Have you seen the bimbofication meme? In most iterations, it depicts a woman in plain clothes holding a book and quizzically flipping through its pages. She then begins to stretch the book farther away from herself, and over time, becoming more scantily clad, drops the volume on the ground. Long blonde tresses, fuck-me shoes and a pink bodycon mini dress adorn her bodacious, fake-tanned figure. This transformation is bimbofication. A woman turning her back on scholarly material, on knowledge, on cognizance, is bimbofication.
If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a popular image of it:
When I think back to my first encounters with the word “feminism,” I think of the 19th Amendment that gave all women — in practice, only white women — the right to vote in America. This was my first encounter with the fact that women have been marginalized throughout history and that there was, and still is, an ongoing fight for liberation.
Feminism has evolved in many ways since its first wave at the end of the 19th century, when it centered around the role of women in a rapidly industrializing world. Though it was first created to uplift only white, wealthy women, there are now waves of feminism that include, and even focus on, sex workers, trans women and women of color. In the fight toward total and equitable women’s liberation, we still have a long way to go. And unfortunately, misconstruing the term “feminism” has led to many setbacks in the furthering of women’s equality around the world.
In recent history, feminism hasn’t exactly centered on uplifting all women of all walks of life. Baby boomers sought to advance the rights of women through corporate means. “Breaking the glass ceiling,” so to speak, was understood to be the ultimate achievement of a woman in a man’s world, hustling in corporate America alongside her male colleagues.
This so-called feminist rhetoric, in turn, demeaned women who chose to be stay-at-home moms and women who never had access to a high-powered career in the first place. Intersections of race, class, sexuality and other identities were cast to the wayside as women with privilege were empowered to rise to the top of the Fortune 500. Think: rich white woman in a power suit, Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In.” This iteration of feminism was completely blind to realities of inaccessibility, systemic racism and inequitable opportunities, and it remained complicit in the very systems that generate sexism: capitalism, the patriarchy and so on.
Once this ideation of feminism was introduced to the internet, we were gifted with the #GIRLBOSS trend. This was the ‘glass ceiling feminism’ reparceled for millennial consumption. Still completely corporate, the #GIRLBOSS movement praised women for their economic output and disregarded the immense privilege of crafting a go-getter mindset in a high-level workplace.
#GIRLBOSS was taken from the title of Sophia Amoruso’s autobiography, in which she tells the origin story of her fashion brand Nasty Gal. The term is deeply rooted in the notion of putting work above all else, and stopping at nothing to garner career success. Nowadays, the term is insulting, often existing as a “personification of tokenism and unhealthy attitudes” in the workplace.
It is especially tone deaf when we recognize the barriers women of color and trans women face when entering corporate America. While #GIRLBOSS may have begun as an empowering appreciation of a woman’s financial independence, it oozes with the same lackluster ideals of the corporate feminism before it, reinforcing the value of women solely based on their contributions to the economy and overlooking the non-inclusive, ignorant notion that all women have a chance to succeed in the workplace.
Flash forward to one of feminism’s newest iterations now: full of post-irony with regard to the #GIRLBOSS era that came shortly before it. With the resurgence of Paris Hilton’s popularity in online culture, the pink aesthetic of the early 2000s has been combined with the workings of 21st-century feminism to birth bimbofication. The bimbofication meme became a way to cope with the emergence of a new form of passive feminism: dissociative feminism.
Dissociative feminism, a term coined by Emmeline Clein of Buzzfeed, refers to the use of deadpan, nihilistic humor to cope with reductive ideas of womanhood. It is a form of feminism with no real outcome or imprint. To rephrase, dissociative feminism signifies an understanding that women will always remain marginalized. Instead of working to diminish sexism, a dissociative feminist would rather make fun of their marginalized condition and accept it as the only possible outcome.
In Clein’s article, she cites the British television series “Fleabag” as the catalyst of this moment in feminism. The dissociative feminist “medicates through sex, alcohol, and inflicting pain on others.” As a coping strategy, dissociative feminism captures the damsel in distress through a different perspective, wherein the damsel flocks to her distress.
The problem with this recent iteration of feminism is this: engaging in dissociative feminism means staying complicit in heteropatriarchal colonial institutions — like European beauty standards and the wage gap — and believing that the acknowledgement of women’s struggle is as good as taking action. The bimbofication process descends from this brand of feminism, retreating to the subservient, frivolous role that has been imposed on women for much of history. The oversexualization of the female body and the depiction of women as unintelligent — with the woman abandoning her book in favor of a pink clutch — is a harmful ploy to reinforce heteropatriarchy.
However, by overdoing this self-degradation in an intentionally artificial way, bimbofication works beyond the passivity of dissociative feminism, with a subversion of the once-harmful stereotypes of women who love pink and are often half-clothed.
