Often used with negative connotations, the word "basic" has come to embody a stereotype that describes someone or the action's of someone as "inescapably predictable." Whether it's going to Starbucks every day or posting Instagram photos of your feet in a pile of autumn leaves, "basicness" manifests itself in our everyday choices. Almost exclusively used to describe women, the term "basic" has socially entangled meanings that require a great deal of unpacking. Something I noticed is that foods labeled as "basic" are usually generally consumed by women. With regards to "basic" foods, there is much more at play than just a beautiful smoothie bowl or latte. 

The Gendering of Food

salad, vegetable
Danielle Cahoon

Before diving into the nitty-gritty of how the patriarchy functions through our employment of the term "basic" in everyday conversation, it's essential to have an understanding of how foods are subject to processes of gendering. Gendering is the process of associating something with a specific gender. When you stop and think about your gender identity and what you choose to eat, you may start to notice social expectations encouraging or discouraging your consumption of certain foods. Whether we realize it or not, the social expectations of our genders are intrinsically tied to the foods that we choose to eat. While foods aren't explicitly ascribed to specific genders, the gendering of foods does socially assign specific dishes to different genders. 

"Women's Foods"

brunch, top down, Eggs Benedict, french toast, Korean fusion
Luna Zhang

Enter: "women's foods." This is not to say that only women can and do eat these foods, but rather that they are typically consumed by women and that men may feel that their masculinity is at risk if they were to order these rather than a more masculine food, such as a burger or wings. From a contemporary standpoint, "women's foods" embody foods such as lattes, salads, rosé, açaí bowls, and avocado toast. Even meal concepts, such as Sunday brunch or wine nights, are inherently female. The need for women's food to be pretty is a whole other concept to explore, but the fact that many female foods are visually gorgeous may play into their gendering. Additionally, many of these foods are typically found in spaces that are gendered as female, such as cute little cafés or are eaten at social events that are gendered as female, like a book club. Whether it's due to their appearances or the varying contexts in which they're consumed, these foods are inherently labeled as female. 

The Patriarchy vs. Women's Food Trends

cheese, bread, avocado, avocado toast, smashed avocado, brunch, egg, cafe, toast, sandwich, Health, Healthy, window
Denise Uy

The word "basic" is not one of praise or endearment, but rather one that encompasses predictability and boringness. What we're doing when we call "women's foods" basic is reinforcing patriarchal norms that instill the inferiority of women in all aspects of society. In New York Magazine, Noreen Malone explains that the term "basic" is often ascribed to a woman who "likes being a woman." The women that are labeled as basic are the women who enjoy things (and foods) that are gendered as female. If we want to break down social expectations of gender, we really need to stop using the term "basic". Women should be able to love being a woman without feeling the inferiority that the patriarchy subjects them to. "Basicness" truly is a stereotype that aligns with certain characteristics and habits that we wield at others to distance ourselves from them. A more in-depth analysis of the word "basic" reveals it to be a term that is entangled in our social systems and that explains class anxiety. 

"Basic" is a term that interacts with a multitude of social systems and that exists at the intersection of various social identities. Being basic isn't bad, even though all of society tells us otherwise. If you feel like you're doing something basic, own it and enjoy every single bite of that delicious meal you're having. The next time you think about calling a woman "basic" for the food she is eating, maybe you should just stay quiet and let her enjoy her meal.