What Is a ‘Himbo’ (and Is the Term Actually Ableist)?

himbo cat

In the age of the hot take, every person, trend or word is subject to no holds barred criticism—and criticisms of those criticisms. (Many of these criticisms are both belated and excruciatingly accurate.) Recently, the internet has been ablaze with analysis of the term “himbo.”

According to Urban Dictionary, a himbo is, “Generally, a large (broad, tall or buff) attractive man, who tends to be not very bright, but usually extremely nice and respectful. Think Kronk from The Emperors New Groove, or maybe a golden retriever.”

Sounds pretty innocuous, right? 

Not according to Twitter user Fangirl Jeanne (her account has since been made private), who tweeted, “'Himbo' is ableist. I find fetishizing someone's supposed lack of intelligence to be predatory. Why would you desire someone who seemingly has less power than you? Why is that sexy? Why is that different from praying on underage kids? It's not.” If you're thinking it's strange, and wildly off-base, to conflate being attracted to someone less intelligent than you with being a child predator, you're not wrong; Fangirl Jeanne amended her first statement a few hours after making it to clarify the two are very different.

First let's dive into the history of the term himbo, which has been around for decades. Vice—which refers to himbos as “the harmless, dumb hotties of our dreams”—reports that the earliest recorded usage of the term was in a 1988 Washington Post article. In the mid-90s,“the term was applied to happy go lucky, beach bum types like Keanu Reeves and Woody Harrelson.” Examples of himbos in pop culture are Chris Hemsworth's Thor in the Avengers movies, Jason Mendoza in The Good Place, singer Jason Derulo and basically every character Channing Tatum has ever played. 

Now, let's talk about ableism, which the Center for Disability Rights defines as, “set of beliefs or practices that devalue and discriminate against people with physical, intellectual or psychiatric disabilities and often rests on the assumption that disabled people need to be ‘fixed’ in one form or the other.” Common examples of ableism are assuming that all disabilities are visible to the naked eye, using the accessible bathroom stall when you can use the non-accessible stall comfortably and framing disability as either tragic or inspirational. 

So, is referring to someone as a himbo an ableist behavior? No. Here's the thing: As many commenters on the thread pointed out, society doesn't love himbos because they're not quoting Infinite Jest, it loves them because they're pure hearts who don't feel the need to shove their intellect in the face of everyone they meet. Jezebel points out that the so-called “Himbo Rennaissance" is a reprieve from the age of “the Smart Asshole™,” or, “the wickedly clever piece of sh*t who is chronically sardonic and can’t stop himself from Well Actually-ing to save his life.” Basically, the himbo is happy-go-lucky and comfortable in his own skin and masculinity. Note that some people who look like they'd be himbos—like Jax from Vanderpump Rules—cannot be himbos because they are mean jerks who support homophobic pastors

As Twitter user @sqiouyilu writes, “the himbo is the idealized safe man, one who still has the physical brawn to be effective when necessary, but whose heart and intent are pure, and whose darkest flaw is loyalty. whether or not he is intelligent is irrelevant.”

Besides, who doesn't want to be around a guy who gives off golden retriever vibes? 

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sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...