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How young women are facilitating and challenging feminist discourse on TikTok

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On #BimboTok, Chrissy Chlapecka is queen. The TikTokker, who joined the platform in 2020 and currently boasts over 4 million followers, is known for her unapologetic attitude and no-filter comments. 

In recent months, bimbofication has become a focus within feminist communities, especially on TikTok, with creators like Chlapecka helping bring the topic into mainstream discussion. 

“Bimboism means liberating yourself, your body, and your aesthetic to be what you want them to be without the judgment of others,” Chlapecka told Lithium Magazine in April.  

There are over 63.8 million views under the BimboTok tag on the platform, and many of the videos are young people, specifically the “girls, gays, and theys” referenced in Chlapecka’s TikToks, with content ranging from OOTDs to relationship advice to day-in-the-life edits.

On TikTok, we’ve seen a range of groups and discussions forming, with one of the most prominent topics of discussion being feminism. Conversations from internalized misogyny to capitalist feminism are just a few of the topics young women are having on the app.

According to Wall Room Media, as of September 2021, 60 percent of TikTok’s 130 million monthly active users in the United States are female, with 60 percent of all users in the United States also between the ages of 16 and 24. With such a large portion of women, especially young women, using the app, it was inevitable for discourse around feminism and the female experience to occur.


On TikTok, Gen Z is recentering the conversation… creating trends that directly call out the previous generation’s idea of feminism.

Of course feminist discourse manifests in many ways. With the rise of social media in the 2010s came the era of the #girlboss, where Millennial pink was plastered on every post alongside inspirational platitudes. As social media boomed, the conversation around feminism grew with it — and, importantly, evolved. The girlboss discourse has been maligned and memeified for its white, cis view of feminism. It isn’t enough to center women atop corporate hierarchies; you have to dismantle the misogynist, racist structures that uphold them. 

Now on TikTok, Gen Z is recentering the conversation altogether and creating trends that directly call out the previous generation’s idea of feminism. 

In recent months, in addition to bimbofication, we’ve seen trends such as “me before and after I stopped dressing for the male gaze” and “POV: you are a woman written by a man.”

As both a prominent user of the app myself, and a young Gen Z woman, I find this discourse necessary because whilst the idea of the male gaze — the act of sexualizing women through a heterosexual, masculine lens — isn’t a new phenomenon, TikTok is allowing these conversations, often led by young women, to be had on a global scale. 

For example, take the “me before and after I stopped dressing for the male gaze” trend that took off in October of last year. Women would show old pictures of themselves in outfits they believed satisfied the male gaze, followed by more recent photos that embody a different fashion sense, one free from the male gaze.

However, it has been highlighted by many creators that it seems the majority of the videos under this trend should be renamed to “before and after I started dressing with the current trends” — as many of the before pictures appear to show tight-fitting outfits popular in the 2010s, and the after pictures highlight the baggier ‘fits popular now. 

There’s also the idea that you can’t actually stop dressing for the male gaze because it penetrates every aspect of women’s lives. Creator @clarice.ice.baby uses the Margaret Atwood quote “even pretending you aren’t catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy […] you are a woman with a man inside watching a woman. You are your own voyeur.” The male gaze is heavily embedded into our society, to the point where I often cannot separate my identity from who I am and who I believe I should be; I often feel the need to perform my own gender and sexuality for the omnipresent male gaze. That’s not to say that every woman craves male validation, because the male gaze and male validation are different concepts.

The male gaze is something many view as inescapable, it is an inherent, deep-rooted aspect of a patriarchal society. Male validation is seeking value and approval from men. Even though the two are similar, and male validation is rooted in the ideas of the male gaze, it can be argued that the male gaze is something passive while seeking male validation is active.

“Bimbofication” was portrayed as a movement of changing ideas. Bimbo, previously used as a misogynistic insult, was reclaimed by women online. They began to ask, what was so wrong with being a pretty air-head? Creator @fauxrich defined a bimbo as “hyperfeminine, hot, [someone who] doesn’t care about academic elitism, doesn’t judge others […], lives [the bimbo] lifestyle, and is really nice to others.” In essence, they use their femininity as power. 

Yet, there’s still a lack of inclusivity in the conversation. When we talk about wielding femininity as power, Black women are often left out, while creators like Chlapecka are rewarded with likes and followers. TikTokker @oumousolo responded to a comment asking her thoughts about bimbofication, writing, “it was centered around white women, it was excluding black women. We’re already hypersexualized, we’re already demonized, we’re already masculinized. We don’t have the same infantilization that white women have.”


When we talk about wielding femininity as power, Black women are often left out, while creators like Chlapecka are rewarded with likes and followers.

In fact, many have started to question: Is it really as empowering as once thought? There are men online who already view women as objects whose purpose is to be quiet and look pretty. Bimbofication, while the creators themselves seem to be in on the joke, does not necessarily do anything to progress the feminist movement, especially for Black women. 

Ultimately, the conversation around bimbofication shows how a lot of feminist discourse takes shape across TikTok. It’s a development of ideas and a continuous conversation. 

Perhaps some could argue that minimizing such complicated topics, like the male gaze, to a 15-second video trend isn’t taking feminism seriously enough. But TikTok is facilitating feminist discussions at at a rapid-fire pace, allowing young women to be a part of the conversation from an early age, to educate ourselves and others, and to actually lead — and challenge — the discourse. 

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