Chrissy Chlapecka twirls in front of her mirror in a Paas-colored minidress and matching faux-fur trimmed coat, her long platinum hair pulled back into two pigtails. “Hi. Welcome to Bimbo TikTok,” she says breathily, mouth half open, a vacant stare in her impeccably made up eyes. “You’re probably wondering how you got here. Are you a leftist who likes to have your tits out? Do you like to flick off pro lifers? Then this is the place for you. Are you good at math? Are you good at reading? Well, then if you are, how?”
Chlapecka is one of the de facto leaders of BimboTok, a glittery island in the middle of the wasteland of TikTok’s infinite scroll, where “girls, gays, and theys,” per Chlapecka’s verbiage, engage in a collective performance of hyperfemininity. The bimbo has radically transformed since its years as a tabloid mainstay, when it was used pejoratively to describe everyone from President Bill Clinton’s paramours to Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White, as misogynistic shorthand for a vapid, attractive young woman. “It’s such an old school term and all of a sudden it’s become kind of a trend in a way,” says Chlapecka, a 20-year-old Chicago-based barista with more than 475,000 followers, who is leading the charge to transform the bimbo into an all-inclusive, gender-neutral leftist icon.
In some respects, the bimbo hasn’t changed much since the naissance of the term in the early 20th century, when it was used to describe both men and women with diminished intellectual capacities. (The male equivalents, “himbo” and “mimbo,” wouldn’t come to being in the lexicon until the late 1980s.) The bimbo speaks in a flutey, birdlike tone (think a drag queen doing an Ariana Grande impersonation) and has a predilection for push-up bras, ponytails, and copious amounts of winged eyeliner. They wear short dresses and long coats and gold hoops paired with Juicy Couture sweatsuits (which have made a comeback along with early-2000s fashion and are in high demand on the clothing reselling platform Depop) and Viktor and Rolf’s Flowerbomb (or, if you’re on a budget, Victoria’s Secret body spray). Role models include Cardi B, Anna Faris’ character in The House Bunny, porn stars-turned-viral sensations the Cock Destroyers, and the OG smart dumb blonde: Paris Hilton.
In recent years, the bimbo has made something of a resurgence in meme form thanks in part to the popularization of “bimbofication,” a niche erotica fetish that involves the transformation of an understated, normal-looking woman (or man) into a surgically enhanced, spray-tanned camp icon. Influencers like the Danish model and sex worker Alicia Amira, who markets herself on Instagram as the “founder of the bimbo movement,” have built sizable followings leaning into the aesthetic. Among the Gen Z creators on TikTok, however, the bimbo has evolved into an aspirational figure, acquiring something of a political iconography in itself. As defined by Chlapecka and her fellow BimboTokers, the bimbo is staunchly pro-sex work, pro-LGBTQ, pro-BLM, and anti-straight white male; in one of her videos, among the 10 “cummandments” listed in Chlapecka’s “Bimbo Bibble” are “birth control,” “bark at straight people,” and “men stop.”
Perhaps most surprisingly, the Gen Z bimbo is anti-capitalist (indeed, Chlapecka hashtags many of her TikToks #ihatecapitalism). Of course, there’s more than a whiff of irony here, as the bimbo aesthetic is in many ways predicated on consumerist values: as Syrena, who goes by @fauxrich on TikTok, puts it, “it costs a lot of money to be hyperfeminine. Makeup costs a lot of money: primer, eyeliner, lashes. Then there’s the hair, the nails, the clothes. Fillers, Botox, surgeries, that costs thousands of dollars.”
But most bimbos will tell you that bimbofication is less about the ability to afford $40 primer at Sephora and more about a state of mind. “Even though the aesthetic is rooted in consumerism and being all about money and things, we’re trying to push it the opposite way,” says Griffin Maxwell Brooks, a 19-year-old mechanical and engineering aerospace student at Princeton University. “The modern bimbo aesthetic is more about a state of mind and embracing, ‘I want to dress however I want and look hot and not cater to your expectations.’” On TikTok, Brooks favors glittery mesh tops, jangly earrings, jewel-toned hair dye and bedazzled combat boots; with Chlapecka, he is one of the unofficial leaders of the bimbo movement on TikTok, going viral in October with a video of him summarizing the bimbo aesthetic. “The bimbo is not only blissfully and ignorant and spacey but exists at the aesthetic intersection of tackiness and luxury,” they say in the video. “To be a bimbo, one must let go of their former earthly possessions and relationships to adopt a gaudy yet lonely lifestyle.”
Initially, Brooks received some flak for their use of the term in the video; some assumed that they were using the trope as a way to poke fun at female stereotypes and deride women. Brooks, who identifies as non-binary, denies that was their intention. For them, bimbofication is a way to subvert traditional expectations associated with gender and sexuality. “There’s a lot of internalized homophobia in the gay community,” they say. “In adopting this very feminine aesthetic at times, one of the things I had to do was be OK with no longer fitting this mold so some gay men will not be attracted to me.” For them, bimbofication “isn’t about acting in a way that caters to what men are attracted to. it’s about looking how we want to look, and if that was initially about catering to the male gaze, we’re taking that back.”
“I see it as a way of tackling gender oppression and stereotyping and gender norms,” says Kate Muir, a London-based TikTok creator who goes by @bimbokate. One of her most popular videos features her preening in front of a mirror with the caption, “Being a self-aware bimbo is amazing: you become everything men want visually whilst also being everything they hate (self-aware, sexually empowered, politically conscious, etc.) Reverse the fetishisation of femininity.” Part of the goal of such content, she says, is to present a stereotypically feminine message accompanied by a caption that undercuts the visual message, thus creating a jarring cognitive dissonance and discomfort for the (straight, male) viewer. (This is, apparently, quite an effective tactic: Muir says the vast majority of her hate comments are from straight men, an experience shared by the other female-identified BimBoTok creators interviewed for this piece.) For her, BimboTok is “definitely a feminist movement.”
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All of this might have the ring of familiarity. In many respects, the valorization of the bimbo mirrors what writer Ariel Levy wrote about in her 2005 book Female Chauvinist Pigs, women who had internalized the patriarchal values of Playboy and Girls Gone Wild to such an extreme degree that they willingly participated in their own objectification. And indeed, there are many — particularly feminists over the age of 30, who have lived through multiple cycles of various forms of subjugation being marketed as empowering — who balk at the term. “Officially viewing the word ‘bimbo’ as a fucked up thing to say,” viral tweet read. “I’m okay with women who have obviously been called it many times reclaiming it — but if you don’t look like a hyper sexual person and you use that word I feel like you hate women.”
In the midst of the endless vagaries of 2020, however, with much of Gen Z saddled with student debt and skyrocketing unemployment, leaning into bimbofication may be one of the more healthier forms of stress relief out there. “It’s not about being ignorant. You’re letting go of your consciousness in order to achieve this higher level of enlightenment,” says Brooks. “You’re aware of all the shit that’s going on around you, but you’re letting go of it because you want to live the life of being pretty and walking around.” Don’t hate them because they’re beautiful — ask yourself why you’re not.