Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman’s Himbo Epidemic

Illustration by M Hu

Whitman College is facing a Himbo epidemic. They’re here; lurking in the corners of classrooms, eating alongside the rest of us at Cleve and attempting to string together a conversation at parties while you politely stare at their well-trimmed – if not a bit underdeveloped – mustache. 

A portmanteau of Him and Bimbo, the Himbo is simply an attractive man who also happens to be dumb as rocks. Himbo is buff, with a good eye for fashion – yet he can also be a slob (see: Nick Miller in New Girl). Himbo is hollow, you may leave interactions with him wondering whether or not he actually believes the earth rotates around the sun. Crucially (disappointingly), for many people, Himbo is safe. 

In recent years, the figure of the Himbo has exploded in popularity. Hit shows such as New Girl, Parks and Recreation and Ted Lasso all feature an attractive man with few, if any, thoughts bumping around their noggin. Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster “Barbie” movie also includes a striking amount of Himbo-ism. Gerwig’s Ken (Ryan Gosling) is a bona fide Himbo: he has killer biceps and an inexplicably hollow love for horses. Ken is perceived to be living only for Barbie’s attention, lashing out when she doesn’t reciprocate his affections with purely vapid (purely Himbo) creations like the “Mojo Dojo Casa House.” 

Ken wonders: What will it take for Barbie to see the man behind the tan and fight for him?

To this, we may answer, it will take the destruction of ornamental masculinity and the veritable death of the Himbo.

As a 1988 article by Rita Kempley puts it: “The women’s movement put her in her power suit and shoulder pads. The men fought feminism with himboism and headed to the gyms to bulk up their sternocleidomastoids. This coincided not only with the fitness craze, but with the rise of the wimp.”

This phenomenon is ever-present at Whitman, where mustached men abound (there is a consensus, it seems, that this facial hair makes you progressive) and where attempts at conversation frequently lead to blank stares. 

The humble Whitman Himbo might be encountered at a frat party, where he will laugh at your jokes and then say, ‘Wait, I don’t get it.’ Or he may be in your humanities class, stumbling his way through a Nietzsche reading, taking five minutes to make a point in class that you already made. How cute.

If, for the modern day feminist, Himbo is Good, then we have truly lost the plot. 

Not only is the Himbo a form of ornamental masculinity, still relying on traditional signifiers of masculinity but with some internal ‘difference’ that makes their ‘kind’ behavior more socially acceptable: but the relative obsession with Himbos is actually a quite sinister form of self-infantilization on the part of both women and men (the impact for gender non-conforming people is felt differently, often through the obsession with ‘tenderqueers’). 

How many times have we, as women, heard from the Himbos of Whitman that we are “intimidating”? This is surely a compliment for the Himbo, who relies on pathetic charades of thoughtlessness to seduce women. However, it is quite clear that the label of “intimidating” is just another way to express traditional masculine discomfort with women’s intellect and unapologetic existence in public. Inherent to this label of ‘intimidating’ is the demand that women become smaller, and the gentle Himbo never has his feelings hurt. 

Perhaps the most sinister element of the Himbo is that he is fundamentally a lie – a character played to shield himself from criticism, a way to pretend that the problems of masculinity are in the past. Make the external masculine and the internal supposedly vacant, and suddenly women are supposed to come running? Why, exactly, is the only archetypal man who is ‘respectful’ towards women also always dumb as rocks? Gerwig masterfully shows just how brainwashed we all are by the violent appeal of Himbo-ism, with multiple scenes in “Barbie” being devoted to deprogramming Barbies, allowing them to view Ken’s Himbo charm through a critical lens.

It is abundantly clear that Whitman College (not to mention the world) desperately needs this deprogramming. In the ineffable words of Rita Kempley: “Imagine a not-overly-sensitive-guy running his fingers through a rack of teddies in department stores everywhere. Gives a girl shivers.”

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • G

    GernNov 10, 2023 at 7:24 am

    Presumably this is satire.
    Otherwise I can’t wait to see what the LGBTQIIA+ camp have to say.