Gen Z is reclaiming a once-derogatory word to challenge how society treats women: 'Become everything men want'

Kelsey Weekman
·8-min read

Have you ever found yourself waiting in line for the bathroom at a bar when out of no where, a beautiful, possibly intoxicated stranger pays you a compliment as if you’ve been best friends for life?

The spirit of this “club bathroom girl” lives on the most uplifting corner of the internet — it’s flashy, positive and filled with beautiful, smiling people. Welcome to BimboTok.

BimboTok is the ‘club bathroom’ of the 2020s internet

BimboTok is a subculture of TikTok users who have reclaimed the word “bimbo” in a positive way to create a supportive and inclusive community of hyperfeminine people who support body confidence and are fashion-forward and “generally ditzy in an endearing way,” BimboTok member @bimbogoth explained to In The Know.

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“A bimbo is someone with an exaggerated, artificial exterior with a heart of gold inside,” she said.

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The once-derogatory term that previously described attractive but unintelligent women now has a “New Age” definition that calls for empowerment driven by femininity. That femininity doesn’t breed cattiness, though, and members of BimboTok are all about smashing that “mean girl” stereotype.

“Being really sweet and nonjudgemental is what being a bimbo is all about,” BimboTok member Hannah Foran said in a video titled “How to be a bimbo 101.”

TikTok user @FauxRich told In The Know that being a bimbo means being self-aware and liberated. It’s all about being your authentic self, and through that, supporting the authentic selves of everyone around you.

“You can sit with us,” she said, paying homage to the movie Mean Girls. “I feel like I can be best friends with … 99 percent of people I meet. It just makes life so much more fun.”

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“Do you support all women regardless of their job title and if they had plastic surgery or body modifications?” @FauxRich asked in a viral TikTok. “I’m no doctor, but I think you may be a new age bimbo. It’s my diagnosis. Treatment is Juicy Couture and pink glitter.

How bimbos have evolved over the last century

In November 2020, Rolling Stone declared that bimbos are back. The New Age bimbos of BimboTok are different than those of the past, though.

“The word ‘bimbo’ has a bad [rap] … because of misogyny and second-wave feminism,” @FauxRich told In The Know. Second-wave feminism empowered women and pushed for equality, but failed to recognize the unique needs of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.

Misogynists weaponized the term in the 20th century to shame and belittle women who embraced their femininity, like Dolly Parton, Anna Nicole Smith and Marilyn Monroe.

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“It’s the familiar incel cry: Society is spiraling out of control now that hot women have the power to reject them,” Michelle Santiago Cortés wrote in Refinery29. Men who considered themselves “involuntary celibates” blamed the concept of sexual liberation and the loss of the “smart, modest woman” for their inability to gain the interest of women. In reality, a bimbo can be all of those things.

In 2017, a lot of internet-savvy individuals came to know the term “bimbo” because of a meme depicting the “bimbofication,” or sexualization, of a woman. The meme, which began as niche art and wasn’t intended to be cultural commentary at all, has been used to criticize women who seemingly abandon intelligence to place value on their appearance.

Source: KnowYouMeme
Source: KnowYouMeme

To bimbos, though, it’s aspirational. With so much bad in the world, taking control of your physical appearance and finding community with others who also enjoy makeup and flashy clothes is a surefire way to feel good, at least for a moment.

Bimbos are not stupid — they are redefining the concept of intelligence altogether

One misconception often spread to devalue bimbos is the idea that to be a beautiful and liberated woman, you have to sacrifice your own intelligence.

“A bimbo may not be able to understand algebra, but they can understand fighting for basic human rights,” @bimbogoth told In The Know. “Just because I failed a couple of math classes and preferred picking out outfits rather than studying didn’t mean I couldn’t be smart.”

@FauxRich agreed that intelligence doesn’t exist on a “flat, straight spectrum.”

“Just because someone’s an astrophysicist, doesn’t mean that they are going to know that Justin Bieber had the most Twitter followers in 2013,” she explained. “Every person I meet … I’m going to know something they don’t know, regardless of what other people believe my intelligence level is.”

In an interview with Refinery29, BimboTok member Chrissy Chlapecka said bimbos reject “what men specifically think intelligence is.”

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When a bimbo asks why we can’t just “print more money,” it doesn’t mean she doesn’t understand the economy. It’s challenging what it truly means to be intelligent, pushing against how “elitist and classist” academia is and doing so in a way that challenges societal norms without denying what is authentic to them.

Bimbos reject the concept of the ‘male gaze’ and focus on self-expression

Though bimbos (and their counterparts, known as “himbos” and “thembos”) can be of all genders, they reject the notion that their hyperfeminine appearance is playing into the “male gaze.”

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The male gaze is a term used to describe how women are often portrayed in popular culture as objects meant to inspire pleasure for heterosexual men. So, for instance, when bimbos dress beautifully, some critics say that they are doing so just to get attention.

“There were a lot of feminists who believed that being girly just admittedly adheres to the male gaze and it goes straight into what misogyny wants,” @FauxRich explained. “Does [looking like this] mean my body automatically adheres to misogyny? No, this is just my body.”

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Dressing up, indulging in glamorous outfits and wearing whatever you want is liberating. When bimbos dress up, they do it to express themselves, not to impress onlookers — although there’s nothing wrong with being admired. In fact, it’s a great way to draw attention to what you have to say and the causes you believe in.

“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.,” TikToker @bimbokate wrote in a viral post. “Reverse the fetishization of femininity.”

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@FauxRich, who is Mexican American, said subverting the male gaze and other societal expectations is particularly challenging for so-called “bimbos of color.” She said she has to work “three times as hard” to get the respect she deserves.

“When you are a person of color, you are told not to be so girly and so overtly obvious … constantly throughout your life,” she said. “To finally be my most authentic self without having it to be strictly about my skin tone or what my face looks like … genuinely makes me feel as though this community is moving forward.”

@FauxRich explained that “classic bimbo activities” like shopping, doing your makeup and hair, wearing “the best outfit for no reason,” looking extra at the grocery store and “making out with anyone at a party because you just know you’re hot” can also be forms of self-care.

“If you look good, you feel good,” she said. “If you have the energy to get up every day and [do those things], that says a lot about a person’s mental health.”

How can someone become a bimbo?

Being a bimbo is pretty easy, actually.

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“Nobody can tell you what to do or how to label yourself,” BimboTok member @GriffinMaxwellBrooks said in a viral post. “All that matters is that you are physically and mentally hot and sexy on your own terms.”

Since the BimboTok community is so inclusive, there isn’t a high barrier for entry, and once you’re in, it’s not very competitive, either. @FauxRich said most members of BimboTok know each other and comment constantly on each other’s posts. They’re also quick to welcome new members into the fold.

“Young people see me and my friends living their most true, authentic lives … being ourselves, having fun and looking hot while doing it,” @FauxRich said. “True self-love and true self-acceptance are the first steps to becoming a bimbo … It is a journey … I faked it until I made it and people found that so relatable.”

Above all else, it’s an aspirational title. You’ll know when you get there, and you’ll be welcomed by the enthusiastic club of bathroom girls.

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If you enjoyed this story, read more about the changemakers In The Know is honoring for Women’s History Month.

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