In contemporary popular culture, it is often stereotyped that men find blond women more attractive than women with other hair colors. For example, Anita Loos popularized this idea in her 1925 novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Blondes are often assumed to have more fun; for example, in a Clairol commercial for hair colorant, they use the phrase "Is it true blondes have more fun?" Some women have reported they feel other people expect them to be more fun-loving after having lightened their hair. The "blonde stereotype" is also associated with being less serious or less intelligent. This can be seen in blonde jokes. It is believed the originator of the "dumb blonde" was an 18th century blonde French prostitute named Rosalie Duthé whose reputation of being beautiful but dumb inspired a play about her called Les Curiosites de la Foire (Paris 1775). Blonde actresses have contributed to this perception; some of them include Marilyn Monroe, Judy Holliday, Jayne Mansfield, and Goldie Hawn during her time at Laugh-In.
Alfred Hitchcock preferred to cast blonde women for major roles in his films as he believed that the audience would suspect them the least, comparing them to "virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints", hence the term "Hitchcock blonde". This stereotype has become so ingrained it has spawned counter-narratives, such as in the 2001 film Legally Blonde in which Reese Witherspoon succeeds at Harvard despite biases against her beauty and blonde hair, and terms developed such as cookie cutter blond (CCB), implying standardized blond looks and standard perceived social and intelligence characteristics of a blond. Many actors and actresses in Latin America and Hispanic United States seem to have Nordic features—blond hair, blue eyes, and pale skin.
In colloquial French, "ma blonde" means "my girlfriend", regardless of the color of the specific woman's hair. Such is for example the reference in the name of the still-current 17th century chanson "Auprès de ma blonde".
The blonde stereotype, the stereotypical perception of blond-haired women, has two aspects. On one hand, over history, blonde hair in women has been considered attractive and desirable. On the other hand, a blonde woman is often perceived as making little use of intelligence and as a "woman who relied on her looks rather than on intelligence." The latter stereotype of "dumb blonde" is exploited in blonde jokes.
Background and typology
Blonde hair has been considered attractive for long periods of time in various European cultures, particularly when coupled with blue eyes. This perception is exploited in culture and advertising.
Annette Kuhn divides blonde stereotypes in cinema into three categories in The Women's Companion to International Film:
The ice-cold blonde: Kuhn defined it as "a blonde who hides a fire beneath an exterior of coldness". She provided Grace Kelly, Veronica Lake, Kim Novak, Mae Murray, and Eva Marie Saint as examples.
The blonde bombshell: Kuhn defined it as "a blonde with explosive sexuality and is available to men at a price". She provided Brigitte Bardot, Lana Turner, Jean Harlow, Joan Blondell, Mae West, Barbara Eden, Marilyn Monroe, and Diana Dors as examples.
The dumb blonde: Kuhn defined it as "a blonde with an overt and natural sexuality and a profound manifestation of ignorance". She provided Jayne Mansfield, Marion Davies, Alice White, Marie Wilson, and Mamie Van Doren as examples.
According to psychological research, hair color is a relevant trait in the perception of an individual’s intelligence and overall ability. In a study by Kyle and Mahler (1996), the researchers asked subjects to evaluate photographs of the same woman with brown, red, and blonde hair in the context of a job application. After making sure that the hair color in all three conditions was rated as looking “natural” (not dyed) in a pilot study, participants in Kyle and Mahler’s study, both males and females, were asked to rate the applicant’s capability based on the photograph for an accounting position.
The researchers found that the blonde-haired applicant was rated as significantly less capable than her brunette doppelganger. In addition, participants designated the female applicant’s starting salary as significantly lower when she was depicted as a blonde than when she was shown with brown hair.
Although associated with females, the application of the dumb blonde stereotype can be applied to men as well. A study that looked at the CEOs of the London Financial Times Stock Exchange’s (FTSE) top 500 companies investigated how hair color could be a potential barrier to professional success. Because it has been shown that blonde hair is associated with incompetency, it was hypothesized that there would be fewer blonde CEOs among this group – a group of individuals that is viewed as extremely competent – than was representative of the general population. According to the CIA Fact Book at the time of the study, the distribution of individuals who have naturally blonde hair in the UK is approximately 25%, while the study found that only 25 (5%) of the 500 CEOs were blonde. Furthermore, only two (0.4%) of these CEOs were women, neither of whom happened to have blonde hair.
The question that remains, then, is why is it that blondes are generally rated as less competent than those who have other hair colors? One theory focuses on the feminization of blonde hair, which can be seen by the overwhelming association of the dumb blonde persona with females. This idea draws on the stereotype that females have a lower psychometric intelligence than males.
There is a category of jokes called "blonde jokes" that employs the dumb blonde stereotype. It overlaps at times with the jokes that generally portray the subject of the joke as promiscuous and/or stupid.
In fact, dumb blonde jokes are overwhelmingly female-specific: according to an extensive search in various publications and on the Internet, about 63% of dumb blonde jokes are directed exclusively at females (compared to less than 5% that directly referenced dumb blonde men). Consequently, blonde-haired individuals – regardless of if they are male or female – may be viewed as less capable because they are regarded as more feminine and thus less intelligent.
Blonde jokes have been criticized as sexist by several authors, as most blondes in these jokes are female, although male variations also exist. Research indicates that because of this, men report being amused by blonde jokes significantly more than women do.
Dumb Male Blonde Jokes
Three business men were sitting in a bar, drinking
and discussing how stupid their wives were.
The first says, "I tell you, my wife is so stupid. Last
week she went to the supermarket and bought $300 worth
of meat because it was on sale, and we don't even have
a fridge big enough to keep it in!"
The second agrees that she sounds pretty thick, but
says his wife is thicker." Just last week, she went out
and spent $17000 on a new car" he laments, "and she
doesn't even know how to drive!"
The third, a blond male, nods sagely and agrees that
these two women sound like they both walked through
the stupid forest and got hit by every
branch. However, he still thinks his wife is dumber." I
have to laugh every time I think about it," he
chuckles. "Last week my wife left on a vacation to Greece.
I watched her packing her bags and she must
have taken at least 5 boxes of condoms with her.
She doesn't even have a penis!"
By Dimitri S
An Irishman, a Mexican and a blonde guy were doing construction work on scaffolding on the 20th floor of a building. They were eating lunch and the Irishman said, "Corned beef and cabbage! If I get corned beef and cabbage one more time for lunch I'm going to jump off this building." The Mexican opened his lunch box and exclaimed, "Burritos again! If I get burritos one more time I'm going to jump off, too." The blond opened his lunch and said, "
again. If I get a bologna sandwich one more
time, I'm jumping too." Bologna
The next day the Irishman opened his lunch box, saw corned beef and cabbage and jumped to his death. The Mexican opened his lunch, saw a burrito and jumped too. The blonde guy opened his lunch, saw the bologna and jumped to his death as well.
At the funeral the Irishman's wife was weeping. She said, "If I'd known how really tired he was of corned beef and cabbage, I never would have given it to him again!" The Mexican's wife also wept and said, "I could have given him tacos or enchiladas! I didn't realize he hated burritos so much." Everyone turned and stared at the blonde's wife. "Hey, don't look at me," she said, "He makes his own lunch."