The bimbo is back and Gen Z is reclaiming it with a leftist flair.

The modern bimbo is hyperfeminine, embraces their hotness, and rejects the capitalist mentality that they must showcase marketable skills.

Bimbofication isn’t exclusively for cis women — everyone who aligns themselves with femininity and finds joy in being ditzy can identify as a bimbo. Above all, the modern bimbo isn’t necessarily uneducated or unintelligent, but their personality doesn’t revolve around their degrees and resúmé. The modern bimbo takes the male gaze that’s been unavoidable since birth and creates a caricature of it by performing vanity and cluelessness. 

Despite the derogatory origins of the word “bimbo,” used to dismiss beautiful women as unintelligent, Gen Z is leading the effort to reclaim the word. Syrena, a 21-year-old self-proclaimed “intelligent bimbo” who goes by the handle fauxrich, offered a diagnosis in a recent viral TikTok.

“Do you not care about society’s elitist view on academic intelligence? Do you support all women regardless of their job title and if they have plastic surgery or body modifications?” Syrena asks her followers in a singsong lilt, before asking if they also dream of owning dozens of shoes and idolize the late model Anna Nicole Smith. “I’m no doctor, but I think you may be a New Age bimbo!”

The prognosis: pink glitter and Juicy Couture velour sweatsuits.

The bimbo’s resurgence is especially popular on TikTok, where, as Rolling Stone put it, bimbos are something of an “aspirational figure.” The tag #bimbo has just over 81 million views. The tags #bimbotiktok and #bimbofication have 8.9 million views and 5.8 million views, respectively.

The phrase “bimbofication” gained notoriety in 2017, when an illustration of a buxom woman in a minidress picking up a book and transforming into someone more conservatively dressed went viral. Though the artist insisted that it was fetish art, not an anti-feminist condemnation of sexually confident women, the internet was outraged over the implication that women could be either hot or intelligent. In a Deviantart blog post, the artist apologized for offending people, and wrote that the image was meant to satisfy a client’s kink, not make a statement.

The image took on a life of its own, and inspired memes, spin-offs, and even fanfiction that imagined the various versions of the woman as a queer book club. The meme format made a comeback in late November following Harry Styles’ Vogue cover, which features the musician in a Gucci ball gown.  

Personally, I began jokingly calling myself a bimbo earlier this year when the term “himbo” started trending. Himbos are known for being traditionally masculine men — the himbo is hot and dumb, but above all, he respects women. When viral discourse over the term brought the word back to TikTok, young women asked why the word “bimbo” wasn’t met with the same affection. Spoiler alert: It’s the same reason femininity has been belittled and dismissed for centuries.

The short answer: Sexism!

Syrena, the 21-year-old diagnosing her followers as New Age bimbos, is a college student studying health science. As a woman in a rigorous educational program, Syrena rejects the expectation that to be taken seriously in professional or academic settings she has to distance herself from hyperfemininity. 

“I think all-inclusive feminism includes boss babes, sluts, bimbos, PhD holders, single moms, and just ALL women in general.”

“I think we don’t have to ‘be’ anything to be taken seriously, as women should be taken seriously in all spaces regardless of how they look,” Syrena said over Instagram DM. “I think all-inclusive feminism includes boss babes, sluts, bimbos, PhD holders, single moms, and just ALL women in general … The people who believe it’s anti-feminist are those who believe bimbos are who they are for the male gaze, which is completely untrue.”

Syrena added that she herself had to unlearn her own “inner male gaze” in the process of identifying as a bimbo. Diving headfirst into the hyperfeminine should not be equated to giving in to the male gaze. The TikTok creators who identify as bimbos have made it clear they’re putting on the costume not to appeal to men, but to make fun of them. Kate Muir, who posts on TikTok as bimbokate, told Rolling Stone that she uses her online persona to make men uncomfortable by pairing stereotypically feminine visuals with jarring messaging. 

“Being a self-aware bimbo is amazing,” she captioned one TikTok of herself dancing in front of a mirror. “You become everything men want visually whilst also being everything they hate (self-aware, sexually empowered, politically conscious.) Reverse the fetishisation of femininity.” 

The real appeal of the term, aside from consciously choosing to lean into your inherent hotness, is rejecting the societal expectation that women must have it all. (Anyone, Syrena explained in another video, can be hot with confidence.)

To have some sort of value in American society, the modern woman is expected to be compassionate and maternal, but also ambitious and goal-oriented. On top of that, women are pressured to meet a constantly changing beauty standard. Juggling all of these expectations is so exhausting and instilled in women from such an early age, it’s taking a psychological toll on teenage girls. In his book The Triple Bind: Saving Our Teenage Girls From Today’s Pressures, University of California, Berkeley, psychology professor Stephen Hinshaw described the juggling act as excelling at “girl skills,” achieving “boy goals,” and being “models of female perfection.” Between conflicting messaging about being both family- and career-oriented, plus immense pressure to be sexually appealing from a young age, the teenagers Hinshaw profiled in his case studies were “set up for crisis” and at higher risk for anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders.

Which is why the bimbo resurgence is transgressive — by leaning into the caricature of femininity, Gen Z’s New Age bimbos are turning the male gaze back on itself.

Jaime Hough teaches introductory gender studies courses at Washington State University and wrote her PhD dissertation on women’s expression of sexuality. Dealing with that triple bind, as Hinshaw describes it, is an exhausting, lifelong juggle. Hough is especially enamored by the resurgence of the bimbo because it’s such a middle finger to that triple bind.

“I’m just going to care for myself, feel good, and look pretty. Fuck the rest of you.”

