Feminism after the girlboss: anxiety of the bimbo
The optic and political character of ‘TikTok bimbos’ has been both praised and condemned for its audacity within the online sphere — not surprisingly, as ‘bimbo Tok’ celebrates hyperfemininity and provocation.
Bimboism developed in the wake of corporate feminism’s decline in the post-2016 moral climate. Until then, rather than dismantle the existing institutions in power, feminism sought to suceed within patriarchal-defined frameworks and lacked awareness of its exclusionary embrace of women.
With a concentration on financial prosperity as a marker of success and object of ambition, the “lean in” ideology of corporate feminism exonerated capitalism by claiming that with enough drive and vocation, women could attain positions of power and be as exploitative as their male counterparts.
Feminism has digressed and morphed into numerous different presentations, and most recently, in the form of the self-proclaimed bimbos.
Using the term “bimbo” is controversial: historically, the pejorative has been employed to describe women as insipid and superficial. To some people, the aesthetics of bimbofication participates in female objectification; even though bimbo creators attempt to subvert the degrading perceptions associated with the bimbo image, they could unwillingly invite perpetuation of derogatory, oversexualising stereotypes of women.
At its essence, however, the bimbo label capitalises on polemics by satisfying the male gaze while simultaneously reclaiming their image through subversive politics.
Bimboism is the clear antithesis of the GirlBoss. Whereas the GirlBoss promoted careerism, hustle culture, and shoulder-padded power suits, bimbos reject work and even embrace vapidity.
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In one of the defining videos of ‘bimbo-Tok’, Chrissy Chlapecka, now one of the leading bimbo creators on the platform, defines who the bimbos are. “A bimbo isn’t dumb” she says, walking into a wall, before conceding, “I mean, she kind of is. But she isn’t that dumb.” In another video, Chlapecka invites the viewer to revel in the world of hotness and hedonism through a series of initiation questions.
“Are you good at reading?” she asks, holding a book upside down.
Indeed, a core foundation of the bimbo identity is the concession that it is okay to be stupid. Many have criticised the videos’ projection of ignorance, claiming that the “dumb blonde” is a retrograde trope. In one TikTok, Chlapecka admits, “I don’t know what the economy is, I don’t know what supply and demand is. All I know is that our problems would be solved if we’d just print more money.”
And yet, the videos themselves seem conscious of their own frivolity — they ask simple questions in order to better understand issues, not lessen their complexity. If anything, basic inquiry illuminates the simplicity of the problem, demonstrating how serious concerns are rendered unnecessarily complicated to alienate regular people.
The principles of bimboism merely challenge the traditional elitist conceptions of intelligence and offer a somewhat gratifying idea that women – or people in general – don’t need to prove intellect in order to be deemed worthy.
The majority of ‘bimbo-Tok’ content is occupied by a combination of fashion tips and left-leaning politics. Creators are open about their life goals—or lack thereof. In most cases, bimbos share their indifference to self-sufficiency and promote financial dependency on a partner to sustain excessive shopping sprees.
This openly anti-work stance is useful for a number of conservative arguments that, for instance, defend opposition to welfare by claiming that policies which provide people with financial means regardless of labour – for example, Universal Basic Income (UBI) — would encourage laziness.
‘Bimbo-Tok’ embraces what corporate capitalism fears — a somewhat appealing idea that work and industry are not innately valuable to society.
Toxic work culture vilifies leisure whereas, in fact, relaxation enables creativity and innovation more than meaningless work would. That being said, there are some inherent ironies in the bimbo doctrine — most obviously, the optic of the aesthetic contradicts the politics that substantiate it.
Bimbofication relies on the premise that achieving a hyperfeminine image through the use of high-end, expensive beauty products enables female ownership of male-defined perceptions of beauty.
In this regard, the movement suffers in the same way other branches of feminism did — it ascribes a narrowly-defined appearance to successful female liberation; women who acquire the products advertised with language of “deserve” have succeeded within consumerist designations of merit. As a consequence, the substance of activism is displaced for the pursuit of commercial rewards.
The problem with any aestheticisation of feminism is that it particularises a narrow genre of problems that exist within patriarchy — ‘Me Too’, for instance, reduced sexism to issues of consent — and exploits its rhetoric to legitimise its position within established orthodoxy.
When feminism is commercialised and defined through visual models, the activism only superficially absorbs social justice language whilst the politics itself is domesticated, lessening its radical effect.
About the author:
Born in 2005 in Sarasota, Florida, Sophie studies in the United States. She is interested in culture and politics, and covers these subjects for Harbingers’ Magazine.
Once rendered mainstream, waves of contemporary feminist movements are often met with a similar reaction: a rejection of the notion that women face any oppression at all, which is encouraged by the approval received from such posturing. To some degree, bimbofication is kitsch. And as kitsch, it falls into the trap embedded into kitsch aesthetics: it makes a point of being subversive, and yet, wanting to spend all your time shopping is not truly radical or disruptive to capitalism.
That being said, the recent overturning of Roe v Wade shows just how pervasive and insidious misogyny remains. A solidified movement is important, and though bimboism is unlikely to abolish all operations of gender hierarchy, its efforts are nonetheless worthwhile. Aestheticization, after all, is not indicative of trivialisation.