Why I’m Trashing My Blonde Card

What do you call a blonde who conducts surgery? Um… A surgeon.

Last week, I showed up at a friend’s wedding a full day late. Once I realized my error, I laughed—not because I thought it was cool, but because it was an honest mistake. Human error can be seriously funny. One of my first remarks afterward was, “I feel so blonde!”  I don’t actually blame the mishap on my hair, or believe that blondeness correlates to dumbness. So why do I laugh at blonde jokes? Play my “blonde card” as an excuse for oversights? I’ve even gone so far as to share the deprecating humor on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno:

 

 

 

 

 

All in the name of fun, right? I used to think so… Now, I’m not so sure.

I’ve known for some time that research has shown no link between intelligence level and hair color. But since my own blonde remarks haven’t been sitting right with me lately and have been challenged by people I respect, I decided to dig deeper.

Some highlights from my research:

  • A study conducted at Western Carolina University showed that jokes about blondes and women drivers showed that sexist humor can lead to toleration of hostile feelings and discrimination against women.

“Sexist humor is not simply benign amusement. It can affect men’s perceptions of their immediate social surroundings and allow them to feel comfortable with behavioral expressions of sexism without the fear of disapproval of their peers,” said Thomas E. Ford, one of the researchers in the psychology department at WCU. “Specifically, we propose that sexist humor acts as a ‘releaser’ of prejudice.”

  • study, published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly in 2002 showed that men who view women as inferior are significantly more likely to be amused by blonde jokes than men who don’t. Shocking? No. But what does that say about blondes who celebrate blonde jokes? It’s possible we’re touting ourselves as inferior, if even subconsciously.
  • A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2007 showed that men act dumber after seeing blonde women compared to others. The researchers attributed the findings to human nature: We tend to take on behaviors of nearby others. (If we see someone yawn or twirl a pen, we’re likely to follow suit.) If men who perceive blonde women as unintelligent act less-smart in their company, how can we expect ourselves to display intelligence if we buy into dumb-blonde stereotypes?

My research and looking back on my own experiences led me to a few conclusions:

1. When we believe we are bright, capable and gifted, we present ourselves as such.

Years ago, after I’d modeled internationally and hit the recovery mark in my battle with an eating disorder, I was offered a modeling contract in Japan that would have provided significant pay. My medical and college bills were piling up, and though my heart said NO, I considered taking it. After sharing the offer with my mentor, a psychology professor in St. Cloud, Minnesota, she grasped my hands, looked me in the eyes and said, You are brilliant. You can do so much with your mind. You don’t need to profit off of your body.”  Moved by her words, something clicked in me. I sat up straighter, studied harder and went on to complete the honors program with a 4.0.  When we’re confident in our intellect, it shows.

2. Words fuel ideas, whether we’re goofing around or not. 

Discriminatory jokes may seem harmless, but judging from the studies, expert insight and the distaste I have regarding jokes that poke fun at athletes, overweight people, drummers and others, they aren’t. If there’s a chance they’ll hold someone back, I’m not interested. So while I have no intention of judging others based on what they find funny or the humor “cards” they play, I am committed to embracing more positive definitions of blonde. My light hair represents my Scandinavian roots, my family, my style and sunshine. It’s part of my physical make up, but not the fabric who I am. It isn’t better or worse than other hair colors; it just happens to be mine. Off my list are blonde jokes, blaming “blonde moments” when I’ve made a mistake or misunderstood, and playing my “blonde card” as an excuse. And I’ve filed all negative blonde-isms away in my “lessons learned” drawer.

3. ‘Blonde’ often means something else.

You may think she’s a “dumb blond” when in fact she’s __________________.

…excited, passionate and fun-loving. After I pitched to an editor last year, she asked me if I’d ever written before. When I shared my
writing credentials, she said, “Say that in every pitch. This is a male-driven genre [thriller], and… You need to be taken seriously.” Her comment may have had nothing to do with my hair color, but I was, shall we say, EXCITED. 😉 My peppy speak probably
sounded more cheerleader than thriller-author-extraordinaire. I’ll happily mention my creds, but I’m keeping my peppiness. Many sweet, outgoing folks are smart as whips. (Think Penelope Garcia on Criminal Minds.)

…strategic or manipulative. Some women act like dumb blondes for attention, to move ahead in the work place, to get money or other freebies, or to wriggle out of a tough situation. (Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole Smith and Jessica Simpson have all been called strategically dim and business-brilliant.) Lorelei Lee, the protagonist in Anita Loos’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes touted this motto: “A girl with brains ought to do something else with them besides think.” The film based on Loos’ novel is credited by many for launching the “dumb blonde” rampage. Ironic, seeing as Lee, played by Marilyn Monroe, is arguably the smartest schemer of the bunch.

