymore. It's dead, it doesn't really mean anything. I bet this is going to follow a similar path, but it also has the bonus of getting critiques for its misogyny along the way.

The pumpkin spice latte thing is just an even more tired and casually misogynistic version of the LOL HIPSTERS FIXED GEAR BIKES MUSTACHES FLANNELS LOL thing.
posted by emptythought at 4:51 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it's a bit silly to act as if the notion that a slang term for being unsophisticated is SHOCKER: a class signifier is high analysis. I mean, duhhhhhhhh. That's why we call it "basic". It's right there in the meaning of the word.

I also think it's weird to get butthurt about a somewhat derogatory term for the unthinking middle class. "Basic" isn't about poverty or being disadvantaged. It's about throwing a tantrum when Bath & Body Works didn't have the candle you liked. It's a descriptor for a sort of behavior that, while connected to class, is worth mocking.
posted by Sara C. at 5:03 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's a descriptor for a sort of behavior that, while connected to class, is worth mocking.

You sound poor.
posted by MikeMc at 5:11 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I sort of saw the pivot with both. When this went from meaning "girl who thinks she's the shit but she ain't" to "girl who has no original ideas and is just a main stream generic sorority girl clone or something but isn't aware of it at all"

I think it still has a connotation of "and thinks she's the shit." It has drifted some (and there's a lot of interesting critique on that drift) but the implication is still "think's consumption of luxury brands that are on the down slope (although not yet obviously passe) makes her the shit." It's sort of the anti hipster. The hipster is accused of snobbery via esoterica. The basic bitch is accused of snobbery via being completely mainstream.

The fact that that pumpkin spice lattes is considered basic tells you lot about how coffee has become such a signifier in America. People who don't understand third wave coffee consider expensive single varieties/pourovers as hipster bait, while those who might be accused of being hipsters think the expensive coffee flavored Starbucks(y) concoctions aren't trash for people who don't know better. And then there's people who don't really understand any of that and think both groups are stupid and think coffee should be the same as it was in the 70s or 80s. That and there is no question that in food circles there is a backlash to the ubquity of pumpkin spice food. It's a food that was semi-gimmicy to start with, that has been completey overexposed recently, and is very much against the current hipster food trends. It's exactly the sort of thing that causes backlashes.
posted by aspo at 5:12 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Could someone explain why some women here willingly call themselves “bitches”, please?
posted by travelwithcats at 5:19 PM on October 21, 2014


Reappropriation
posted by Sara C. at 5:39 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think 'basic' in this context means the lowest social stratum those above are willing to look down on, and define themselves in terms of their degree of superiority to, because to look any deeper, down into the true underclass, is to peer into the abyss.
posted by jamjam at 5:42 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


People who don't understand third wave coffee consider expensive single varieties/pourovers as hipster bait

that partial sentence made my head spin. "third wave coffee"? I suddenly feel oblivious after all this time feeling au courant.
posted by jayder at 5:43 PM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


"Third wave coffee" is the best example I can think of making distinctions on individuals based upon consumer choice instead of personal beliefs.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:46 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


It kinda takes me by surprise now whenever i hear someone say hipster, because rarely does anyone say it anymore. It's dead, it doesn't really mean anything. I bet this is going to follow a similar path, but it also has the bonus of getting critiques for its misogyny along the way.

do you live in.the woods somewhere? because I.promise you, hipster still very.much "means something."
posted by jayder at 5:47 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Third Wave Coffee?" Isaac Newton was rocking coffee's third wave. You kids are like 49th wave coffee.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:51 PM on October 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


Thank you all for proving my point perfectly.
posted by aspo at 5:58 PM on October 21, 2014


aw man, this weekend I was waiting for my drink at the local alternative to Starbucks, and they called out a pumpkin spice latte for Jessica or whoever and I kind of snorted under my breath a little because pumpkin spice latte hatred has become such a thing now. And then I realized - wait a second - *I* am getting a latte! With vanilla instead of pumpkin spice! I snorted at someone because they were getting a different spice in their latte. What the fuck.

and then me and my patagonia jacket sat our asses down.
posted by desjardins at 6:10 PM on October 21, 2014 [15 favorites]


I snorted at someone because they were getting a different spice in their latte. What the fuck.

Well if you're at Alterr...err...Colectivo and you're not having the Mocha Blanco you deserve to snorted at. *Sigh* I'm so basic.
posted by MikeMc at 6:25 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


do you live in.the woods somewhere? because I.promise you, hipster still very.much "means something."

