basic bitches

The ‘Basic Bitch’: Who Is She?

Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

The Basic Bitch: She exists in contrast to the Bad Bitch, the Boss Bitch, and the Dope Bitch. But who is she, really? The Basic Bitch has long been an ambiguous figure. Only recently has a clear definition of the Basic Bitch seemed to crystallize in the popular imagination. Last week, the success of a popular College Humor video relied on viewers’ recognition of the Basic Bitch as a distinct type: a terminally boring Sex and the City viewer and consumer of pumpkin-spice lattes.

Offered here is a five-part sketch of the Basic Bitch: who she is, who she has been in the last half decade, and who she can be. 

1. The Fronter Who Thinks She’s the Shit

Wherever cool girls go, imitators follow, and so the Bad Bitch category necessitated exclusivity. Urban Dictionary’s first definition of a Basic Bitch is from the summer of 2009; she is an ersatz Boss Bitch, “a bum-ass woman who think she the shit but really ain’t.” The post cites comedians Lil Duval and Spoken Reasons for their use of the term.

In 2010 and 2011, a handful of songs took up the matter of the Basic Bitch. In most, speakers beg to avoid being compared to a Basic Bitch (or deemed Basic). Others just wish to avoid the Basic Bitch herself: “She gotta fake Louie, fake Loubies, fake booty, so she a Basic Bitch.” The Basic Bitch is inauthentic. In February 2010, an Atlanta-based company called Siditty Misses sold a T-shirt that read “Basic Bitches Hate Me.” What better sign of non-Basic status than to be hated by the Basics?

(A notable aside: In late 2010, celebrity-bash circus Oh No They Didn’t! published an exceedingly popular post about the Basic Bitch, which used the term to describe a certain type of interchangeable Hollywood starlet [epitomized by Kate Bosworth]. This notion of indistinguishable blandness will be revisited later in our discussion of the Basic Bitch.)

2. The Ineffable Basic Bitch

Self-described editor, director, and boss Kreayshawn flung a highly catchy chorus upon our ears: “Gucci Gucci, Louie Louie, Fendi Fendi, Prada — basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother.” May 2011’s “Gucci Gucci” made Kreayshawn a quasi-authority on Basic Bitch attire and attitude.

The day after she signed with Columbia Records, Fader asked her to define “Basic Bitch“:

You can smell a basic bitch from a mile away. You can smell that bitch’s perfume. A basic bitch is just someone who likes what’s typical to like. The radio puts stuff on the radio that they think is typical and you should like it, and that’s something a basic bitch would like. She likes those normal brands and wears them all the time because that’s some basic shit.

The Basic Bitch is “typical” and “normal” but essentially indescribable: Kreayshawn knows her when she sees her. By her circular definition, basic-ness is what makes a Basic Bitch.

In late June 2012, wee internet personality Lohanthony, then an eighth-grader in Massachusetts, made an infinitely repeated ten-second viral video, wherein he cooed: “Calling all the basic bitches, calling the basic bitches, there’s a new announcement: You’re basic.” Paper magazine spoke to him in early July, and he gave this answer to the question “Can you explain what a basic bitch is?”

 A basic bitch would have to be someone who does what everyone else is doing and isn’t their own person at all.

3. Basic Bitch, the Other

At this point, we see clearly that the Basic Bitch is not someone anyone wants to be. But Kreayshawn’s and Lohanthony’s popular definitions of the term are notable for their very ambiguity. So, beginning in earnest in 2011, a smattering of personal blog posts sought to offer an account of the Basic Bitch grounded in specifics. These descriptions are exercises in othering. The Basic Bitch’s preferences are the object of scorn; the speaker disdains her tastes. For example:

- Liking Sex and the City is the most popular red flag to Basic-dom.

- Reading Jodi Picoult, wearing pink Red Sox gear, drinking Skinnygirl Margarita drinks, watching The Notebook, citing faux Marilyn Monroe quotes (“Marilyn Monroe never said ANY of this shit; where are basic bitches finding these quotes?”).

- Liking Taylor Swift and Tiffany Heart Tag Toggle necklaces.

- Wearing what’s ‘on-trend’” (like peplums).

In a post called “Deconstruction of the Basic Bitch,” the writer of Ms. Not Right Now defines “basic” as “an uncanny ability to aspire to mediocrity.” On July 15, 2011, Basic Bitch Today blog launched with the apparent mission of cataloguing the Basic Bitch. The most apt comparison offered appears in the post “Basic Bitches and Literature,” which explains that Basic Bitches would be in the Hogwarts house Hufflepuff. There’s also a Scandal-specific Basic Bitch who doesn’t understand “multi-layered TV.”

4. Basic Bitch, Your Boring Girlfriend

As if to distinguish themselves as non-Basic Cool Girls, writers have configured the most current iteration of the Basic Bitch as a faux-cool girl you might accidentally date. She is Basic Bitch as Boring Girlfriend. She is girlish but not playful; not down, not chill. The pumpkin-spice latte becomes a key motif.

According to Mass Appeal, if you’re going to date a Basic Bitch, you must expect that she will steer conversation toward her on-trend workouts, wear pink clothes, and never be on top. Chrissy Stockton at Thought Catalog writes that, as a romantic partner, the Basic Bitch “knows how to find pleasure in the little things: a perfectly Instagrammed latte, the crisp feel of a freshly laundered yoga pant hugging her ass, an inspirational Marilyn Monroe quote displayed on her Twitter feed.” College Humor recently depicted the ordeal of dating a Basic Bitch and sitting with her through her diagnosis of Basic Bitch Syndrome.

5. Where Does the Basic Bitch Go From Here?

The Basic Bitch has a problem. How does she respond to this criticism, given her apparent lack of irony and self-awareness? Even her much-loved inspirational quotes are no help to her here. (And the Basic Bitch cares about your perception; it’s the Betch, also materialistic and mainstream, but marked by her failure to give a shit, who is able to convert “basic” qualities into social cachet.)

The field of reviled millennial stereotypes offers two ways the Basic Bitch can go: that of the self-denying hipster, or the proud bro.

The unadulterated hipster, if there ever were such a creature, has never heard of hipsters and likely wouldn’t understand the definition. Hipsters have long played a game of denial with their categorization, partially because they would lose the title if they were to admit to it. The true bro, meanwhile, is obsessed with bro-dom and with embracing a prototypical bro life alongside his brethren.

So far, it seems that “Basic Bitch” has yet to be uttered, with the spirit of excited self-congratulation, in the manner of “Bro.” “Basic” would seem to defy hyperbole. That could change.

The bro road is perhaps the best path for the Basic’s future. What I wouldn’t give to hear some girl in an infinity scarf, using a mini-bottle of hand sanitizer clipped to her purse, declare that she’s off to brunch to “Basic out with her Basics.”

The ‘Basic Bitch’: Who Is She?