…shy, anxious or insecure. Blondes do tend to stick out in a crowd, research shows. Imagine everyone watching you while you walk across a room. Think you might wobble more? Trip more easily? If you’re not comfy with attention, yes. Regardless of the reason, we tend to fumble more when we’re nervous or insecure. Maybe you’ve been told much of your life that you have less intellect or potential than others. If this is the case, please don’t buy into it.

…daydreamy, preoccupied or creative. Some of my supposed blonde moments have taken place during my writing furies. As I neared a big deadline this spring and was writing with my fingers or brain nearly 24/7, I showed up to teach a class with mascara above one eye only. (Other natural blondes know how odd this looks—my lashes are practically see through.) I also found my car keys in the freezer. Having our minds elsewhere doesn’t mean we’re dumb.

…misunderstood or unique. Thinking differently can be misperceived as stupidity. Marilyn Monroe is believed to have been dyslexic and appeared ditzy in the eyes of the public, yet she had a strong desire to understand the world and herself—signs of genius, if you
ask me. She skipped out on film premieres and parties to attend college courses at UCLA, loved art and literature. Her melancholy side was sadly not accepted. (For more on Marilyn, read her fantastic book, Fragments: Poems Intimate Notes, Letters.) Temple Grandin is autistic and has revolutionized agriculture and become a nationally renowned speaker, author and advocate—largely because of her alternate way of thinking.

…sleep-deprived or under-nourished. A lack of sleep, calories, nutrients or glucose (the’s main fuel source, derived from carbohydrates) can trigger many stereotypical blonde behaviors, including memory lapses, poor concentration, tipsy behavior and an inability to learn or react quickly. Blaming our hair color for poor self-care isn’t particularly helpful. Better options: Establish healthy sleep habits. Eat more whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains and fewer processed foods. Don’t go too long without eating. Don’t diet.

…human. This one’s my favorite. We all make mistakes. It’s part of what makes us so darn relatable, often humorous, even spectacular. You know that children’s book, Everyone Poops? Well, everyone has funny human moments, too. This notion excites me more than jokes of any kind ever could.

How do you feel about blonde humor? Have you been affected by appearance or gender-based stereotypes? Any hilarious “human moments” to share? 

Leave a comment

94 Comments

  1. Constantly judged on my appearance for being overweight, although to be fair being overweight was my own fault!

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  2. Liked it Madam..I don’t have much know how about psycology and blonde ladies. But I want to share something that, I have a habbit of nailbiting from childhood and till now..it goes automatically into my mouth unconscious mind..Many feels and its due to my depression.. But and end Regards to you and your Research.. Pranjal.

    Reply
    • I’ve fought that habit much of my life, Pranjal—not an easy one to break! For me, it’s part of my inability (or at least supreme difficulty) in sitting still. Mine has worsened in times of stress, however. Good luck with your emotional wellness and that habit. I’m finally in a good place with it, and hope you’ll be soon, too.

      Reply
  3. Running from Hell with El

     /  June 18, 2012

    Blonde humor has always infuriated me. As a child, it was one of many ways family members belittled me, but even worse, the constant and indirect use of blonde jokes by both men and (worse) women just freakin’ can wear me down.

    Often, I will snap at someone who jokes about blondes. It is blatant discrimination and it sends a message to us much like racism: we’re different, and LESS, because of our color.

    Golly. I don’t mean to sound angry (mental shift here).

    Let me share this on Facebook. I think your well-written reminder might help some of my friends.

    Reply
    • You are so inspiring, El. I wish I’d witnessed your anger, and found my own, earlier. Part of my journey, I suppose.

      I’d be honored if you’d share this with friends. Thanks for your wonderful support!

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  4. I prefer to refer to my slips as blonde moments rather than senior moments which at forty i still feel too young to admit to. I do have a friend who openly admitted she was a bimbo she just had a very different view of what it stood for
    Brainy
    Intelligent
    Manipulator of
    Baser
    Organisms

    I guess the lesson I have learned in life is we can never control who other people say but we can decide whether we let it impact upon us

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    • Insightful lesson, Paula. One I’m learning is that sometimes our words and behaviors affect us more than we realize. I feel stronger since handing my blonde card over, and it’s been a matter of days.

