April 25, 2016
Recently, somewhere on my Facebook feed there surfaced a spreadsheet of sorts detailing the characteristics of someone who’s “basic” – specific to Singapore. Unsurprisingly, it was the brainchild of a bunch of male Reddit users who probably had too much time on their hands or too little luck scoring with the ladies. While it started out easy – inciting a few knowing chuckles about “hipster bros” and Wheeler’s Yard photos – the discussion quickly spiraled into judgmental aggression. The not-so-surprising trigger? When the thread moved away from laughing at themselves in good fun, to listing traits of the average Singaporean girl. As someone who identifies with a lot of the “offences” listed but would rather be shot than be called basic, it got me thinking – when did just being a girl suddenly become such a detestable crime?
According to the thread, some of the ghastly traits of being “Singaporean basic” include wearing Adidas shoes, eating frozen yogurt (specifically llaollao; how dare we indulge in foreign dairy treats on a hot day!) and most damningly of all: high-waisted shorts. Oh hold on, you mean to say that dressing the way that makes me feel comfortable and confident is a sure sign of conforming to the masses, which therefore strips me of all personality?
I instantly felt defensive reading the spreadsheet; “I’m not basic! Far from it; I’ve got a fair amount of smarts, wit and personality to eliminate me from that category, so I’m good.” And then I realised – this wasn’t the first time I tried to prove my unbasic-ness when someone called me out for liking something a typical basic bitch would. I once got into a petty cold war with a male friend who had Instagrammed a picture of the very word, with just my name gracing the caption. When I demanded he list exactly why I was so offensively basic to him, he replied weakly, “Because you like One Direction!” Before that I had felt hurt and bitched about, the butt of a joke I wasn’t invited to; but after that pathetic comeback all I felt was indignant. Why had I as a substantial human being gotten narrowed down to a single word based on one personal bubblegum-pop preference? The ridiculousness of labeling only truly became apparent when I became the target of one. Just like so many negative labels that have come and gone (but more often stayed), this was just another meaningless one riddled with hate, contempt and false superiority. And whether it’s in the realm of gender politics or class, it’s never fair to be looked down on simply because you had the misfortune to genuinely like something everyone else does too.
Of course women aren’t exempt from bullying with the word “basic” too; quite the opposite – I’m pretty brutal in doling out unwanted judgment. But bear in mind that from the beginning this was a thread titled ‘What is the Singaporean equivalent of a “basic bitch”?’, created by and for men. Very early in it didn’t even seem to be about basic bitches anymore than it was about girls in general, all from the POV of Singaporean guys banding together to get stuff off their chest. At one point it seemed like there’s no winning the patriarchy; you’re either a basic bitch with no individuality or you have a “golden cheese pie”, too uppity and selective for the common folk – who ironically are the ones shunning the basic bitches. Had the word “basic” become synonymous with “slut”?
To be fair, there were some gallant lads who joined in the conversation to help point out the ridiculous double standards taken towards female promiscuity – although they were quickly shot down. Something about there being a grey area between the two extremes inhabited by a sweet girl-next-door who “picks guys she really loves” seemed to somehow prove that it wasn’t just male prejudice rearing its ugly head. The mini discussion ended with mansplaining of how, unlike a basic bitch, a GCP would expect materialistic gifts and other stereotypically chivalrous acts, but in return wouldn’t put out. Of course; because at the end of the day it’s sex that determines the quality of a relationship.
There will always be a grain of elitism in anyone who takes pride in labeling a person as basic, and maybe that’s where the root of the problem lies. And maybe that’s also why so many people simply took a chuckle out of the spreadsheet, passively liking and sharing the post, so that hopefully then they would be perceived as the “non-basic” ones, a cut above the rest. They would be the ones brandishing the upper hand from their ivory towers, safe away from the filth of the common folk. I don’t deny that I used to be one of them, but hopefully the first step forward to making amends is acknowledging a flawed mentality, and steering clear of it. And instead of running away from the truth that perhaps I too am basic, I should just embrace it, because like every other label that’s ever been handed out – “basic” reveals more about the name-caller than it does me. And that unless you only ever walk around in black, shapeless clothing eating hawker food, you’re probably pretty basic yourself too, BRO.
But don’t mind me; I’m off to queue for Honey Creme (“or whatever hipster shit”) in my high-waisted shorts, and you can bet your ass I’m gonna Instagram the hell out of it.
Featured image from forever21.com, because that’s probably as basic as it gets.