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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Ashoka chapter.

Edited by: Stuti Sharma

In recent decades, feminism has undergone various waves, each with its unique characteristics. The latest surge, fueled by the power of social media, has given rise to what some call the “bimbofication” of feminism.

Merriam-Webster defines the term bimbo as an “attractive but vacuous woman”. This term was earlier used as a slang and a derogatory term to describe a person, typically a woman, who is perceived as being attractive but is also as being unintelligent or superficial. 

However, social media activists decided to “reclaim” this word in a positive manner. The reclamation process involved taking ownership of the word and reshaping its meaning to promote empowerment, self-expression, and body positivity.

In certain online spaces, particularly within feminist and sex-positive communities, individuals have sought to reclaim “bimbo” by redefining it as a term that celebrates self-confidence, sexual autonomy, and challenging conventional beauty standards. This reappropriation aims to subvert the negative stereotypes associated with the term and empower individuals to embrace their own definitions of beauty and intelligence.

While these intentions initially seem positive, the consequences of integrating this reclaimed term into feminism have raised concerns. I will be honest: I played along at the beginning, thinking of it as a positive thing reinforcing the same ideals and values that feminists long before our time had fought for but, this rise of “bimbo-fying” feminism has led to influencers watering down concepts by calling them “girl-math” and “girl-terms”, and has led to anti-intellectualism as a whole. Influencers online “explain” global incidents, economic issues, and financial advice in “girl-terms” in order to explain to women what these things mean. It is as if women don’t have the intellect to understand these subjects without bimbo-core feminists watering down these concepts for them. 

Adding “girl” as a modifier can be perceived as a form of patronising or infantilising, suggesting that women need a modified, simplified version of math or intellectualism. This can be counterproductive, as it may discourage women from engaging with these fields at their full, unaltered complexity. It reinforces the idea that women need a diluted version rather than being fully capable of mastering and contributing to these areas on equal terms with men.

The use of “girl math” suggests that there is a distinct and separate form of math or intellectualism associated with women. This implies that women’s abilities in these areas are somehow different or inferior to those of men. Such distinctions undermine the feminist goal of promoting equality by reinforcing traditional gender roles and expectations.

These terms can reinforce harmful stereotypes by implying that women inherently approach math or intellectual pursuits differently based on their gender. This can contribute to the stereotype that women are not as competent or serious in these fields as men, which can discourage women from pursuing careers or interests in intellectual streams like STEM. The reinforcement of a gender binary through terms like “girl” risks perpetuating these stereotypes, limiting the possibilities for individuals to express themselves authentically. Feminism encourages a more nuanced understanding of gender, recognising that everyone is unique and cannot be neatly categorised into predefined roles.

This is especially damaging for women who work in male-dominated fields such as STEM because they already have to go to lengths to prove that they are just as good as their male counterparts at their jobs, their research, and their work. So, why do we need an invention of girl math to distinguish ourselves further?

Feminism, as a social and political movement, has long advocated for the dismantling of traditional gender roles and the binary understanding of gender. The creation and reinforcement of a gender binary, including the use of modifiers like “girl” to denote certain characteristics or behaviours, directly contradict fundamental feminist ideals. Feminism challenges essentialist views that prescribe fixed characteristics or roles based on gender. The concept of a gender binary implies that certain traits, behaviours, and roles are inherently tied to being either a “girl” or a “boy,” perpetuating essentialist thinking. 

Now, I don’t want to be considered a party pooper because I enjoy pop-culture slang just as much as any other person; I, too, enjoy discovering new, fun words to use in conversations online or in real life with friends. I, too, went along with the rise of girl math, enjoying the fact that this could be a new, fun way to enjoy my femininity and excuse the horrendous dealing of my monthly expenses (sorry, Dad). I thought this was a seemingly harmless trend without understanding my own shortcomings. But listening to other feminists about why this fun little TikTok shtick is, in fact, not as harmless as I earlier thought it to be. It’s important to be able to make the distinction between fun internet slang and the harmful binary enforcing trends.

Hi! I'm Sanjana Gundu, a freshman at Ashoka University with an intended major in Economics. I enjoy reading women's fiction, contemporary romance, and fantasy, and I love watching sitcoms. I'm quite chronically online and have had Twitter since 2019, so any conversation about pop culture excites me.