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  5. Lawd – I’ve had perfect strangers stop me on the street and ask, “are those real?” omg – *sigh* I’ve been underestimated (sometimes to my advantage -ha!), and humiliated, and misjudged–by women and men, just because of my chest. Dang. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to ignore it but sometimes . . . sometimes . . .

    By the way, for the first time ever I high-light my hair, and while I am not blonde, some people call me that now because it is so much lighter than my usual dark hair. I keep waiting for the “BB/Blonde” jokes to come my way. So far . . . not to my face *lawd again*

    Reply
    • The things people say… That reminds me of strangers walking up to pregnant women and touching their protruding bellies without asking. (Thank GOD, they don’t go that far with you, I hope!)

      I’m curious to see whether my ex-nay on blonde humor affects others’ language and behavior around me. When we stand tall and believe we’re capable, it shows. In other words, you may not face those jokes at all.

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  6. I try to nip any derogatory jokes in the bud.

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  7. Ever since I’ve known you, I take blonde jokes with a grain of salt. Of course, I don’t mind playing the “age card” once in a while. 🙂

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  8. Hey! I have been blonde! a redhead, brunette, almost black haired. I do think I got more attention but my skin tone clashed. I remember getting some vacation photos back and dying in back to my natural color….
    I have some pink in my Irish skin and found auburn looks the best.
    I think that feeling comfortable in your own skin is what makes us the most attractive!

    Reply
    • I couldn’t agree more, Susie. Studies support that last bit, as does experience. And the happier we are, the more attractive we’re perceived by ourselves and others. Sounds like a major win-win to me. 🙂

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  9. EllieAnn

     /  June 18, 2012

    Dumb blonde jokes make me laugh, and I was never afraid of telling them. Until a few years ago, when my little sister (12 yrs old, a blonde) burst into tears after I told one. GOOD FEELINGS GONE. She said it hurt her feelings when I told them. I tried to rationalize my humor, but after seeing her tears I knew I couldn’t anymore. I loved this post, and a good reminder to ALways make sure my humor is about laughing with people, not at them.

    Reply
    • Utterly heartbreaking, Ellie Ann. Of I didn’t have cause to give up blonde humor before, I would now. Your sister is lucky to have you!

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  10. Wonderful post. As someone who was ridiculed for years as a child for my appearance, I’ve come to realize that it’s the attacker’s own insecurities and stupidity that foster such attitudes. Once, I had to take it because I couldn’t fight back. Now, I can, and do, whether it’s directed at me or someone else. Like you said in a comment above, It’s interesting to see how the attackers react when someone stands up to them–their fear and ignorance usually comes shining through.

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  11. August,
    I used to be a blonde until I was 36. My mom was the same. It was wierd because I had always characterized myself as a blonde & thought this change in hair color would affect my personality. Then again, I was going through major health changes, I was diagnosed w/multiple sclerosis and other chronic neurological pain so I wasn’t the strong athletic person I used to be. EVERY aspect of my body changed.
    I never liked blonde jokes, even though I would laugh at them in company I was trying to get to know (which was the exact opposite thing to do). I knew they were derogatory to women. They were sexist remarks & I saw them affect many girls/women, including myself. It was not until I had my training in women’s studies did I realize what that language did to the recipients, to the people using the language & to others participating in the conversation. Sexist language changes the power structure among all persons present.
    As I read this post August, I cheered for you! I didn’t want you to use those dumb blonde jokes especially because it was clear you are a bright, intelligent woman who can have lots of fun w/out going along with “dumb blonde” comments. I imagine some readers will think, “Can’t people just take a joke?” But you have provided enough research to back up your statements that these are neither harmless commentss nor are you riding the political correctness train. These words impact everyone.
    Thank you for writing such a informative & highly relevant post!

    Monique
    @moniqueliddle

    Reply
    • Thanks for your awesome support, Monique! Means a lot coming from you. I admire your strength and positivity, regardless of the challenges life has thrown your way.

      I was expecting more reactions like you mentioned—”they’re just jokes,” etc. So far those people are keeping quiet. 😉 While I welcome all views (seriously, y’all!) I’m touched by everyone’s warmth.

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      • You wrote your post in such a gentle manner without pointing fingers. I think there will be very few who will be defensive about your post. I know I was touched by how considerate you were. You nature shows through in all your posts. 🙂

      • Sweet of you to say, Monique. Thank you!