No, it really doesn't. It's so incredibly dependent on whose saying it that it's useless as a defining term. Some people think of portlandia type stuff, other people think of essentially anyone in their 20s that isn't a jock or what could be described as "musicians". I've heard metalheads I know get called hipsters. It grew to encompass so much that it's basically a "I know it when I see it". Ask ten people who aren't in your direct friend group to describe a hipster. Other than really really vague things, or specific stereotype products/clothing items/accessories it will vary a lot.

My point was that basic bitch is headed the same way. It's already pretty much "someone who wears ugg boots and likes things I think are mainstream and feminine and silly".

Hipster dead have a fairly contiguous meaning at one point, as did(and still does, it's just wider) basic bitch. I'm saying it's on a rapid track to meaninglessness though.

It's like that clothing brand decentness chart. It starts out having a clear meaning, plateaus, then has a slow decline in to being so all inclusive that it's hard to define what it even is anymore. And some traditionalists cling to the old meaning until it completely dies, rejecting everything that's been added even though what they are holding on to has already slid out of the mainstream and doesn't really define anything anymore either.
posted by emptythought at 6:34 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


No, it really doesn't. It's so incredibly dependent on whose saying it that it's useless as a defining term.

there is surely a more artful way of saying what I'm about to say ... but the fact that a term denotes a class with fuzzy borders or is debatable in some individual instances does not mean it is not meaningful in the great majority of its applications or denote with reasonable precision a class of people in an understandable way.
posted by jayder at 6:41 PM on October 21, 2014


That brand decentness chart is a perfect chart for this. Basic is buying things in the cash grab section of the spectrum, and thinking that gives you snobby cachet.
posted by aspo at 6:42 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Actually in retrospect, it's probably more buying things in company shell part of the chart...
posted by aspo at 6:43 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


emptythought, is that website real. I mean, non-ironic. Expressing the genuine beliefs of its founder.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:53 PM on October 21, 2014


From the article: "Basic girls love the things they do because nearly every part of American commercial media has told them that they should."

Everything is awesome! (Now wondering what a basic bitch minifig would look like.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:06 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


And then there's people who don't really understand any of that and think both groups are stupid and think coffee should be the same as it was in the 70s or 80s.

What is the label for this group? Because this is my people. General Foods International Coffee is my idea of gettin' fancy with it.
posted by drlith at 7:14 PM on October 21, 2014


It's like that clothing brand decentness chart. It starts out having a clear meaning, plateaus, then has a slow decline in to being so all inclusive that it's hard to define what it even is anymore.

Coincidentally, it also starts off listing their ad sponsors as highest quality.

Like Snarl Furillo, I have no idea if that site is real; my comment isn't snark directed towards that site, I'm just wary of logrolling.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:49 PM on October 21, 2014


Bad news, Uther Bentrazor: It's not just the guys who get excited by bacon. My 20-something niece and my 19-year-old daughter are huge bacon fans. And they have been for years, it's not like they're being trendy.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:56 PM on October 21, 2014


emptythought, is that website real. I mean, non-ironic. Expressing the genuine beliefs of its founder.

Haven't a clue. It popped up in a thread on here a couple weeks ago, and I thought it was just a good illustration of what I was talking about. The actual subject matter or seriousness wasn't super important.
posted by emptythought at 10:07 PM on October 21, 2014


Sometimes, “basic” is just an adjective, that means what it says…if I say it to you, don’t get upset.
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 10:14 PM on October 21, 2014


"Basic girls love the things they do because nearly every part of American commercial media has told them that they should."

I get that Anne Helen Peterson's thing is all about how you like shouldn't judge people, maaaaan, but one thing that makes me uncomfortable about this piece is that, yeah, the reason we judge basic people* is because they are the sort of people who are always in lockstep with American commercial media.

This isn't really a class-based judgment, or if it is, it's a highly nuanced one, probably more comparable to the concept of "new money" than poor shaming or whatever Peterson is implying. It's people who make conscious choices about consumption rolling our eyes at the dull squares.

You don't have to be rich to be interesting, to have thoughts about stuff, to be curious about the world, and to like things that aren't slickly packaged corporate experiences. I'm so goddamn sick and tired of the idea that only the wealthy get to be individuals, and by expecting that of others, one is pushing some kind of classist agenda. You're allowed to critique someone's lifestyle without there being any privilege involved.

Starbucks sucks.

Disney sucks.

