Pinterest and anti-blonde sentiment

// 21 May 2013

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I’m a big fan of Pinterest. Stop your sniggering! It’s not all “thinspiration” and wedding planning, I’ll have you know. There’s a significant feminist presence in them there hills. I also like to look at clothes, art, photography, find new recipes to try out, explore new places to go, books to read and things to make. Quit your whining.

 There’s a limit to the volume of Audre Lorde gifs, mind. Whilst browsing through ‘Women’s Fashion’ this very afternoon, I was incredulous to discover not one, but two t-shirts with the following slogans. T shirt-A: “Brunettes. Because somebody has to be smart” [my punctuation]. T-shirt B: “Boys like blondes. Men like brunettes.”

Aside from the obvious question of who the fuck would wear an item of clothing emblazoned with such nonsense, this concerns me. Not only is it anti-blonde sentiment, it’s anti-female. And the two are more closely linked than you might think.

I’m aware that the Aryan archetype has and, sadly, continues to be in some unfortunate quarters, hailed as the zenith of aspiration and human progress and feel as uncomfortable and critical of this as you might expect. However, I don’t believe my objection to these t-shirts lies in some repressed desire to defend the mistaken and ugly “master race” language of racism and ignorance. Rather, I feel this is an issue of sex, gender and that old chesnut: misogyny. This shit runs deeper than the mere hue of your highlights.

When you think about the “dumb” blonde stereotype – and let’s be clear here: it is a stereotype – who do you think of? I’d argue that the image that springs to mind is a female. With the exception of ‘Rocky’ from the glorious Picture Show of Horror, I can think of very few “dumb” blondes who are male. I’d also argue that they’re invariably “dumb” or “dizzy” – as inaccurate, incorrect and potentially insulting as these descriptions are. The stereotype of the blonde is of a female who lacks intelligence. And it’s an image that has global and cultural resonance.

When women and girls talk about other women and girls in relation to them being “blonde”, it’s shorthand for “naïve”, “stupid” or “childish”. I interpret this as internalised misogyny. It’s girl-on-girl hate and it’s whack.

 Being told that having fair hair makes you naïve, stupid and childish is another in a series of ways in which women and girls are told that they are inferior, insufficient and inadequate. It’s yet another example of how the already narrow path of acceptability that women and girls tread is growing narrower.

The second slogan that confidently asserts that boys like blondes, whilst men like brunettes further reinforces this. Religion, magazines, politics, fashion, advertising and films proffer limited roles for women and girls, tell them who and how to be and still maintain that being a wife and mother is the ultimate in self-fulfilment and realised womanhood. This godforsaken t-shirt perpetuates this by establishing a status quo that encourages women to value approval and acceptance from males (note: men, not boys) above their own tastes and preferences.

My response to t-shirt A? Well, the full-stop in that slogan is my own. Case closed, your honour. In response to t-shirt B, I posited the radical idea that perhaps judging people based on the colour of their hair is a trifle superficial. Just a thought worth thinking about, maybe.

These are not just t-shirts. These are misogynistic t-shirts.

Comments From You

iloura // Posted 21 May 2013 at 8:57 pm

Great article, I’m not even a blonde but annoyed by the stereotype myself. Even further, I’m sure most blondes who go against the stereotypes are completely annoyed by the ones who fully embrace it and go for the “trophy wife” look and obsess over physical perfection, being more interested in superficiality than brains and personality. I don’t really think hair color has that much to do with personality, but then again I’m a ginger and know my hair color also has it’s own stereotypes. I most certainly do have a soul, but am a pretty fiery type of personality can’t lie there :)

Jess McCabe // Posted 22 May 2013 at 9:59 am

I think you’re completely right that this is fundamentally an issue of sexism.

But I think it’s worth paying a bit more attention to why it is that women would wear these t-shirts, even though they’re perpetuating stereotypes about other women.

This is a bit more complicated than just some kind of internalised misogyny – I think that women might wear these tshirts as a sort of misdirected kick back at the pressure they are under from the dominant beauty standard. Which seems to be less blonde than it used to be, but still.

J Whitehead // Posted 22 May 2013 at 11:49 am

Interesting point, Jess – thanks for commenting! It’s a shame that this kick-back involves reverting to tired stereotypes and hating on other women/girls, however, who aren’t necessarily responsible for the creation/maintenance of the dominant beauty standard (which, I feel is primarily characterised by “uber-thin and white”, rather than “blonde”, these days…)

anywavewilldo // Posted 23 May 2013 at 9:42 pm

anti-blonde isn’t really a thing – it’s just plain sexism and the power to sort women, in this case white women, into little packages of niche desire. I don’t think women of colour are ever strictly speaking granted access to the stereotype brunette when having dark hair. Blondie vs Brunette is a white girl thing and I don’t think we white girls need to get all het up over these kind of minor status variations.

Holly Combe // Posted 26 May 2013 at 11:50 am

@anywavewilldo. Totally agree that racism means women of colour are not generally granted access to sexist brunette stereotypes and that this should be highlighted. However, I’d also suggest that the sexism behind this power to sort white women *is* a thing so I don’t think it’s entirely fair to go on to dismiss the author’s irritation about this as getting “het up”. Indeed, the backhanded brunette compliment to women with dark hair would still be sexist if it was fully inclusive of all women with dark hair and lacked any racist connotations. A lack of any critique of this aspect could end up excusing it.

J Whitehead // Posted 4 June 2013 at 10:38 pm

What Holly said.

@anywavewilldo: to me, “het up” sounds a bit like “get over it”, which is the kind of comment I’d expect to hear from sexist arses, but not on a feminist website… I embrace the range of opinion, however! As long as sexism – in whatever form, from whatever source – exists and is, in this instance, manifested in t-shirts marketed and worn by women – something which makes me feel slightly depressed – I will continue to get “het up”. And, thank goodness! I hope those around me will, too.

Thanks for commenting, both, and sorry for the delay in responding.

anywavewilldo // Posted 5 June 2013 at 6:47 pm

if you read my comments accurately you will find that they address white women. And yes I do think white women should get over the patriarchal manipulation that invites us to worry about minor status variations between us over what type (collect them all guys!) we are.

Plain condemnation of all sexism based on appearance is sufficient.

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