  12. I’ve never been a fan of blonde jokes, so I’m glad to see you’re “trashing” the “blonde card.” And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the “throws like a girl” or “runs like a girl” stuff. There are plenty of impressive female athletes out there, so that makes these type of comments nothing but an insult. Of course, it would be all right to say, “throws like Carrie,” because, well, I’m a really bad thrower. But not because of my gender. 🙂

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    • YES! One reason I started examining my blonde-humor habit was the fact that I find other hurtful jokes offensive. I couldn’t read a “dumb drummer” joke out loud (my husband and other close friends are brilliant musicians). So I had to wonder, why am I not offended by blonde jokes? Or… am I?

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  13. After years of having a best friend whom I believed had it all (blonde, slender, drop-dead gorgeous, and completely brilliant) it was easy to see how blond jokes held her down and gave her an excuse for not being perfect when she was human. It’s sad in a way that as she got older her hair darkened and she seemed to accept how wonderful she was. Hair color should not affect so much.

    Anyway, I am thrilled you took your mentor’s words to heart and believed in yourself enough to become more than your “dressings”, August. Not that you shouldn’t be proud of those too. You’re an elegant woman, your appearance and your heart are lovely. Be proud of all that you are. We all should….

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    • Maturity certainly plays a role in self-confidence. I hope that your friend’s sense of self-worth improved for reasons other than her hair, but regardless, improvement is a great thing. Embracing ourselves isn’t selfish, but one of the best steps we can take— for ourselves and others… Thanks for your warm words and encouragement!

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  14. Yet another excellent blog, August. Even in my sixth decade with graying blonde strands, I have yet to appreciate blonde jokes. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon but being honest. I just never have appreciated the joke concept. Regardless, posts like yours provide us all an opportunity to examine our humor and thus, ourselves.

    Karen

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  15. I’m not blonde, and so never really thought of this dilemma – nor did I ever think someone was dumb because they were blonde (I know lots of dumb brunettes too!) I honestly thought it was a myth, a bunch of bunk -but obviously I see some take it seriously and I can see how it could be used against you. Maybe I’ll dye my hair blonde to try it out.

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  16. Love this, August! I hate blonde jokes and any other joke that tries to diminish a woman’s image. I was born an auburn redhead and never enhanced it until several years ago when I tried highlights. I got a little carried away with the highlights and people started calling me ‘blondie’ and making blonde jokes about me. I was so insulted that I got rid of the highlights for good! That experience drove home more than anything else how hurtful jokes make at someone else’s expense can be. Add to that the general idea that blondes truly are dumb and it becomes a blight on all women.
    So, I love your empowering post. No one should ever have to feel ‘less-than’ because of her hair color, her weight, her choice of clothing style, etc.

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    • Personal experience certainly brings light to these issues, Marcia. Thanks for sharing yours, and for your thoughtful words and support. Means a lot coming from you!

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  17. I was born a redhead. By the time I was five, it had paled to a slightly strawberry blonde and didn’t darken again to a light auburn until my twenties.

    Though blonde jokes have always been around, I don’t think they were as common and widespread before the internet. They weren’t a big deal to tell when I was growing up. I know I never remarked on one during my blonde days, and many of the smartest people I knew were blonde. Today, I certainly have no qualms about paying exorbitant amounts for my blonde highlights.

    When I was young, though, racial and ethnic jokes were common in the mainstream. I think society steered that type of humor toward blondes and gingers in an effort to find some target for easy humor that they can get away with in today’s uber-politically correct environment.

    A couple of years ago, one of my daughter’s 6th grade teachers spent an entire class period talking about how hurt she was by blonde jokes, crying in class, and comparing blonde jokes to the harassment of Jews during the Holocaust. . . . Really. . . . Not a poster child for a campaign to end blonde jokes, though it’s clear she would be stupid and shallow with any hair color.

    That being said, with the increased emphasis on blonde jokes that I’ve seen over time, particularly in the past five years, I can see why more blondes might be trashing their blonde cards.

    A point, though. People spend a great deal more money every year to be blonde than they do to choose any other hair color. . . . Tends to argue jealousy as the motive for those jokes.

    Thank you for your thoughtful post.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your wonderful insight, Piper. I cringed reading the story about the teacher comparing blonde jokes to the Holocaust. (Yipes.) She’s certainly an example of character speaking louder than appearance.

      Blonde envy is another interesting topic… It seems to me that when we’re desperate to change something about our appearance, there’s a deeper issue at play. Little good comes from putting ourselves or others down, particularly when fueled by jealousy or insecurity.

