Allison Huang / Daily Nexus

As a girl who likes to dress like a fantasy video game character whenever possible, I dread the day I go to the mechanic. In all my years, I’ve never felt like less of a feminist than when I’m dressed hyperfemininely and staring blankly at someone who asked me what the make and model of my car is. 

I feel like the stereotype — the airheaded, overdressed girl who doesn’t know the first thing about cars. The worst part is that I don’t even have a witty comeback, a Legally Blonde “gotcha” moment where I prove myself competent. I feel like, as the kids say, a bimbo. 

For those of you who aren’t chronically online, the traditional definition of a bimbo is a derogatory term, referring to a girl who is hyperfeminine, hypersexual and unintelligent. Bimbo feminism, therefore, is the idea that it’s okay to be a bimbo. 

Recently, we’ve seen a rise in trends like “explaining things for the girls” (inflation is when, like, if all the girls get diamond rings for free, diamond rings aren’t all that special anymore), “girl math” (I spent $15 on groceries for the week, which is cheaper than eating out, so I can buy a coffee today and it’s basically free!), and “I’m just a girl” (yes, my top streamed song last year is “Karma” by Taylor Swift featuring Ice Spice and what about it? I’m literally just a girl).

For the vast majority of people, that’s pretty much it: passing jokes here and there that poke fun at one’s own leaps in logic, odd mistakes and lack of knowledge in a subject. For the past few months, these jokes have infiltrated the language of my friend group. 

However, this general trend has been under plenty of criticism for infantilization of women, reinforcing stereotypes, being another form of choice feminism, being anti-intellectualist, so on and so forth. Some of this is, perhaps, well-deserved, but the discourse is almost overwhelmingly one-sided. If this is the case, why am I, and so many other people so drawn to it? 

While far from perfect, I think bimbo feminism has a lot more nuance to it than people give it credit for. Touting the hyperfeminine aesthetics and pinks of the early 2000s, bimbo feminism struck a chord with a population of women who are experiencing incredible pressure while moving into historically male-dominated spaces because it grants them a place in feminism to make mistakes — to be loud and wrong — and still be okay. No, not just okay, iconic.

For a woman to be taken seriously in a male-dominated field, she doesn’t just have to perform as well as her male counterparts, she has to perform better.  Study after study shows that women are still working more and being paid less, even after accounting for factors like job choices and hours worked. In fact, as soon as a field becomes more female-dominated, the average pay drops. For every man that gets applauded for having a favorite philosopher (“you know, I like all of them”), there’s a girl who read Voltaire in the original French and still has to pull out her philosophy degree for people to believe her.

For many women, mediocrity is not an option. To be respected, you must be, without a doubt, the absolute best. Insert “Barbie” movie monologue here. 

Suddenly, the performance of my gender is stifling. I cannot be feminine and taken seriously if I am not also forcibly the smartest person in every room I walk into that day. There is little place for expression of femininity in academics unless you’re the Elle Woods archetype. 

Bimbo feminism is a complete 180. It throws any sort of expectations of perfection in favor of an unabashed confidence, regardless of actual qualifications. It alleviates some of the intense shame that comes with failing to prove yourself. The major appeal of bimboism is not in its stupidity, it’s the freedom to be loud and wrong. If the patriarchy is an unstoppable force, bimboism is the immovable object.

Now, I’m not actively encouraging people to show up to their 8 a.m. section in a bikini (though if you wanted to, this would be the school to do it), but I am saying that feminine gender expression should not feel like it comes along with an even higher standard to prove yourself to. Bimbo feminism gives people the breathing room to escape a pressing need for professional perfection. 

Take “explaining things for the girls”, a trend that is heavily criticized for infantilizing women, implying that they aren’t capable of understanding higher-level, professional language. 

But no one is capable of that immediately. Using simple metaphors is an invaluable tool in education alongside mnemonic devices and flowcharts. We compare the kinetics of a chemical reaction to a food assembly line, and compare biological enzymes to staplers. We use stereotypically masculine metaphors, too. I hear football metaphors left and right. So what’s wrong with using stereotypically feminine metaphors towards a stereotypically feminine audience? Why do we suddenly reject different methods of education as soon as they’re targeted towards women? 

In linguistics, one of the fundamental ideas is that no language, dialect, or even slang is superior to another; no language indicates higher intelligence than another. Historically, people who use languages like creole dialects, African American vernacular English, or regional accents — especially those that originate from the working class — are taken less seriously than those who speak the “standard” English. 

I argue that the valley girl accent — and the image of the hyperfeminine woman as a whole — is no different. If you understand a concept, why does it matter what metaphor you used to get there? Why does it matter the language you express it in?

Without realizing it, many of us feel an instinctual disgust towards the hyperfeminine because they are the stereotypes we spent so long fighting in the academic space. To pull from psychologist Carl Jung, we hate in others what we hate — and have tried to bury — in ourselves. 

The rhetoric that those who speak “standard” English are more intelligent than others has been used for centuries to dismiss women and people of color and deny them higher education and positions of power. By listening to that knee-jerk reaction and automatically rejecting the image of the valley girl giving an upper division economics lecture, we are doing the same thing. We are pushing people who learn from simpler, feminine metaphors — metaphors targeted towards women — out of a space that they have already been historically excluded from. This method of learning tells the girls of average intelligence that they are capable of understanding difficult topics. Simplicity is not the enemy of academia. 

Obviously, there’s a line here. We should not explain centuries-long geopolitical wars and oppression with a makeup metaphor sandwiched between two sponsored Temu ads. Using metaphors — of any kind — runs the risk of losing nuance and downplaying the weight of a subject. There’s a time and place.

But when I’m sitting with my female friends in a library study room at midnight trying to understand inductive electron withdrawal using a frat party metaphor, it feels freeing. I’m not weighed down by jargon and a need for an air of professionality anymore. It’s just me, a friend and way too many chemical mechanisms to memorize by Monday. 

So yes, girl math is differential geometry, and yes, women can understand jargon, and yes, women are really smart. But women are not going to be perfect at everything, and should not have to be.

There’s an overarching desire here — wanting to go back to blissful innocence and ignorance. Coquette fashion, bows, Sanrio characters, the list goes on. The collective turned towards bimbo feminism for a reason, not just the pinks and designer bags. From childhood, girls are thrust into high-responsibility roles because they “mature faster” than boys. If “boys will be boys” from ages 3 to 30, why can’t I just be a girl for a little while longer?

Bimbo feminism should not be the be-all-end-all of someone’s feminism, but perhaps an addendum. A little voice to yourself that yes, I just embarrassed myself by spending $200 to get my oil changed at the mechanic and everyone there thinks I’m stupid, but honestly? Iconic. 

Elle Woods and Barbie show us we can be feminine and just as intelligent as any man, but Karen Smith and bimbo feminism tells us that we can be feminine and stupid and still be loved. There is — and must be — a place in feminism for women to be mediocre.  

Elizabeth Lee thinks we should all ask stupid things in class.