I confess a fondness for the term “basic bitch,” or, perhaps my real fondness is for the rise of the word “basic,” as an insult (as I try to rid my vocabulary of the word bitch, at least outside of the bedroom). To be basic is to be the standard model, to possess no characteristics that mark you as unique or interesting. That is a hilarious and elegant insult.
As the popularity of basicness has grown, the concept seems intimately tied to consumerism—the television and music you like, the coffee you drink, the shoes you wear. Essentially, if you enjoy anything mainstream, you are basic because we are all so very invested in being unique and original and special snowflakes. We are invested in the eclectic and the obscure until everyone else stumbles upon our pleasure and then it becomes too, well, basic.
Am I basic because I like Taylor Swift and overpriced “coffee” drinks from Starbucks?
It is also said that to be basic you must be a young white woman, as if we are so infuriated by the very thought of these women and all the privilege they wield that we need to develop a special category just for them. And even then, this is the power of privilege—basic is the worst we can come up with.
On the Serial podcast:
With some help, I finally figured out how to listen to podcasts with modern technology, so I’ve been listening to Serial. My recent urgency in catching up on episodes was to understand some essayistic salvoes being lobbed across the Internet–on one side, discussions of how Serial has a race problem (roughly speaking), and on the other, defenses of Serial and people’s enjoyment of the podcast.
The first time I cringed during Serial was at an ill-advised reference to Othello. I kept cringing as I listened to host Sarah Koenig try to make sense of the cultures of Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee and how that contributed to Lee’s murder in January 1999. To my ear, there was such an air of stranger in a strange land, my goodness, these foreign people, to some of the reportage. Koenig seems earnest and well-intentioned and she is entitled to her curiosity. We can also enjoy the podcast (and I am, so intriguing!), as much as one can enjoy something that so gravely concerns real people and a very real tragedy while also considering the racial and cultural implications of the reportage.
This is yet another reminder of the importance of diversity at all levels of cultural production so that the concerns arising from this podcast can be anticipated and, in the best of all worlds, avoided.
On writing about race/gender/sexuality online:
I want to develop a site or a set of resources for people, and especially women and people of color, who write about race/gender/sexuality online because the shit ain’t easy. The blowback isn’t easy. Approaching these issues with complexity and nuance isn’t easy. What kinds of guidelines can we offer these writers and their editors? What kinds of support resources can we provide for how to handle the varied ways in which people respond to such writing? Who is we? Any of us who consume this writing and appreciate this writing. Ideas?
On Don Lemon:
This man consistently says the most ignorant and oftentimes irresponsible nonsense and last night, he outdid himself by asking Joan Tarshis, one of Bill Cosby’s accusers, why she didn’t just bite down and you know, shut that whole rape thing down. He should be fired, end of discussion.
On Bill Cosby:
On “vape” as the Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year:
I can think of few things about which I care less.
Roxane Gay is the editor of The Butter.