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  18. Madam… At age of 39, to be exact on 7th oct will be, can a old bamboo be flexible? I don’t think so madam that nailbiting will leave me.. Its socio economical problem from childhood, which I think made me so..Though I own a school of poors,Shree Sai Siksha Niketan, still my staff points out to me Madam.. But Today again I learnt all knowledgable person are down to earth..Before today I learnt from Lada Ray, she my best online friend and family..And 2nd is King of words Michael Edwards(Mike) soul of me and family.. Regards to all you friends… Pranjal

    Reply
  19. Cheers August – great post – just shows how much crap is attached to hair colour. Honestly it really is a load of cobblers. I get emails from kids bullied because they are ginger – not being an expert in this world I try my best to give some homespun advice (speak to your mum and dad) and have contacted a couple of bullying charities to see if they can help. But it is really strange that this whole crap persisits – blondes are dumb, gingers are firey and passionate, black hair is whatever…. It is boring, lazy and lacks any coherent analysis apart from some dullard film makers perception of what will get people into the cinema several generations ago. Women as objects again. There you go – i feel better for that! All the best. Jim

    Reply
    • Heartbreaking, Jim. My hat goes off to you for seeking help for those children. Thanks for sharing your fantastic insight. The world needs more souls like you.

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  20. I know for a fact that the human slip-ups are just that, and not attributable to hair color, since I am not blonde. I loved your list of what might account for them, especially the ones about sleep deprivation. It’s so true, and gets truer as we age.

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  21. Wonderfully said August! It’s tough because a lot of times jokes can do more harm than good, even when they are funny because they can desensitize us and those around us. Now more than ever, it’s important to understand the power of our words and to sometimes choose carefully. I wouldn’t want to be support anything that would demoralize women…blond, brunette or whatever!
    I am not a natural blond. I get blond highlights quite frankly to hide the gray. Foils mean I have to get color treatments done substantially less often than if I died my entire head. But in doing so, I have born the brunt of my fair share of blond jokes and quite frankly, they aren’t usually funny. So I do my best to not indulge or engage.
    Very thought provoking post. Wow. It’s got me really stopping and thinking about some of the things I do say and how they may offend…hmmmm…I’ll be thinking about this a lot more down the road! Thank you!!!

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    • Such a touching comment. Thanks, Natalie! Whether we’re blonde by nature or choice, negative humor is potentially damaging, and neither seems justifiable.

      When I lived in Miami, my hair lightened to almost white while my skin darkened. It looked odd and drew more hoots/hollers and derogatory remarks than my normal light/medium hair and fair skin tends to. Once that started, I became more self conscious. Without planning to, I started wearing darker, blander colors and wearing my hair in a bun. Then I started studying acting and got out of an unhealthy relationship. The world began opening up, and back came my colorful clothes. My agent told me I went from looking “old and sad” to like me again.

      Our attitudes play a big role, as does doing what we love. In that we can find strength—thank goodness! You’re a PRIMA example of that. 🙂

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  22. prudencemacleod

     /  June 18, 2012

    Okay, August, you got me. Logic and good common sense shall prevail and I will put away my blonde card. I hadn’t really paid a lot of attention to this before, but you make a strong case. Well done.

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  23. August, blonde jokes always bothered me although I was born with dark auburn hair. The crux came when I inherited two beautiful, smart, and determined blonde girls aged 3 and 5 upon marrying my husband. I have defended them and supported them every since that day, 25 years ago at the end of the month.

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  24. Once in college, I wrote a letter to the college newspaper questioning why they had space for an article about a dumb blonde jokes book on the front page. A woman wrote a letter about my letter — so harsh — that all my friends wondered what I had done to anger the woman. Sigh. I didn’t know her. I think of that every time I think about blonde jokes.

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  25. patodearosen

     /  June 18, 2012

    I can never remember jokes long enough to repeat them, August, but I know blondes who joke about “driving while blonde,” and so on. I always considered those remarks to be “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful” attempts at bonding. If you had explained to the bride that your work schedule allowed you so little sleep you could barely function, you would have taken the focus off her and put it on yourself–a worse faux pas to my way of thinking. I do, however, get that the way we think about ourselves influences how others perceive us. I’m glad you’re taking the smart, strong, capable route but hope none of us loses the ability to laugh at ourselves.

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    • From what I’ve gathered, most women who celebrate blonde humor don’t find themselves beautiful. There are exceptions, of course, and I agree that it’s important to laugh at ourselves. I just don’t think we need to connect that humor to hair color. Mistakes are often funny regardless.

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  26. My oldest daughter has been a blonde for as long as I can remember. But she got sick of the upkeep and went to what is, she believes, her natural auburn color. A very interesting thing happened: most of the people around her started treating her differently. She came home the second day and said “If I’d known my hair color was making such a big difference I’d have been a brunette my whole life.” go figure.

