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Best of 2013: Politicising the bimbo

  • 13 January 2014

Sometimes people hurl insults at your face. And unless they are hurled from a moving vehicle or are accompanied by a flying bar stool, they are usually embedded in some sort of insult sandwich, buffered with slices of wisdom and self-criticism to soften the blow of having an insult hurled at your face. But it never softens the blow.

One insult sandwich that has been consistently hurled at me is that the insulter thought I was dumb until they discovered I wasn't. Whatever that's supposed to mean. I used to think you were a bimbo and then you surprised me by actually being intelligent. Crazy, that you thought a young woman was a stupid idiot and then she turned out to be a human being!

There is something so off about this particular comment that I've never really forgiven those insulters. For me, the use of 'bimbo' and its associative terms is an unpardonably sexist way of interpreting certain female traits. Traits like giggling, using fun language, and dressing up to reference cultural tropes that have been consistently undermined as being about silly women. Because there's nothing worse than a silly woman.

For me, the silly woman, the bimbo, is an important space for feminist interrogation. It's a cultural space that contains the history of how working-class women have historically fashioned themselves to fit, unthreateningly, within masculine culture, yet have been consistently rejected by it any way. It's time to politicise the bimbo.

One time, one of my brothers counted the number of times I hedged the word 'like' in a description I foggily recounted over dinner. He was playing the role of brother-menace, and in the process insinuated that I was lesser, intellectually inadequate, a bimbo. It's fine — siblings are cruel players in this game of life, and I dish it out just as bad. But what this gesture was really about, was the idea that the means through which identity is fashioned or expressed equates to a differentiated human capacity, and an implied sliding scale of human value.

As if to say that when I utter 'like' as a hedge instead of 'um' or 'ah', as is the fashion among older males (and which are equally arbitrary speech hedges), it's because I don't possess the intellectual capacity to speak like an older male. Socially speaking, this idea classes most young female and queer people (those who are most likely to employ these