Written by Alice Porter
As Autumn arrives with a slew of pumpkin spice latte, hot chocolate and oxblood manicure photos filling up our feeds, writer Alice Porter explains why should welcome, rather than sneer at, our inner ‘basic’.
Autumn seems to offer more Instagram-ready moments than all of the other seasons combined. Yes, in summer we might have shots of us at a festival on a stranger’s shoulders and more than one excuse for a bikini photo, but that pales in comparison to a perfectly lit photo of a cluster of mustard yellow leaves that seamlessly pulls your grid together.
Autumn even surpasses Christmas when it comes to photo opportunities, as the novelty of post-summer cosy nights means a particularly good hot chocolate photo is as likely to make it to your feed as a selfie of you sporting a turtle neck top and a dark red lip. ‘Tis the season of reliable tropes: pumpkin spice lattes, oxblood red manicures and Taylor Swift’s fourth studio album.
But people often sneer at the women who wholeheartedly embrace all autumn has to offer in the age of Instagram. In fact, liking autumn is often considered to be ‘basic’.
Urban Dictionary defines basic as someone who is ‘only interested in things mainstream, popular, and trending’, giving the example of someone who wants to ‘drink pumpkin spice lattes and play candy crush’. But when did enjoying mainstream hobbies and activities become something to be embarrassed about?
Many women on TikTok are rallying against this idea, creating videos describing all th,e ways they’re exactly like other girls, using a sound created by the user @toxicthotsyndrome of her saying: “We’re not like endangered animals”.
“When he said he’s never met anyone like you but you’re literally a Phoebe-Bridgers-iced-oat-latte-astrology-journaling-hoop-earrings-generalised-anxiety-Sally-Rooney-art-girl,” reads the text of one woman’s TikTok. Another TikToker draws on similar ideas that might be considered basic like wearing Lululemon leggings and drinking copious amounts of coffee.
There are over 14,000 videos under this sound, suggesting women are ready to embrace all the ways in which they are similar to each other, even if doing so paints them as a member of the ‘basic’ brigade.
“I think that basic is another term people like to use to mock women for the things that they enjoy, especially young women,” says Ellen, 27, and living in London. “If something becomes basic just by merit of being enjoyed by anyone other than a man then how are we ever meant to enjoy anything? I’d rather be basic than snobby.”
Most of the things we associate with being ‘basic’ are activities and hobbies exclusively enjoyed by women. They’re usually pretty harmless things too – like lighting a musky candle or visiting a pumpkin patch – so it seems strange that there is now a stigma attached to them.
If there is an issue with the Instagramisation of autumn, it’s that it’s fairly white-washed. In fact, you might remember ‘Christian Girl Autumn’ being portrayed as the antithesis to hot girl summer all over the internet a couple of years ago. The women in these memes were often portrayed as coming from conservative backgrounds and mocked for their conformity in their appearances and interests.
The widespread enjoyment of autumn is not directly related to this trend, however. In fact, for many women, autumn offers a chance to embrace their personal interests and identities.
“As a fat person the lower temperatures mean that it’s more comfortable to be out and about and I don’t have to worry as much about getting really sweaty,” Ellen says, explaining that this is one of the reasons why autumn is her favourite season. “Also, autumn fashion is much more fat girl-friendly.”
Ellie, 26, lives in London and also looks forward to autumn every year. She says many of the ways autumn is depicted online don’t always capture the real essence of why so many women love it, explaining: “For me, there is actually less pressure in autumn – you don’t have the constant flow of Christmas parties or the long summer nights to make the most of. It’s a time to slow down and embrace the smaller things that bring joy.”
Many women felt pressured to have the best, and most social, summer of their lives post-lockdown. This autumn, especially, the return of seasonal trends (many of which were cancelled last year due to coronavirus restrictions) and an invitation to settle down and say ‘no’ to plans feels more welcome than ever.
“If something makes me happy, that’s all that matters, whether it’s basic or not, especially after such a difficult year,” agrees Esther, 26, from Ipswich. “Getting excited for my first pumpkin spiced latte of the year isn’t going to hurt anyone.”
“I love all the novelty traits that come with autumn and I always feel ready for the winding down of summer,” says Natalia, 22, from Liverpool.
Taking part in these autumnal activities, even knowing you might be sneered at for doing so, is actually a powerful act of self-care, it seems. “I feel especially basic in autumn but that doesn’t stop me from doing any of the autumnal activities I enjoy,” says Lauren, 25, from London.
Maybe posting about autumn trends isn’t an attempt at conformity at all, then. Instead, it’s a statement that you’re prioritising yourself and the things you enjoy.
And let’s face it: sometimes being basic is incredibly enjoyable. The sooner we can accept that, the easier it will be to differentiate between the things we actually like and the things we ‘like’ on social media.
Images: Alice Porter, Esther Newman, Lauren Reid, Natalia Williams
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