In 2022, young people have turned away from the capitalist fever dream that was #girlboss feminism. Instead, they’re focused on something much more positive: bimboism.
iD Magazine’s definitive announcement 12 months ago declared 2021 “The year of the bimbo”. Since then, we’ve seen countless think-pieces peppered across mainstream media, YouTube explainers, and an incredibly catchy TikTok remix of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” that drills the line “got nothing in my brain” over and over again. Really, we’ve just realised that we’re fed up with the constant barrage of thoughts that have come to define existence. And that’s where the increasingly attractive cultural phenomenon of “bimbo” steps in.
But what is a bimbo? And what does bimbofication entail? And isn’t ‘bimbo’… like… a slur?
The modern-day bimbo is a fresh approach to intersectional feminism. There is, actually, careful thought behind bimbology, and it could be a way to reach true liberation.
On TikTok, bimboism isn’t new. It’s been rising to prominence over the past two years and, for regular users of the app, is basically vintage ideology – certified TikTok canon.
In 2020, as the pandemic ramped up, those of us in lockdown turned to social media to squander the endless hours of isolation we’d found ourselves facing. Clearly, no app filled the void left by our lost social interaction quite like TikTok, with its endless stream of faces, funnies, memes and discourse.
For those new to the app at the time, the way you jumped through the algorithm’s hoops, landing on different – often surprisingly niche – subcultures, was a source of fascination.
I remember it well.
As with all newbies, I started on general TikTok: dance routines, funny home videos, viral skits and pet videos.
Then, as the app’s famed algorithm picked up on small nuances in my interest, gaged predominately by watch time, my feed gradually moved to “hot girl Tok”, then jumped to “bisexual Tok”, before it slid over to “edu-Tok”, which brought me to “leftist Tok”, and then I somehow ended up back at what I assumed was simply “hot girl Tok” all over again.
But that wasn’t it. This new stream in the algorithm, with its dazzlingly beautiful creators declaring “Wear whatever the fuck you want”, “I hate all men”, and, “Good morning bimbos, thembos, himbos, bimboys and any bo you wanna be”, was something else entirely.
I had landed on bimbo Tok.
WHO IS THE GEN Z BIMBO?
Chrissy Chlapecka was one of the earliest pioneers of bimboism on TikTok. The doe-eyed, blonde-haired, pink-latex-clad, she/they viral superstar shot to prominence on the app in late 2020, at a time when US social media was galvanized by Black Lives Matter, the accelerating pandemic, and the upcoming Biden/Trump election. Chlapecka’s earlier content focused on providing motivational, inspiring messages for the “girls, gays and theys, or anyone unfortunate enough to be attracted to men”.
Her brand, characterised by ultra-feminine optics and witty delivery that was at once sweet, sassy and savvy, struck a near-instant chord on TikTok. But TikTok fame is fickle, and Chlapecka’s comment section received as much love from the girlies, gays and theys, as hate from the people – the majority of them being men – who felt personally attacked by the subject matter.
This was true as much for her relationship videos as it was for her more political content – which was adamantly anti-capitalist and anti-Trump. Many commenters’ abuse targeted Chlapecka’s cadence, the way she dressed, her makeup and blonde extensions. It was rare that the arguments she was making were brought up at all.
“People in my comments section keep calling me a bimbo. I’m just going to go with it,” Chlapecka said in an October 2020 post, captioned "reclaiming this”.
“At least follow my Instagram to give me external validation if you think I’m hot but not smart. Because you know what, you’re right, there’s not much going on in my head, there’s very little.”
It was soon after that Chlapecka officially introduced bimboism, in a video where she answered the question: “Who is the Gen Z bimbo?”
“A bimbo isn’t dumb. Well, she kind of is, but she isn’t that dumb! She’s actually a radical leftist, who’s pro sex work, pro Black Lives Matter, pro LGBTQ+, pro choice, and will always be there for her girlies, gays and theys,” they said, in a video that went viral immediately and still continues to circulate, now sitting at six million views and 2.1 million likes.
Its success shot Chlapecka, who now has four million followers, to TikTok fame, along with her concept of bimbology.
While Chlapecka’s gen Z bimboism resonated on TikTok, with its bubblegum pink optics grounded in inclusive, anti-capitalist, jubilantly queer and aggressively kind ideology, her aesthetics did fit neatly into the recognisable stereotype of bimbos over the years. From the “Mean Girls” plastics, to Elle Woods of “Legally Blonde”, Cher Horowitz of “Clueless”, or even Dolly Parton and Marilyn Monroe – the original trope of the bimbo was an ultra-feminine, super hot, buxom, skinny, “girly girl”. In film and TV, she was almost always white.
But the strength of a movement that started on TikTok, as opposed to other social platforms, is that the app’s features – sounds, stitches and hashtags – allow a trend to be adopted by any one of its billion monthly users. Over the years, Chlapecka’s new-age bimbology has been built on by multiple creators whose individual identities span spectrums of gender, weight, race and class.
Shortly after Chlapecka’s bimbo video was posted, dozens of users leapt on the trend. One creator, 23-year-old Fauxrich, posted her own take on the bimbo. Clothed in a baby pink tracksuit, she asked, “Are you a hyperfeminine woman? Are you really hot?”
“Do you not care about society’s elitist view on academic intelligence? Do you support all women, regardless of their job title, or if they’ve had plastic surgery or body modifications?” she continued, applying a fresh coat of lipgloss.
“I’m no doctor, but I think you may be a new-age bimbo!”