“I think part of bimbofication is saying I’m not going to do it all,” Hough said in a phone interview. “Today I’m just going to focus on being pretty, because I want to. I’m going to let go of being assertive, going to let go of caring for everyone else. I’m just going to care for myself, feel good, and look pretty. Fuck the rest of you.”

The modern bimbo is inherently anti-capitalist too, because no matter how intelligent, accomplished, and ambitious they may be, contributing to the market is not a priority. Everyone has likely performed some form of unpaid emotional labor at some point in their lives, but women take on more of it than cis men. From waking up earlier than cis male coworkers to get ready in the mornings, to doing the bulk of household duties because men simply “aren’t as good at it,” to regulating their emotions to appear more approachable.

“In our culture, we rely on women to do almost all the emotional labor we don’t teach men how to do,” Hough said. “And so, women are always carrying this huge mental emotional burden of thinking not just about what I want to do, but whose feelings are going to get hurt and how can I do it in a way that their feelings don’t get hurt? How can I achieve my goals without making anyone feel threatened?”

Being a bimbo also involves rejecting the pressure to be constantly productive. 

In addition to the triple bind young women face, all young people are expected to meet some level of productivity. If something isn’t directly related to self-improvement, it’s not seen as valuable in American culture. The labor and expense women put into maintaining their appearance, Hough added, isn’t directly profitable, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t work. Being a bimbo also involves rejecting the pressure to be constantly productive.

“I believe that productivity is constantly fed to society as being a slave to capitalism by working or thinking about work,” Syrena said. “I think productivity can be learning something random that you like.”

Identifying as a bimbo is so enjoyable because, whether it’s feminist or not, you’re allowing yourself to be selfish for once. If you have to spend hours futzing with your appearance to have any value in this capitalist hellscape, why not make it your entire personality?

Don’t confuse the New Age bimbo with girlboss second-wave feminism. The New Age bimbo is intersectional, and transcends gender or heterosexuality. Though the classic bimbo is a skinny, blonde, heterosexual white woman, TikTok’s modern bimbos are queer, trans, people of all races and of any and all body types. Chrissy Chlapecka, a 20-year-old TikTok creator who wrote the “Bimbo Bibble,” styles her videos as open letters to “the girls, the gays, the theys,” and “anyone who, unfortunately, likes men.”

Anyone who embraces femininity can be a bimbo; TikTok has also come up with the gender neutral term “thembo” to describe someone who’s hot, dumb, and respects women. TikTok creator little_sun_boy coined the phrase “bimboy” as a spin-off of himbos. Instead of someone who’s large, masculine, and ditzy, the 24-year-old creator explains that the bimboy is small, feminine, and ditzy. In an Instagram DM, little_sun_boy clarified that while the bimboy is feminine and ditzy, he isn’t ditzy because he’s feminine.

Ultimately, the bimbo’s newfound popularity points to a shift away from the belittling of femininity. Hough noted that stereotypical hyperfeminine women in children’s media, like Sharpay in High School Musical and Yzma in Emperor’s New Groove were written as the movies’ villains and, though it’s subtle, that messaging only adds to the triple bind young women grapple with in their childhoods.

Nothing is black and white, though, and categorizing traits, goals, and interests into “for boys” and “for girls” is harmful for all impressionable kids. I myself was reluctant to admit my own queerness because I was so insistent that being hyperfeminine could only mean that I was heterosexual, and when I did come to terms with it, I overcompensated by getting rid of my frilly wardrobe and extensive makeup collection. But surprise! You can be two things at once! I, for one, have now leaned even further into hyperfemininity with an even more extensive makeup collection and a newfound zest for wearing over-the-top looks that I put on for my own artistic enjoyment, not for a man’s. 

Distancing from the color pink is a common experience in feminist circles. Hough and many of her peers in academia were reluctant to embrace the color that had been forced upon them since birth. A 2011 study led by Stefan Puntoni, an associate professor of marketing at the Rotterdam School of Management, concluded that the relentlessly pink, gendered marketing used in breast cancer awareness ads actually may repel the women the ads are targeting. Female participants were less likely to think they were at risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer when they were shown pink advertisements than when they were shown colorless or neutral-toned ones. Participants were also less likely to donate to the causes when shown pink marketing materials. Puntoni hypothesized that the color pink triggered a “defense mechanism” that made some female participants unconsciously ignore or downplay the advertisement’s message.

New Age bimbos subvert the patriarchy by reclaiming femininity without pitting women against each other.

American culture has a habit of forcing femininity and masculinity on children from birth, so rejecting the color pink is a natural reaction to foisting bubblegum bows and flamingo-toned tutus on infant girls. But distancing yourself from femininity for the sake of distancing yourself from women is just internalized misogyny.  The sexist and backhanded compliment “not like other girls” has been reborn and recirculated in different forms over the last two decades, from bimbofication fetish art to the “Bruh girl” versus “Hi girlie” tropes popularized on TikTok this year. Regardless of whether they identify as women, New Age bimbos subvert such patriarchal categorizations by reclaiming femininity without pitting women against each other, whatever their gender may be.

“One of the things I love about this new wave of bimbofication is that it’s very anti-hierarchical, and no one’s degree makes them better or smarter, that’s not a thing we value,” Hough said. “This new wave of bimbofication is this idea that this is about self-love and self-pleasure. Anything that gets in the way of that, like traditional educational values or capitalist values, isn’t worth it.” 

But then again, expecting that anything women do must be in the name of subversion goes against the modern bimbo’s hedonist principles. All you need to do to be a new bimbo is be feminine, feel pretty, and not particularly care about what men want from you.

Cyndi Lauper put it best in her 1983 bimbo anthem: Girls (and gays and theys) just wanna have fun.

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