The Deluded Diva

Is the “dumb blonde” stereotype valid?


There is a video circulating the web regarding the “dumb blond” syndrome.  I know because everyone who has received it has forwarded it to me!

Hey look guys.  I’m no longer a “dumb Blonde.”  I’m more of a sagacious silver. (But then I’m also deluded at times.)

The concept of the dumb blonde, a common stereotype placed on fair-haired women, continues to pervade society and provides fodder for a myriad of jokes.

You know the routine. She’s attractive. She’s fun. She’s flirty.  But she’s also….dumb? So how did such drivel come about?

The 1925 Anita Loos novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady (later used as source for a film by the same name made by Howard Hawks and starring Marilyn Monroe) featured the character Lorelei Lee, a beautiful but empty-headed singer.

While some look to this as the source for the concept, in fact, it might be far older.

Since the days of ancient Rome, women who took the time to lighten their hair have been looked at as “bimbos…without serious intentions,” according to a recent article in USA Today.

One explanation dates back to medieval Europe when members of the upper class tended to be darker-haired than the peasantry. This was because the lower classes spent more time outside in the sun. Since peasants were often considered less intelligent than the upper class, an association between fair-haired persons and a lack of intelligence surfaced.

Though origins of this negative stereotype date back hundreds of years, possibly millennia, the concept has gained momentum in recent years.

Numerous actresses of the 20th century have played characters labeled as “dumb blondes.” These include Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow, Suzanne Somers, and Goldie Hawn. Of course these films have only further brought the stereotype into the limelight.

The stereotype makes many think back to the 1960s with Hugh Heffner and his Playboy Bunnies. It’s true that the Bunnies were fashioned after the pin-up models of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, girls made famous based solely on their physical appearance.

One of the most recent examples of this is the character Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, played by Reese Witherspoon. The film features the stereotype as the centerpiece of its plot. But Elle disproves the theory soundly.  (I’ve watched that movie at least 25 times.)

Some evidence suggests that men might be responsible for this common stereotype, according to a study conducted by the British Psychological Society in which 60 male participants and 60 female participants were asked to look at pictures of a female model wearing different colored wigs. They were asked to rate them for traits such as intelligence and popularity. The platinum blonde was rated as popular by both male and female participants, but as less intelligent by male only.

So to all you natural blondes out there, be patient.  Hair color is fleeting and one day soon you will have to support Clairol to maintain your dumb blonde status. But, rest assured your dark-haired friends will never let the stereotype die.

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