Fauxrich’s video went viral. Clicking through the sound reveals a wide range of people reacting to Fauxrich’s questions in their own videos, self-diagnosing the identity of new-age bimbo. There are gimbos (goth bimbos), vintage-style bimbos, thembos (bimbos who use they/them pronouns), gimbos (gay bimbos), alt bimbos and more.
A creator named Alondra Ortiz was inspired by Fauxrich to get into bimbofication, too. Alondra’s goals were to “look and feel more confident”, to take the time to take care of themselves, embrace their natural hair texture, and to start introducing themselves in english-speaking environments by the true, Latinx pronunciation of their name.
For Ortiz, bimbofication was about no longer minimising themselves for the sake of other people – they were reclaiming their identity.
“The bxmbo has no gender, no class, no race or ability. The only requirement for bxmbofication is that you embrace and reclaim your body in the name of independence,” they cried, strutting around a lake house deck dressed in a little black dress.
“All that matters is that you are both physically and mentally hot and sexy, on your own terms.”
This is perhaps the defining rule of modern day bimboism: Self-actualisation.
IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE
You have to love yourself to be a bimbo. And if you don’t quite love yourself yet, you need to do whatever it takes to reach that point. Whether it’s practising self-care, going to therapy, cutting off whoever it is that’s abusing you, allowing people to underestimate you, dressing however you want, or refusing to engage with ignorance. Loving yourself is key to truly taking on the identity.
Fiona Fairbairn, a Toronto-based university student, recently became the idol of the 2022 bimbo era when her persona Fifi presented the “Bimbo Manifesto”: a guideline for “no thoughts, just vibes”, which has inspired a new wave of bimboism followers.
“A lot of people are saying I’m putting feminism back 50 years,” Fairbairn told VICE.
“I’m saying, maybe instead of dedicating our time to people who want to misunderstand us no matter what we say or how we explain it, why don’t we just let them, and let the results at the end prove everything.”
In another video, Fifi explained how bimbofication was an “ego death”.
“Y’all are so mad when people call you ugly, stupid or whatever else. Don’t go so hard to defend it,” she said.
“Let people underestimate you, let your ego go down so much that you just don’t care.”
NO THOUGHTS, JUST SEXY
The idea of weaponised unintelligence isn’t new – the trope is intertwined with the canon of “old Hollywood” bimbos over the years. From “dumb blondes” to “gold diggers”, passing decades have seen men on-screen and off fall to the beguiling manipulation of doe-eyed, beautiful women, who pretend not to know any better in order to make their way in the world.
In the 2020s, it shouldn’t be surprising that there is a resurgence of what one TikTokker teasingly dubbed, “weaponised incompetence, but yassified”. But for many feminists whose coming of age was centred around girlbossification – constantly hustling for rights and recognition, accepting eking “progress” on the never-ending crawl up the hypothetical ladder – it represents a shift towards finding empowerment by simply refusing to participate. The girlies are sick and tired of proving themselves – there’s plenty of other shit to worry about.
A recurring theme in bimbology is forcing yourself to think less, especially in times of conflict. Fifi’s “wall method” describes how to force yourself to have no thoughts by imagining a white wall. A large part of bimboism’s appeal is in its potential to shield oneself from harm – smooth-brain style.
This is where bimboism has found its moment. Bimboism says you don’t have to be unintelligent to choose happiness – you just need to focus on thinking about things that actually matter, like community, setting an example and building others up, which can only be achieved by building yourself up to the point where you aren’t plagued by anxieties. Whether you are liked or loved, whether you said the wrong thing, whether you are enough. Bimbos say, “Who cares?”
IN PURSUIT OF LIBERATION
In the era of social media, ideologies erupt constantly as young people look for ways to identify and thrive. They dissolve just as frequently.
#Girlboss feminism, the “she-E-O” rallying call which characterised the early 2010s, has now become a post-ironic joke. It was an illusion of progress reserved only for the privileged few with proximity to the white wealthy male status quo. It was a mirage of liberation that fell apart under the slightest intersectional scrutiny.
In a 2019 article, writer Emmeline Clein introduced dissociative feminism: characterised by a dark, disillusioned, self-destructive and bitter embodiment of feminism illustrated in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s television series, Fleabag.
As Clein wrote, the titular character smirks at her selfishness and self-destruction, while numbing herself to the consequences of her behaviours with alcohol and antidepressants. Rather than blaming the patriarchy for her feminine angst, it is internalised; knowingly delivered in punchline form.
“I’ve noticed a lot of brilliant women giving up on shouting and complaining, and instead taking on a darkly comic, deadpan tone when writing about their feminism. This approach presents overtly horrifying facts about uniquely feminine struggles and delivers them flatly, dripping with sarcasm,” Clein said.
There are similar parallels in bimboism. While dissociative feminism has been having its own moment on TikTok, with a slew of posts featuring users embracing their “Fleabag era”, this cold, detached, dissociative feminism serves only a select few. As Clein wrote, “giving up on progress is perhaps the epitome of white feminism, and promotes a nihilism that is somewhere between unproductive and genuinely dangerous”.
But unlike dissociative feminism, bimboism rejects self-destructive behaviour. And unlike girlbossification, bimboism is not rooted in capitalist attachment.
You don’t need to buy anything or look a certain way. You don’t need to run a business, be a good worker, or step on anyone in your journey to reach “success” as a bimbo. Bimboism comes from within, and you can achieve it by being unapologetically yourself.
While girlboss feminism says, “I may be a girl, but I can climb the status quo’s ladder and succeed in capitalism just like any other man!”
Bimboism says, “I am literally just here to vibe. Either vibe with me or leave me alone.”