Uggs are hideous.

Malls are the worst.

You don't have the be rich to think that.

*Another thing she overlooks is that the "basic bitch" is really just the female equivalent of the dudebro. If anything, basic girls get a pass that dudebros don't, because their interests are considered harmless and vapid, while dudebros tend to get tarred with a macho/homophobic/date-rape/hoodlum brush.
posted by Sara C. at 10:21 PM on October 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


Behold, the Shady Glen cheeseburger deconstructed, circa 2006

The many-layered happiness that is a Shady Glen cheeseburger.

Shady Glen is a burger and ice cream restaurant in Manchester, Connecticut. Their cheeseburgers are made with crispy fried cheese, and create feelings of nostalgia in northeast Connecticut expatriates.

posted by zippy at 1:09 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


"What is the label for this group?"

70s enthusiast = retro?
80s lover = old school?
posted by travelwithcats at 3:05 AM on October 22, 2014


Starbucks sucks. Disney sucks. Uggs are hideous. Malls are the worst. You don't have to be rich to think that.

....Clearly you also don't have to be rich to be a snob about about people who may happen to like Starbucks, Disney, or Uggs.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:57 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't think that people's consumption choices make them interesting, Sara C. Some people consume in lockstep with dull suburban trends like Uggs and Starbucks lattes. Others consume in lockstep with hip urban trends like third-wave coffee or whatever. Some people aren't that interested in what they consume at all and just buy the most easily accessible things. In my experience, there are some interesting and many boring people in all those groups. Being interesting is hard: it requires having new thoughts or creating innovative things or maybe just being so interested in other people that they enjoy being around you. It has to do with what one does, not what one buys. Buying the right shit is kind of a poor substitute, and it's a popular poor substitute because it's available to people who frankly aren't up to being genuinely interesting. And the fact that you think one can consume one's way to interestingness is frankly a little pathetic.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:15 AM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Starbucks sucks. Disney sucks. Uggs are hideous. Malls are the worst. You don't have the be rich to think that.

You also don't have to think those things to be interesting, to have thoughts about stuff, or to be curious about the world.
posted by drlith at 6:01 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Some people consume in lockstep with dull suburban trends like Uggs and Starbucks lattes. Others consume in lockstep with hip urban trends like third-wave coffee or whatever. Some people aren't that interested in what they consume at all and just buy the most easily accessible things.

And some people can be the most fascinating people ever but still genuinely just like Disney sincerely. The opinion that "Disney sucks" is not necessarily one that "everyone" shares, you know, and implying that there is universal consensus on what are frankly matters of personal taste is actually coming across as a little....basic, perhaps?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:26 AM on October 22, 2014


I'm a terrible snob — fancy grad degrees in French, jazz lover, musician, sometime academic, mostly editor — and I thoroughly enjoyed Disneyland.

People who sort of half know me were astonished. I have no idea why; Disneyland is great, as are most Disney films.

Do not wear your Uggs out of the house.
posted by Wolof at 6:51 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hell, some Disney products do suck, but some are awesome (Fantasia, anyone? Old Yeller? The Straight Story? The whole Pirates Of The Carribbean oeuvre? WALL*E?).

Ironically, I bet you could pick a handful of Disney movies that if anyone expressed distaste in one or another of them, it'd yield a gasp of shock or a "how could you hate that?" from the very same people who profess to "hate" Disney in general. Go figure.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:59 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are so many issues with WD that the topic has its own Wikipedia entry.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:14 AM on October 22, 2014


There are so many issues with WD that the topic has its own Wikipedia entry.

Okay, no one is saying that Disney is totally devoid of criticism. I'm only disputing the notion that liking WALL*E or Fantasia automatically renders you a vapid bore "because Disney sucks".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:18 AM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, and I mean, there are issues with everything. I'm sure that if I knew enough about Third Wave Coffee, I could find all sorts of ethical issues related to that. The only way to avoid loving complicated things is to avoid loving anything, and that's not a way to live your life.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:23 AM on October 22, 2014


I don't think that people's consumption choices make them interesting, Sara C.

I don't think so, either, but yeah dude if your sole opinions about life are "PSLs with my girls!" and "Disney World is the happiest place on earth!", you're not interesting and I don't have to pretend you are.
posted by Sara C. at 7:38 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


From a review of the "Criticism of Disney" page on Wikipedia, the bulk of it has to do with peripheral things like Michael Eisner's business practices. There are also things like "they dubbed English dialogue onto Princess Mononoke instead of subtitling it", which I think got amended when they released a subtitled version later.