    I have to watch about making age jokes. My memory is not as good as it was and I tend to poke fun at myself about that as a function of age. Thanks for the heads up to “Stop that”.

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    • I hope you do rely less on age jokes, Louise. I think that buying into them can make them self-fulfilling—same for gender stereotyping and blonde jokes. You are too brilliant for that.

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      • yes, you’re right and it’s something I am trying to be aware of.. funny how we slip into stereotypical humor, isn’t it?

  27. I think you are right about your conclusions. My dad has always said that blonde jokes are a lot like racist jokes, when it comes down to it. It’s just about spreading stereotypes until they are so ingrained people actually believe them. Sure, we all do dumb things from time to time. That’s when we should just say “Duh” and move on. It is good to laugh at ourselves, even when we accidently throw our keys away in the Target parking lot or show up a day late for a big event. It’s just a part of life. I’m glad you’re not going to trash yourself anymore. I have a friend who always refers to herself as an airhead and it really bothers me. I think she has said it so many times that she actually believes it! I have to stop her and ask her to say something nice about herself instead, like “That is so not like me.” when she makes a silly mistake. Hopefully, if she says that enough she’ll start to believe it instead.

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  28. Coleen Patrick

     /  June 18, 2012

    I don’t know how I feel about it. I’m blonde, I’m intelligent and I also make dumb mistakes (um, pet treats for my nephews? lol). I sometimes joke that my duh moments mean I’m earning my blonde hairs, but I think you’re right about words fueling ideas. Something to think about. Thanks August. 🙂

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  29. Raani York

     /  June 18, 2012

    You know August… I just LOVE this blog post!! It’s written with feeling and heart and a sparkle in your eye.
    When it comes to me… I know I’m blonde, I know my IQ is normally a double of the brunettes telling me the “dumb blonde – jokes” and I usually laugh my butt off about those jokes…

    I actually do have a theory… Due to the fact that blondes slowly but surely are driven into extinction they get more and more attractive… *chuckle*
    Means: There are so and so many quite…. uhm…. IQ-limited girls… thinking that the blonde hair really does make them attractive… they therefore highlight their hair into light to white artificial blonde and litterally give us natural blondes a bad reputation.

    And additionally: I weren’t me if I didn’t use the “blonde bonus” sometimes to get myself an advantage… *grin*

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  30. Being blonde my entire life ~ sometimes more blonde than others ~ I’ve heard my share of jokes and have even said I’ve had ‘blonde moments’ more than I should have. A few years ago my daughter called me out by saying, ‘Why do you do that? Why do you purposefully act stupid around people and blame it on your hair color? It just makes you look like a victim.’ I was shocked! My ‘blonde moments’ were supposed to be funny. But then I thought about what she said and she was right. In certain situations I would purposefully dumb down. Sometimes to manipulate a situation to my benefit (flirting to get a great deal on the jump house for the school carnival) or because I didn’t want the person I was with to feel inferior. My husband is wicked smart, like crazy genius guy smart, so I never play dumb to him, but sometimes I feel dumb around him. When my daughter said that to me it was a wake up call to him as well. He doesn’t joke about me being blonde anymore and I don’t dumb down for anyone. Surprisingly enough, I’ve found if I use my brains to negotiate, I get a better deal on those jumpy things for the school carnival than I did from flirting. Guess I’m smarter than I am sexy. I’ll take it. 😉

    Reply
    • I think smart IS sexy, which makes you the bomb. 😉 I’m so happy to hear that you don’t “dumb down” anymore, Tameri. Hug that beautiful, insightful daughter for me, will you? Making ourselves out to be victims can only stifle us. Brilliant.

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  31. Hmmmm, so I guess I can’t apply this same philosophy to having a “senior moment?” Cuz,I’m having a lot of those lately. I can’t blame my hair color so I have to blame something.

    It is also NOT true that blondes have more fun. We brunettes can kick up our heels and party with the best of ’em.

    So glad youre comfortable in your own skin, August. Keep it up.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

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  32. I am don’t mind the jokes, I do mind when people are serious about it. Because blondes are not only stupid we are also completly easy right? Damn you Playboy…That bothers me a lot.

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  33. I used to knock myself often, telling myself, I’m not good enough, “I’m a HS dropout and most of my friends have educations”. It perpetuated the procrastinating negative, can’t-do-it, attitudes in my life. I later overcame by resolving, I’m as good as anyone to put one foot in front of the other.

