Amid Boston Overdose Crisis, a Pair of Harvard Students Are Bringing Narcan to the Red Line
At First Cambridge City Council Election Forum, Candidates Clash Over Building Emissions
Harvard’s Updated Sustainability Plan Garners Optimistic Responses from Student Climate Activists
‘Sunroof’ Singer Nicky Youre Lights Up Harvard Yard at Crimson Jam
‘The Architect of the Whole Plan’: Harvard Law Graduate Ken Chesebro’s Path to Jan. 6
We love making fun of the basic bitch. She is so easy to ridicule—after all, she wears leggings and Uggs, listens to Taylor Swift, drinks pumpkin spice lattes, enjoys shopping at Sephora, and has Pinterest boards filled with fitness routines and bedroom decorating ideas. She seeks contentment in pumpkin patches, colorful stationery, home decor, and inspirational quotes about inner beauty and tranquility juxtaposed against images of beaches and sunsets. Can you imagine? She probably even scrapbooks.
And the basic bitch is always a woman. It is not a coincidence that there is no male equivalent to the basic bitch. The term “f**kboy,” a commonly used pejorative term for men, refers to sexually coercive men who treat women as objects for their pleasure. The female equivalent for a f**kboy, therefore, isn’t a basic bitch but rather a slut or a whore. The f**kboy is ridiculed for his misogynistic treatment of women; the basic bitch is ridiculed for her love of holiday drinks and yoga pants.
There is no vapid and air-headed male stereotype who is unoriginal in his embrace of all things masculine. Society does not derive the same level of pleasure from ridiculing men for lifting weights at the gym, posing with freshly-caught fish, and waxing eloquent about their cars—even though a quick glance at Tinder shows me that these kinds of men are in no short supply. Somehow, it’s much more enjoyable to make fun of the women who go to SoulCycle, drink green juice, and experiment with makeup.
Why? Because fishing, hunting, lifting weights, and tricking out your car are all seen as hobbies of importance. They require real technical skill and expertise. They are valid interests. Practicing yoga, decorating your home, and applying makeup, on the other hand, all seem like frivolous and vapid ways to spend your time. Women who are interested in these activities, and even women who become so good at them that they are able to build careers from their talent and hard work, are nevertheless dismissed as shallow and stupid. After all, common logic goes, how hard can it be to create a winged eyeliner look or hold your body in contorted poses for long periods of time?
Furthermore, when women perform traditionally masculine activities like fishing and hunting, they often appear sexier to the heterosexual male gaze. A quick Google search of “girls who fish” reveals many images of scantily-clad women posing with hunting and fishing paraphernalia in sexually provocative ways. However, men who derive enjoyment from traditionally feminine hobbies, such as Pilates or makeup, are derided as effeminate or “gay.” A search of “guys wearing makeup” does not yield images of shirtless men posing with eye shadow palettes in ways that are intended to titillate women—instead, it yields debates about whether or not wearing makeup as a man is embarrassing or makes them “drag queens or carnival clowns.”
This pattern is replicated throughout all facets of society: for example, traditionally masculine names like Riley, Blake, and Drew are seen as popular and edgy choices for baby girls, and women with those names are often perceived as sexier; however, there has not been a single instance of a traditionally feminine name, like Brittany or Clara, that has been deemed appropriate, much less sexually attractive, for a man. We see this with clothing, too: Sweatshirts and dark solid prints are simultaneously gendered masculine and gender-neutral; when women wear their boyfriend’s clothing, it is perceived as not only appropriate but even alluring. However, sundresses, off-the-shoulder tops, bright floral patterns are strictly gendered feminine, and men who wear these styles are often subject to ridicule and homophobic violence, such as the male teenager who was "chopped and stabbed" to death for wearing female clothing.
The systematic devaluation of femininity in our society is not only deeply patronizing but also actively upholds gender inequality. For example, professions dominated by women or even perceived as “women’s work” are routinely paid less—and when women start to take over a male-dominated field, the pay drops simply because female labor is not valued as highly. And some female-dominated occupations, such as teaching kindergarten, are not even considered part of the work force, according to people like Donald Trump Jr. Most of the unpaid and “invisible labor” in the world, such as childcare and household management, is performed by women. Female writers are often belittled as “mommy bloggers” or producers of “chick lit,” and female scientists are considered mere “distractions” in the laboratory.
And even I have been dismissed by peers and other readers for “writing a sex column,” essentially telling me that these articles about feminism and sexual violence which I take care to write well and research thoroughly, are nothing more than the vapid prattling of a young woman giving tips about proper blowjob technique. I have even been patronized for my secondary in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, my male peers dismissing my dense gender theory readings as “brain candy” and “fluff.”
The problem, therefore, is not only that activities are arbitrarily ascribed “masculine” or “feminine,” but also that activities ascribed as “feminine” are necessarily seen as inferior, weak, and frivolous. When we make fun of the “basic bitch” for drinking lattes and wearing leggings, we are looking down on femininity and expressions thereof. And when women’s interests and activities are dismissed as frivolous, women themselves are dismissed as frivolous. Gender equality and women’s empowerment will require more than a breakdown of traditional gender roles—it will demand a fundamental cultural shift in the way we view and value femininity.
Nian Hu ’18 is a government concentrator living in Mather House. Her column appears on alternate Thursdays.
Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.