To self-bimbofy means not only feeding into gender norms, but also embracing and simultaneously subverting them. Yes, the stereotype of a dumb, curvy blonde woman is exhausted and degrading. But to look and act like this as a conscious choice is a form of resistance. If someone calls me a bimbo and I embrace it as a compliment, I am stripping the insult of its power. Choosing to be perceived like this is a revolutionary act against sexist rhetoric because it renders this language useless in keeping women down.
Bimbofication reflects this passive approach to feminism, but in a way that illustrates the complex humor-mechanisms that Gen Z uses to resist larger structures. Instead of bottling up our experiences of sexism and letting them ruin our lives, bimbofication lets women show the world what it has wanted from us all along. To actively choose to play into the stereotypes of women is a post-ironic game. Women are told that we are dumb and useless. When we display these traits in a gratuitous way, it is a secret that only the bimbofied can understand.
Bimbofication is a profoundly subversive act that revolutionizes the idea of a woman’s choice. In it, we can choose to defy corporate feminism, which tells us that a woman’s purpose is to expand the economy as efficiently as her male counterpart does. We can play dumb as a way of being less productive, because we understand that productivity is not everything.
Bimbofication is also a challenge to misogyny, which holds that women should dress modestly and be subservient to men. As a way of breaking these molds, bimbofication enables women to reclaim the degrading rhetoric characteristic of the patriarchy. Think of the boys who bullied you in elementary school, claiming that your pink clothes must denote your weakness and that you must be bad at math since you’re a girl.
Bimbofication is the post-ironic response to larger issues of misogyny and sexism, empowering women to let the world think of them as stupid and vain. Transposing onto reality, bimbofication takes the shape of many influencers on TikTok, Instagram and other social sites, namely, Chrissy Chlapecka.
Chrissy Chlapecka — a 21-year-old Barbie-like blonde from Chicago — is at the forefront of this movement. Across social media, she is an explosion of sparkles and pink. Most of her content focalizes her queer identity and being true to her own story, which she shares to her followers in her vocal-fried, nasally pitch. She also posts silly videos that make sense only to those who’ve had hyper-feminized experiences, like getting an ear piercing at Claire’s.
Beyond her comedic presence, she is a source of positivity and confidence for her more than 4 million TikTok followers. In a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune, Chlapecka explains that her hope is to be an “older sister” for her viewers who, like herself, did not always hear messages of being unapologetic and genuine. This is the true power that bimbofication can harness.
However, like most internet offspring, the meme does not come without its faults. It is a white European approach to reclaiming one’s own body that reflects immense privilege, especially when the right to bodily autonomy has been stolen from many women around the world. And, not all women who may choose to partake in bimbofication feel safe doing so.
Moreover, when much of the bimbofication aesthetic originates from underground queer communities, the meme’s ‘camp’ approach could be interpreted as an appropriation of queer culture. Though somewhat hard to define, camp is mainly an appreciation for intentional artifice and fakeness, centering subjects that are, “deliciously over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek, in earnestness or in jest; they breathe parody and irony.” Historically, participating in the camp aestheitc has provided a, “way for queer people…to connect in solidarity and survive injustice with humor.”
As bimbofication praises the exaggerated stereotypes of femininity, it falls in line with this aesthetic culture, opting for hyper-blonde hair and supersized breasts as a kind of politically-placed hyperbole.
Without any credit to the queer communities who invented the term, the campness of bimbofication feels like a co-optation of queer aesthetics. And the Pleaser shoes — commonly worn by strippers and sex workers — shown on a white, educated woman, could be construed as whitewashing the aesthetics of sex work in a spectacle of virtual cultural appropriation. With this in mind, I believe there is hope for an ethical and inclusive bimbofication movement for all women.
For me, bimbofication exists as direct action against the rhetoric that has kept women from wearing tiny dresses and loving the color pink.
I love the feeling of reclaiming my appearance and embracing this as a form of resistance to the world we live in. I keep a tube of lipgloss in every purse I own; I show up to college parties half-naked. As a young girl, I would receive criticisms of my pink, sparkly cowgirl boots and my entirely pink closet of poofy dresses. In middle school, a boy in my math class told me I was stupid simply because I am a girl. I now take advantage of the stereotypes that have kept me down throughout my life. I use them to empower myself. I am hot and smart and, most importantly, I still love the color pink.
The emerging bimbofication movement offers inclusivity for all who choose to be a bimbo. It is a powerful tool that can empower women to subvert the harmful rhetoric weaponized against them. Bimbofication is by no means an end goal of bodily autonomy, but rather a starting point for finding joy in this process.
Far from the ideals of corporate feminism, bimbofication is a way for women to value themselves apart from their productivity or worth in the eyes of men. In choosing to bimbofy ourselves, we are actively resisting the sexist systems that have kept us from expressing our sexuality and personality freely. We no longer fear the insults of looking slutty or appearing dumb.
We are the first ones who know that these words aren’t true, and we can keep the rest of the world guessing if we’d like.
Statement Columnist Martha Starkel can be reached at email@example.com.