    It became obvious to me that thoughts are the catalyst to our actions, and everything begins with a step. Affirmations definitely have a way of defining our perception which is paramount in determining what tomorrow looks like.

    Thanks for the share Austin!

    Reply
  34. I’ve never been a fan of “blonde jokes.” I consider myself o have a pretty good sense of humor, but those are just yawnsville. I guess I classify them like all discriminatory humor. I am not a fan of religious humor either. That said, I thought from the tile of your post that you were going to say you were dyeing your hair. I was coming to beg you not to do it. 😉

    Reply
  35. Hi August.

    I think people sometimes use jokes as a way to explore boundaries. Which boundary they are exploring varies with the person and the people they’re with. But I think you are right that telling blonde jokes can be a way to determine tolerance of preconceived views.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  36. Karen McFarland

     /  June 18, 2012

    “Some highlights from my research” LOL August! Great pun! I’m assuming you wrote it that way on purpose. Or it could’ve been another blonde moment. I’m blonde, so I know all about the stigma. And I think that it works much easier if we’re the ones who say it, rather than when others say it to us. It does work well as an excuse when we need one. Very much like yours when you missed the wedding by a day. That is hilarious! That just shows we’re all losing our minds August! You’re in good company girl! 🙂

    Reply
  37. August,
    This is beautiful!!! I am not blond but I can identify with everything you have written. You see, I am an Afro-American living in Germany and believe it or not have to battle the same things. The color of my skin automatically means that I am erotic, according to most people, hot blooded; or sticking out in a crowd wherever I go. I sing and of course my band is made up of Germans who are a different color than myself. So when we are on the road, I stick out like a sore thumb and have had to learn how to deal with that. I am also a writer and when I have to meet a deadline, even for myself, I work 24/7 and forget everything. I focus on my task. Of course that means that some things end up in different places or places where they should not be because I put them there, things like my keys in the fridge and eggs in the oven. Give me a good night’s sleep and the world looks differently.
    This is one of the reason I deplore negative jokes about people who are disabled and for years I have deplored blond jokes. Living in a country where I stick out regardless of where I go has taught me to be sensitive to people who are different and my hair rises on my arms, when I see women being painted and portrayed as dumb.
    So, I am happy to hear you have put to death your blond jokes.
    Enjoyed your article tremendously.
    Ciao,
    Patricia

    Reply
    • Thank you for your lovely words and insight, Patricia. A friend’s mother told me once after I explained that I’m somewhat of a “black sheep” in my family. She said, “You’re a rainbow sheep. You stand out because you’re colorful.” Sticking out like a sore thumb can be a good thing, depending on how we utilize it—take you, for example. 😉

      I’m touched by your humbleness. Rather than deeming yourself a victim, you’ve learned to practice empathy and sympathy for others and fuel your energy into passionate pursuits. You’re a rainbow! Thanks for that.

      Reply
  38. I waited tables in a truck stop my junior and senior year in high school to save money for college. While my father is a truck driver, and I have a ton of respect for him (AND how he treats women) something happens to these guys when they’re out on the road away from women. They would say the most inappropriate stuff. They had the tackiest blonde jokes and mostly it was to see if they could get me frazzled. I combated this by having better, funnier blonde jokes.

    It worked. When they were outwitted, they’d tip up to $5 for a cup of coffee, simply because I smiled and showed them at 16 years old, I was smarter, had more class and still treated them with respect. That was until one guy crossed the line and received a pot of coffee in the lap. That was the end of my waitressing career, but I didn’t mind. I went off to college the next day! 😉

    My hair color is in no way tied to my IQ. But I don’t think poking fun at myself is anything more than a good sense of humor. I’m pretty confident in my intelligence and when someone tries to dismiss me, I make them suffer if they don’t change their tune, but I’m an extrovert.

    Great post. Thank you for doing all the research!

    Reply
  39. I’m clearly a brunette, but I’ve run into people who think I’m vapid simply because I’m a smiler and I’m quite upon first meeting. It’s really a cause of being a little shy in new company. As soon as I feel comfortable, I open right up. I also find that when I get around certain parts of my family, I turn into a blithering idiot because I know that’s already the perception they have of me. Thanks for this really great post. It’s reminding me to be nice to myself and not buy into what other people might think.

    Reply
  40. Catherine Johnson

     /  June 19, 2012

    Well that explains a lot. I have been sleep deprived for 6 years now and back when I got the least sleep and had ‘nappy brain’ a friend’s husband was always picking fun of us for being blonde, (I had long hair then and it marginally passed as blonde) It drove me crazy, his wife acted dizzier for a laugh when he did it, but it really riled me up. I’d like to see men sleep deprived. i bet they wouldn’t like being called dumb because their brains were on a go slow. Plus same as Marcy, when you are smiley and I used to be more than I am (for some reason) people assume that is silly too. Funny now I write I don’t care so much. Great research August!

