On The Basic Bitch

This article appears in Issue One, which is available to buy in bookshops and online.

I will not tell you how to spot a basic bitch. I will not write a list(icle) of products associated with basicness. That would be basic. I shall describe this phenomenon of vapidity and consumerism, lucidly, with long words because, of course, such practice is exactly at odds with the plosive and spent existence of the basic bitch.

The basic bitch is a largely American phenomenon. Emerging in 2010 and reaching its height in 2014, the term first gained traction via rap music: ‘Don’t compare me to no basic bitch/I’m better, stop debating motherfucker’ (Tyga, ‘Hard In The Paint’). A nebulous concept, most definitions of the basic bitch converge around an affinity for Sex and the City, excessive reliance on Instagram filters and a fear of flatulating in front of long-term sexual partners. Needless to say, it is derogatory concept. No one aspires to basic bitchdom, and yet the basic bitch does nothing but aspire: she aspires to comfortableness.

The basic bitch is a boring bitch, who is boring because she buys things, and she buys things because her only relation to society is consumptive. She does not read; her absorption of (low) culture is visual, uncritical and conformist. The basic bitch is the Ugg boot-wearing, apolitical status quo who desires to have everything and to be nothing. Instead of throwing herself forward into a perpetual eruption of possibility, the basic bitch’s scope of action shrinks to the myopic scale of which ‘Emotional Independent Drama for Hopeless Romantics’ to watch on Netflix. The basic bitch is an ersatz subculture devoid of any socio-political anchoring. She offers up nothing to society other than her corpse and her wages.

The basic bitch represents nothing new: she is only the latest in a long-standing heterosexist resentment for simple-minded, girlish activity.

In 1999, the French philosophical collective Tiqqun published Preliminary Materials For a Theory of the Young Girl, which was translated into English in 2012. The resemblance of the Young-Girl to the basic bitch is striking. The YoungGirl ‘has all the personality of a tampon: She exemplifies all of the appropriate indifference, all of the necessary coldness demanded by the conditions of metropolitan life… “Ew! You’re gross!”’ Like the basic bitch, the Young-Girl is ‘the most rugged pawn of market domination’.

Tiqqun assumes the language of the Young-Girl in order to critique her existence and the text is presented in an array of gaudy fonts, which act as both commentary and parody. The Young-Girl pursues plastic perfection, she never arrives alone, her sense of self is as ‘thick as a magazine’ and her subjectivity reveals itself ‘as the interiorisation of commodities’. The entire book is disorientating in its misogyny; the Young-Girl says ‘too’ instead of ‘very’ which is apparently ironic because the Young-Girl, according to Tiqqun, ‘is so very little’.

Nevertheless, Tiqqun are keen to assert that the Young-Girl is not a gendered concept: ‘The Young-Girl is not always young and, increasingly, she is not even female.’ They argue that the ‘beautiful gay man of the Marais’, the retired advertising executive expatriate and the hip-hop nightclub player are no less Young-Girls. Tiqqun believes it proposes ‘a different sentimental education’ but, paradoxically, communicates this in the conventional terms of misogyny. Like the basic bitch, the Young-Girl embodies the self-objectification associated with youth and femininity. So, even if men can be basic and men can be Young-Girls, it is not their consumption that denigrates them, it is their youthfulness and their femininity. What Tiqqun are arguing is that to submit to the forces of consumer capitalism is to be made young and to be made woman.

Yet, the greatest irony of them all is that basic bitches – quite apart from any concept of femininity or youth – are denigrated within this phallocratic division of culture by men. Yes, young women are symbolically the pawns of commodity culture, but behind every weeping Taylor Swift fan are ten white men, sat in a boardroom, plotting.

—Lili Owen Rowlands

One Response to “On The Basic Bitch”
  1. nimneh says:

    The assumption that ‘basicness’ can be explained entirely in relation to the market and consumerism is simply stated – you need to make an argument for that (none above as far as I can see) because it doesn’t fit my understanding or use of the word, and nor does your description of the basic bitch as an ugg-boot wearing girl who doesn’t read.
    To use Tyga as an example of the term ‘first gaining traction’ is odd – Tyga represents the apotheosis of consumerist, produced rap music – that lyric came a long time after ‘basic’ was common parlance. If you are going to use Tyga, you’d need to try hard to convince me that ugg boots and Daunt books were in his mind when he wrote it.
    What this article does demonstrate to some degree if the flexibility of ‘basic’ – how it can be applied to ones own view of social strata. To you, it seems to have taken on the flavour of a very regular middle class British snobbery, adjunct to misogyny.
    The best definition of discussion of basic would be formalist. I think you are right that aspiration has something to do with it, but what you’ve missed is that fervent willingness to believe in and act within ones own immediate social structure (of principles, expectations, options) without cynicism or hesitation. This captures the reach of the term, although it’s not perfect.
    The relation to consumerism enters as a second step. That willingness to participate and invest in the structures one finds around oneself will look like a commitment to consumerism if that is where the basic finds herself. Consumerism may often be the expression of the trait but it’s not the defining feature.
    An example to demonstrate the point: I go to SOAS for my BA. I attend some meetings about anti-consumerism and left wing politics. I notice, consciously or unconsciously, that these principles are held in high esteem by my immediate peers and that, in the social structure around me, appeal and commitment to them is expected. With little questioning and no cynicism, I grow dreadlocks, wear Indian fabrics, attend marches and spout low-level neo-Marxist beliefs. This is text-book basic, defining itself against consumerism.

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