On Friday, feminist (and fashion-catty) blog Jezebel posted a takedown piece on the “basic bitch” trend, equating it to yet another fad white people are ruining. They used examples and video to cite their thesis that your annoying coworker that genuinely gushes about Keeping Up With the Kardashians and red velvet cupcakes in a vocal fry with abbreviated terms is a basic bitch. (And sure, it’s proven that white people co-opt things when other cultures have used them up.) While they’re about 5 years late to the party (an Urban Dictionary poster, happy to hear the latest Lil’ Duval and Spoken Reasons hip-hops, got people up on the term in a grammatically incorrect way), they’re acknowledging that hey, it’s something to talk about!
For those of you that don’t know, a “basic bitch” can mean a variety of things: a woman that likes popular, bland things (pumpkin spice anything, Orange is the New Black, Jason Mraz); a girl with a lack of personality (i.e. not edgy, unique, dynamic); a lady that does wrong by their man (from cheating to wearing unattractive clothes); a female that can’t be themselves around said man; a dame that thinks she is better than her contemporaries; and so on. Notice a trend here? The term “basic bitch” encompasses traits that an extroverted, diverse, masculine-focused society shames women for having.
The basic denominator (see what I did there?) is that you can be called a basic bitch simply for being a woman. NO WOMAN IS IMMUNE. And yeah, some trends (pumpkin spice and red velvet things) are annoying and rampant, but it’s no excuse to apply a generic term that has sexist overtones. The fact that the phrase came from the hip-hop scene does its chauvinistic image no favors–though really, all music has an inequality towards women.
But what about men? What is the male version of a basic bitch? A “bro?” I think so. So-called cultural mavericks Vice did an exhaustive article (and I mean “exhaustive;” it’s a tedious read) on the American bro, which nails the mindset and behaviors of the generic male dickbag. (Their argument loses a little bit of respect when they come to the bro’s defense a week later.) But the takeaways and comments in both articles are valid: the Miller Lite-swilling, boisterous, ego-fragile, homophobic and sexist go-getter is the bland trope of masculinity; the braggadocios nature of the bro, egged on by and marketed to a male-dominated society, is the standard of American manliness; and MAN UP AND DON’T BE A BITCH!
So the basic bitch is reviled in its femininity but the bro is the standard bearer of manhood. Right. Never mind that the same arguments raised railing against the former (liking popular, bland things; not having a true personality; doing wrong by their partner; not able to be themselves; feeling superior to their peers) are championed in the latter. I may be an armchair sociologist (that’s DR. Genial Black Man to you), but that seems biased to me.
But is there anything we can do about this troubling trend, this reminder that the battle of the sexes wages on in favor of men? Well, sure! First, we can stop denigrating ourselves with and by negative words. We can dig down deep into their meaning on a personal and cultural level. Another thing is to stop taking social advice from morons (Lil’ Duval, the Kardashians, etc.) and think for ourselves. But more than that, maybe we can stop defending behavior that is detrimental to ourselves and others–through articles, music, and whatever else is around the corner–and think about what we’re expelling from our cultural consumption. But that’s wishful thinking from a non-basic bitch bro.