There is a fair point about some 50's and 60's films like The Three Caballeros or Song Of The South being rife with stereotype, but that was more a function of the time, I'd argue (seriously, find me a mainstream film from the 50's that wasn't). The worst offenders are also kind of out of favor now anyway (I think Song Of The South is like the one film that Disney has already quietly said they will not re-release).

Then there's a whole section of criticism from people like Focus On The Family that's all about "omg you let gay people into Disneyworld", and fuck that noise.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:40 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I like lot's of Disney products; I'll admit. As much as I find some (though not all) of their corporate decisions abhorant, there's a lot to like about movies such as Beauty and the Beast, The Great Mouse Detective, and Fantasia. In addition, I've been to three Disney theme parks (Disneyworld, Disneyland, and Tokyo Disney) and enjoyed myself thoroughly at each of them.

I suppose that you could say my choice to enjoy (and consume) Disney experiences is uninteresting; however, saying that I am uninteresting as a result is baffling. I mean, I don't need you to find me interesting, Sara C., but elevating me being uninteresting as some sort of universally agreed upon result of a violation of standard is deeply weird.

As another point, my self-described punk girlfriend is an avid Disney-lover. She lived in Southern California and adores Disneyland. For her, it's part of her childhood and she wants me to go with her when we both visit California. I certainly don't find her uninteresting, as you can imagine.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:00 AM on October 22, 2014


I don't have very strong opinions about Disney movies, and I usually try not to look down on people.

But (obviously there was going to be a but). I can't help but sneer a little - at least in my own mind - at adults who go on vacations to Disney World sans children. I'm sorry, but if you're a grown-up, and you decided to get on a plane and go spend your precious vacation time in a fantasy-land theme park in the middle of a swamp, and you weren't bringing kids with you: there are SO MANY OTHER PLACES YOU COULD GO. I'm not going to say this automatically makes you a bad person, or an unworthy person, or a stupid person. I'm not going to be a jerk to your face, and I might even like you for other reasons. But, somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm going to think to myself "ugh...they did that."

If this makes me a classist snob, so be it.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:03 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I should probably add that my snobbery does not apply to people who already live in the area, or who were visiting for other reasons and decided to check the park out. But going far out of your way to spend all or most of your grown-up vacation at a theme park for children....I just can't. I'm sorry, but I can't.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:07 AM on October 22, 2014


Why? People don't have some sort of duty not to like things that children like, nor is it surprising that some adults find that themepark experience exciting and enjoyable while being safe and understandable. Maybe it's because seeing characters like Goofy and Mickey walk around while collecting souvenirs and riding rides is actually a lot of fun. Why wouldn't people engage in the things the find fun, especially during their vacation time, the time when they can finally take a break from work and drill and self-denial?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:14 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Why? People don't have some sort of duty not to like things that children like, nor is it surprising that some adults find that themepark experience exciting and enjoyable while being safe and understandable. Maybe it's because seeing characters like Goofy and Mickey walk around while collecting souvenirs and riding rides is actually a lot of fun. Why wouldn't people engage in the things the find fun, especially during their vacation time, the time when they can finally take a break from work and drill and self-denial?

I don't know. I think we've all got relatively harmless things that lots of people do where we think "why on earth would anyone ever want to do THAT!?" And if we're honest with ourselves, we sneer at them, a little. This is one of those things, for me.

I'm sure there are things I do that some other people might internally sneer at. It's entirely subjective.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:44 AM on October 22, 2014


Ironically, I bet you could pick a handful of Disney movies that if anyone expressed distaste in one or another of them, it'd yield a gasp of shock or a "how could you hate that?" from the very same people who profess to "hate" Disney in general. Go figure.

You just stumbled right onto my personal reason for "hating" Disney. I'm not a big fan of Disney movies and never was, but they don't bother me just by existing. Something that DOES bother me is the casual assumption that I am lying about not caring about them, as though I'm just pretending to not like them to impress people or something.

And it's similar to the issues I have with the topic in general, this assumption of universal, and usually gendered interests. Nobody ever assumes my partner has a deep seated love for Disney. Nobody gives him scented candles or assumes he grew up fantasizing about meeting a beautiful princess and having a dream wedding. Nobody confidently assures him that he'll LOVE some children's book or movie. But all of those things would be more accurate for him than they are for me.

