Not like other girls?


photo by Bethany Barker

VSCO girls and alt girls are two types of “basic.” Both of these styles receive backlash from society.

After a shopping spree at American Eagle, sophomore Tiffany Odimegwu’s excitement was cut short when her friends told her that the new clothes she bought were basic and boring. Odimegwu expected to be complimented, rather than berated for her popular fashion sense. 

“Fitting into a beauty standard used to be really important to me,” Odimegwu said. “Being called ‘basic’ made me feel ugly and unoriginal.”

The vulgar phrase “basic b*tch” has been watered down to “basic” in recent years. Although it sounds less harmful, the negative connotation has remained, according to freshman Lauren Verstrate.

“Most people use ‘basic’ as an insult,” she said. “It’s like they’re saying that you have no complexity just because of the way you look or speak.”

Social media platforms, such as TikTok and Instagram, tend to romanticize certain styles, only to insult them weeks later. “VSCO girls” gained traction on TikTok during the summer of 2019. This inevitably turned into a large trend that people — specifically, teen girls who were not VSCO — began to hate. Parody and diss videos surfaced, and with that, the trend died. 

“We’ve all been on TikTok for a long time, and it’s really hostile towards different types of styles and lingo,” Odimegwu said. 

After summer 2019, a new type of “basic” surfaced: “alt girls.” Alt girls emerged in early 2020, known for their indie music taste and dark clothing. Suddenly, the Birkenstock and Hydroflask grass was greener, and many pleaded for the VSCO era to come back. 

“I’ve had enough of alt people. Never thought I’d miss the VSCO girls, but I do,” one TikTok user commented on a resurfacing VSCO video.

“Can we please be VSCO girls again? That was so fun,” another said. 

This trend might be the most basic of them all. Once a style becomes popular, it only has a short period of time before it is rejected by the media. 

“I don’t like to follow trends anymore because of how much they’re criticized,” Odimegwu said.

However, being basic goes beyond clothing. Countless numbers of women have been criticized for the music they listen to, the way they speak, and even things out of their control. 

“I have been called basic and annoying because of my name,” sophomore Emily Poulin said. “What am I supposed to do about that?”

On top of that, “quirky” girls are heavily romanticized in movies, books and television. In coming-of-age productions, the antagonist is always the blonde-haired, blue-eyed popular girl who dislikes the “manic pixie dream girl” trope. Girls tend to identify with the sad and weak protagonist, who, of course, isn’t basic. In “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift, she pits herself, a nerd, against the mean-girl cheerleader who is dating her crush. The judgemental and unfair nature of the song is ignored because of the negative aura surrounding cheerleaders. 

“Basicness is hated so much that some girls go out of their way to be different,” Verstrate said. “It’s sad to see them so scared of rejection from society.”

But why is being basic so heavily attacked? It’s a loaded question with many potential answers. Some feel that the grim stigma around being basic comes from casual and insinuated misogyny. 

“Nobody has the right to be rude to women just because of the way they present themself,” Verstrate said. “‘Basic’ should not be a term that is used to bring others down.”

Misogyny is not the only possible explanation for the hatred of basicness. Odimegwu has dealt with racism, being told that she was whitewashing herself for wearing popular items such as skinny jeans and crop tops. Colored women also face racism for things like straightening their hair and listening to mainstream pop — both “basic.”

“Pushing the narrative that you have to act a certain way to fit your race is completely wrong and hurtful,” Odimegwu said. “Style and behavior have no correlation to race.”

There is no concrete definition for being basic. Every popular style eventually reaches the basic benchmark, falls off, and then rises back to popularity. Bustle, a women’s lifestyle magazine, reports that history is repeating itself and 90s trends will resurface in spring of 2021. These trends, too, were hated in their day.

“Every style is basic in some light,” Odimegwu said. “We all should embrace that instead of tearing each other down.”

Practicing self-love amidst society’s brutality has become essential for the mental health of teen girls. Beauty standards say that girls should be skinny and curvy, have straight teeth and clear skin, and look ethereal. But even when someone does meet these standards, they are naturally called basic. 

“Following trends is a part of growing up and figuring out who you are,” Odimegwu said. “I am now learning to be who I am and express myself freely.”

Skyler Glenn