By Adina Bresge in Toronto
Fiona Fairbairn had a lot on her mind. Then she realized: that was the problem. She thought too much, so she decided to stop.
“I’m sick of perceiving. I’m sick of being observational. I’m sick of being self-aware,” Fairbairn told her 8,000 TikTok followers on Dec. 23. “Just let me be dumb, because people with no critical thinking skills be happy as hell.”
“No thoughts, just vibes.”
This became the Toronto university student’s mantra as she resolved that 2022 would be her year of “bimbofication.”
The transition turned her into an anti-thought leader in an online subculture of the “new-age bimbo,” which seeks to reclaim the archetype of the brainless bombshell as a subversive feminist statement. The movement has gained steam on social media platforms such as TikTok, where videos with the hashtag “bimbo” have racked up about 1.5 billion views.
Roughly 177,000 TikTokers are following Fairbairn, who goes by the handle @gsgetlonelytoo, as she leverages what she sees as society’s low expectations of her as a Black, Indigenous woman to get what she wants with a bat of her fanned-out false eyelashes.
“People are going to misunderstand us, and they’re going to underestimate us,” she says in an interview.
“Instead of putting all of our energy into saying, ‘oh, but look what I did,’ just say, ‘OK, I guess I am those things.’ And then when it comes to proving ourselves, the results will pay off.”
Experts argue the “new-age bimbo” is the product of a world where women strive to “have it all” in a system stacked against them and where femininity is both revered and reviled, commodified and devalued.
Bimboism reconciles these paradoxical pressures by taking gender stereotypes to their logical extreme, embracing hyper-femininity while being willfully oblivious to the judgments that may bring.
The bimbo has historically been understood as a well-manicured ditz who’s as shallow as she is sexy. From Marilyn Monroe to Britney Spears, bimbo icons have historically embodied the male-gaze fantasies of their day, but have tended to be white, blond and slender.
The modern iteration of the trope adopts a more inclusive view of femininity as it extends across body type, race, sexuality and gender. This includes a male counterpart known as the “himbo” and the non-binary “thembo.”
Many top creators on so-called BimboTok sport a hyper-saturated, shimmering pink style that is best described as Barbie after dark. But bimboism isn’t about any particular fashion so much as an exaggerated esthetic that celebrates beauty as a mode of self-expression.
Fairbairn, 20, is a bimbo in the vein of Alicia Silverstone’s Cher from the 1995 teen comedy “Clueless,” with her preppy designer-filled wardrobe, luxe “stay-at-home-daughter” lifestyle and cosmetic commitment to looking like a real-life beauty filter.
The winking shrewdness of Fairbairn’s “Bimbo Manifesto” belies her claims of vapidity. The pre-law student at Toronto Metropolitan University is the first to admit that her bimbo persona is, in large part, a performance. But there’s sincerity behind the social media shtick, she insists.
In “The Bimbo Manifesto” podcast, Fairbairn encourages listeners to shed concerns about fulfilling or defying other people’s expectations and focus on themselves instead.
“Don’t ask what misogyny does to you; ask what it can do for you,” Fairbairn says in the inaugural episode, titled “Aristotle But Hotter.”
One of the aims of bimboism is to lead a “soft life” characterized by ease and comfort, Fairbairn says in an interview. She contends such a message is particularly resonant for women of colour who often face acute pressure to be “the strong independent one.”
“A lot of Black and Indigenous women don’t let people help them,” she says. “I’m saying, why don’t you let people help you sometimes?”
Shena Kaul, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Calgary, sees the bimbo reclamation as a countervailing force to the “girl power” zeitgeist of the late 1990s and early 2000s that proclaimed that “girls can do anything” — if they buy the right accessories.
This manufactured feminism sold empowerment as an individualistic enterprise, rather than a collective struggle against sexism and oppression, says Kaul.
But as the “girl power” millennial grew up into the “girl boss,” it became clear that the pressure to simultaneously be the perfect woman, worker, partner and parent only reinforces patriarchal power structures, she says.
Rather than lean into these demands, the Generation-Z bimbo brandishes “girl power” sparkle to advocate for social and political change, says Kaul.
For example, BimboTok breakout Chrissy Chlapecka, who has 4.5 million followers on the platform, has defined the bimbo as a “radical leftist” who supports Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ+ community and reproductive rights.
“They are choosing to unlearn patriarchal limitations and actively advocate for better, more equitable change,” says Kaul. “And you can do all that while looking hot.”
For Kirsti Smith, a ceramic artist in Peterborough, Ont., bimboism has given her the confidence to live in full colour rather than mute herself to fit the mould of the male-dominated crafts scene.
The 26-year-old says she was told her penchant for adorning her art with flowers, hearts and rainbows would guarantee that she would “never be taken seriously.”
For a while, Smith tried to conform to masculine-coded styles, but she kept coming back to her “cute” sculptures.
When she discovered the online world of bimbos, Smith says she finally found a community where femininity is celebrated rather than scorned. She believes bimboism could represent a “contemporary wave of feminism,” and we’re only starting to see what the power of pink can do.
“I think we’re going to have a lot of confident and independent young women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds,” Smith says. “Women that aren’t just living in a man’s world, but creating their own worlds.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2022.
Feature image – The creator of the “Bimbo Manifesto,” Fiona Fairbairn, 19, poses for a portrait at her home in Thornhill, Ont., Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. “I’m sick of perceiving. I’m sick of being observational. I’m sick of being self-aware,” Fairbairn told her 8,000 TikTok followers on Dec. 23. “Just let me be dumb, because people with no critical thinking skills be happy as hell.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young.