Ava Caudle ’25
Much has changed since the days of butterfly clips and baby tees, including the ways women perceive themselves. Many of the hyper-feminine trends and attitudes from decades ago have cemented their places in current culture, with updates to suit the times. The starlets and socialites that epitomized the 2000s were once a symbol of desperation to stay afloat in a competitive celebrity culture that prioritized fake tans and sexualized pop stardom. These “old bimbos” feuded over men and cat-fought over tabloid time. Magazines and the noughties’ rampantly toxic beauty standards resulted in many women who wanted to be them, but simultaneously resented their fame and sex appeal.
In the context of 2023, we mere mortals on social media control the narrative, and our pages contain an array of makeup-oriented, maximalist, or anti-office-work content from women. Modern “bimbos” have rebranded into socially conscious, unconcerned girls’ girls who choose kindness and aren’t afraid to make a statement… accompanied by glitter eye shadow, of course. To post on social media as a stereotypically Barbie-esque woman is no longer an ironic put-down of those who happen to like pink or short dresses; it is an affirmation that a woman deserves to live her chosen life of high heels or flirtation without guilt.
While “bimbo-core” has sustained on social media for over a year, the rise of “girl math” falls within its narrative. Girl math, one of the internet’s favorite inside jokes right now, rewrites common financial rules for the sake of shopping, Starbucks runs, and other traditionally feminine activities. A half-off dress amounting to $50 on sale, for example, actually means that someone is saving $50, since the original price was $100. This trend reinforces the resurgence of retail therapy as a proud, stress-free, “girly” endeavor.
On a personal note, I am more than happy to eat crow when it comes to this subject. A piece of mine from last year focused on how concerning the re-introduction of 2000s trends could be for women due to the trends’ history of degrading women’s bodies— while my own views are a bit more nuanced now, the line of thinking still holds water when applied to its larger hyper-femininized ideals. Phenomena like “bimbo” culture and jokes about girl math only revive gendered stereotypes, some have argued, making them destructive ideas that set back women’s social progress. The current aesthetics and lingo overlap with a time period that used these stereotypes to spew venom at women, so what makes it any different this time around?
Herein lies the appeal of hyper-feminine aesthetics today: ultra-femininity is no longer a gatekept mark of the rich and famous, nor is it as much of a forced role that women must be pigeon-holed into. Social media and more diverse marketing campaigns for everyday products have normalized a more varied image of what a woman looks or acts like. With more accessible standards and increased support by and for women, anyone can become a “bimbo” if they identify with the traits or looks of one. The women promoting the culture nowadays are overwhelmingly choosing to do so of their own volition, embracing the title in a way that the Lindsay Lohans or Paris Hiltons of yesterday did not have the agency to.
One could raise arguments about the longterm effects of promoting excess consumerism or superficiality, both of which are valid issues worthy of examination. That said, “bimbo-core” and hyper-feminine values could still exist without a capitalist structure to provide cute clothing or makeup. The overarching mentality behind “bimbo” posts or content is not to claim that a woman is nothing without her bags or lip gloss. It is the mindset that all women, no matter the avenue, deserve to feel attractive, lively, and confident. Not everybody embodies an ultra-feminine aesthetic, but everybody can embody its ideal: for our worthiness to come from within, whether that’s wearing a miniskirt or pencil skirt.