Basically, Not Ok

This happened in my neighborhood, which naturally made me think of one of the greatest posts in McSweeney’s history. And I’m torn between, ‘It’s too soon for sweater weather!’ and ‘Yes! Pumpkin everything!’ I’m, somewhat reluctantly, embracing the change of seasons. It’s time for soup and sweaters and pie and turkey and apple picking and cranberries and baking cookies to help heat the house (and to have cookies). It’s that crisp time of year when I try for the third time to read The Cider House Rules (last year I made it to page 240), because fall is the perfect time to read John Irving. I am a New Englander, so of course I love fall. And of course I think ‘leaf peepers’ are ridiculous.

But what are all these posts I’m seeing about what ‘basic bitches’ love about fall? And ‘basic bitches’ in general? From Buzzfeed to Jezebel to Clutch magazine. I love sweaters and jeans and boots an infinity scarves and the occasional pumpkin spice latte, so, that makes me a ‘basic bitch?’ Why are women still saying these things about ourselves?

I thought we’d sorted out this kind of language. Wasn’t there a time when women decided to value each other, or at least to stop being catty and detrimental to one another, and stop calling each other bitches? Wasn’t that a thing?

From what I gather, because I don’t listen to much hip-hop (shocking), ‘basic’ is an insult and, as I’ve read, the ‘basic bitch’ stands in contrast to the ‘boss bitch’ and ‘dope bitch.’ Ok. Except, ‘basic bitch’ essentially means white girl, or doing something attributed to a white girl, thus making you a ‘basic bitch.’

Ok ok ok. So, women are reclaiming the word ‘bitch,’ and white girls, specifically, are reclaiming the term ‘basic bitch’ (which is why it’s now ‘ruined’). This way, nothing is really an insult, and I can ironically embrace my ‘basic’-ness. As in, Ohmygod I’m being sooooooo basic right now while instagramming a selfie of myself drinking a pumpkin spice latte.

I’ve already addressed why instagram might be the heralding of the apocalypse. But ‘basic’-ness I’m going to stand by. Because, as I write this, I’m wearing slippers and drinking cocoa. Because I can. Because I like it. Except, I won’t actually label myself ‘basic’ as I do this, because I’m tired of this popular, not-actually-ironic, hipster strain of irony. It’s not ironic. It’s just what I’m doing. Because the weather is turning cold. If I point out how much I’m fitting into a white-girl-from-New-England stereotype, that makes it less of a stereotype? . . .Or something?

I’m not a linguist, so I can’t address the morphology of the word ‘bitch.’ But, as my mother taught me, it’s not a nice word. And reclaiming it doesn’t somehow make it a nice word. It’s being used instead of ‘assertive’ or ‘authoritative’ or ‘strong’ woman. It’s insulting. It’s used to put a woman in her place, to shame her for standing up and having a voice. I don’t want girls growing up to think it’s cute or edgy or ironic to call themselves ‘bitches.’ I know, it’s a phase that many of us go through. I just wish more of us grew out of it.

And, yes, fine, ‘They’re just words.’ Except they’re not, because words grow from intent and have meaning and carry history.

Now I feel old and cranky. I should go drink my cocoa on the porch, wrapped in a flannel blanket, and watch the leaves change to make myself feel better.


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