And this isn't some deeply internalized misogyny (which I've been accused of) or a desire to impress people with my sophisticated tastes (I've been accused of that too). And no, I don't secretly like that stuff. I sometimes wish I did.

These aren't universal interests, nor are they universally feminine. They're a specific subset of gendered middle class US consumer products that not everyone, including not every middle class American woman, shares an interest in.

I'm A-OK with people liking what they like and not being ashamed of it or anything, but I am not OK with this notion that these things are just natural universal preferences, which is something that comes bundled up with a lot of these 'basic' kinds of gendered consumption habits.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:20 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


...aaaaand I just realized it looks like I'm putting a whole lot of words in your mouth there.

I'm sorry about that, and it's not my intent at all. That post just helped me articulate something that has been really bothering me about the phenomenon we're discussing, so I used that comment as a segue.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:31 AM on October 22, 2014


ernielundquist, maybe this is not your thing either, and that's ok, but it is super duper my thing, and it's my personal way of changing the subject when people try to do that assume you don't like Disney because of some sort of ew-not-like-those-other-girls crap instead of nope, just not my thing:

Pixar Theory

Shows people that you're not hating, and also delving into the intricacies of movie universes generally bores people enough that they'll learn never to talk to you about Disney movies ever again.
posted by phunniemee at 9:35 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Nah, 's'cool, ernie; I was kinda clumsy about my own point anyway. I personally tend to react more to more blanket statements for being blanket statements than I do personal expressions of taste.

Yes, I recognize the irony of my saying I didn't like blanket statements after kinda-sorta making one, but go with me a sec: there's a difference between "I have to be honest, I never really liked WALL*E," and "Disney sucks and the people who like Disney are boring". One is a statement of personal taste; the other is a hell of a blanket statement.

(To be fair, it looks like the blanket statement got amended to "okay, I just don't dig the people who go take selfies of themselves on the Dumbo ride like it's their whole life", anyway, so yay.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:44 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, I haven't seen any of the movies in the Pixar theory article. I think I took someone's kid (maybe even mine) to see Toy Story, but that'd be the extent of my Pixar experience.

I'll have to just stick with, "Oh, you like movies with talking animals? You'd LOVE Antichrist!"*

* I wouldn't actually do that to people.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:56 AM on October 22, 2014


I'm just going to come out and say that I think Uggs are kinda cute.
posted by malocchio at 10:36 AM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Your favorite ____________ sucks.
posted by mikelieman at 2:02 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think Sparkle Uggs are cheerful.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:10 PM on October 22, 2014


I like Uggs, they keep my feet warm. They're ugly but most shoes are ugly.
posted by bleep at 2:22 PM on October 22, 2014


Snobbery is like Dunning–Kruger for assholes.
You're such an asshole it affects your perception of assholery.

Somewhere there's like an ex-special forces professor monk who is the world's leading figure in the fight against the sexual exploitation of children and that person can feel superior to humanity*

Everyone else though, why you think your shit don't smell?

*they don't though, because they're not an asshole.
posted by fullerine at 2:23 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I dunno. I'm not gonna hate on anyone for wearing them, folks are completely free to do what they want without my sorry ass making them feel bad about it, but this is what my feet look like right now and I still think Uggs look totally ridiculous.
posted by phunniemee at 2:44 PM on October 22, 2014


The only thing that can make me feel bad is my feet being cold.
posted by bleep at 2:58 PM on October 22, 2014


Pumpkin spice lattes are popular because they taste good, even if it has to be from Starbucks. They are creamy and delicious as long as you aren't getting skim versions with no whipped cream. That there is some sort of "pumpkin spice latte backlash" makes me feel weird in the way that people proclaiming the "cupcake fad" over makes/made me feel weird, because I still like cupcakes.

I don't use Instagram or Pinterest, and I find looking at them to be an unsatisfying activity no matter whose page it is. If anyone saw me in my bland clothing walking out of Starbucks with a pumpkin spice latte one day and decided right there that I'm a basic bitch... that is weird to me. Or do you need to be posting about it on Instagram while using hashtags in order to receive that judgment?
posted by wondermouse at 3:43 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


This entire discussion is weird and enlightening, and reminds me of the middle-class put-down we had back in what's now called middle school. Yes, I'm an Old, and back in the late 1960s we didn't have hardly any of the put-downs available today... but back then, in that (mid-Atlantic) place and time, the put-down of choice was to call someone "common" -- which sounds exactly the same as how the kids are using "basic" today.
posted by Rash at 4:06 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]




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