    Reply
  41. Well done my lady! I’ve heard enough blonde jokes to last a lifetime. I do have another one to add to your list though. Not spending enough time with adults and spending all your time with kids. In the past few years I have felt that has dumbed me down a little bit – the lack of adult conversation. I fell out of practice using certain parts of my brain and they are only now starting to fire back up, getting the wheels turning again – you know?

    Another one I really detested growing up were all the jokes I endured due to my name. Why did there have to be such a large line of porn flick with my name attached? I’m just sayin’. Who really thinks that’s funny? The best one can do is hold their chin up high and rise above it.

    I don’t believe in making fun of anyone. Feelings are too real and often run too deep. Your post was beautifully worded August.

    Reply
  42. I’ll admit that I’ve laughed at DUMB blonde jokes…just like I’ve laughed at DUMB brunette jokes (I am a brunette). But I’ve never associated hair color with intelligence. Truth be told, I know very few dumb people. I do know a lot of people who are like me though…and have more than their fair share of airhead moments.

    Like the esteemed Mrs. Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Ignore the jokes, laugh at the jokes…but don’t take them to heart.

    Reply
    • I hear you, Kristy, and used to feel similarly. I’ve learned that in some cases, we think we’re joking around for fun, when in fact we’re doing harm—if not to ourselves, then to others. Thanks for your thoughts!

      Reply
  43. This was really great, August. As you can tel from my picture, I’m a brunette. When my boys were in their teens, I did something really stupid (can’t remember now what it was, so obviously it didn’t ruin my life or self-image, LOL) and they asked if I was blonde under the brown. So somehow, whether it’s intentional or not, these blonde jokes get passed from one generation to another.

    Oh, and here’s another saying for you. A co-worker once told me that she was having a “pretty” day. When I asked what she meant, she said that on her “pretty” days, her brains were missing. So somewhere, that’s snuck into our society along with the blonde jokes.

    Reply
    • Thanks for pointing that out, Sheila. Prettiness equalling dumbness is another stereotype worth breaking. Some of that must stem from children being raised with excessive value placed on appearance, and too little on what’s within. I’m grateful that my parents chose an alternate route.

      Reply
  44. Kourtney Heintz

     /  June 19, 2012

    Another terrific post August! I think blonde humor definitely contributed to my desire to go red. When my hair was blonde, I felt the need to constantly wear my glasses to counteract my blondeness.

    Reply
  45. You know, I’ve always envied you Blondes. Because of society and media influences, we are made to believe that gentlemen really do prefer blondes and that you guys always did have all the fun but of course there is always two sides to the coin! Speaking from experience, I know how stressfull and annoying it is to be judged based on your physical attributes.

    Your point about ‘words fuelling ideas’ and discriminatory jokes really resonated with me though, August. Being from SA with our racially turbulent past, we often make jokes about the different races and cultures in our country. It’s the focus for a lot of our local comedians and I think we only do it to soften the consequences of our past.
    I often get irritated though because I feel it perpetuates the stereotypes even more. Everyone else thinks I’m sensitive for feeling this way but I say, as human beings, why do we have to celebrate our differences in this way?
    Btw, blonde or not, you’re one of the smartest people(not just women!) I have the pleasure of knowing in the blogosphere, August! 🙂

    Reply
    • Very insightful, Nisha. Thanks for the sweet words!

      I believe that confidence attracts quality relationship-ready men to women and vice versa. (Research points to that, too.) You seem big-hearted, bright and spot on—not overly sensitive—to me. Sensitivity is a huge perk, for writers especially. 😉

      Reply
  46. This may surprise you, but I’m really a blonde–strawberry blonde. I darkened my hair a few years ago and since joining social media, I forget all of my online friends have no idea this isn’t the “real” me. When they meet me, they always say how my hair is lighter than they imagined. Well, that’s because I’m letting it grow out and my natural highlights are shining through.

    Anyway, I love blonde humor. It doesn’t offend me, but I’m Texan so it takes quite a bit to offend me. My two best friends are blonde, and my mom is blonde (I think, LOL), and I personally think they are three of the most intelligent women I know. And I’m not just staying that… I say be proud to be blonde–be proud of who you are, regardless. If someone is making fun of blondes in a rude way, forget ’em. I do think blondes have more fun. 🙂

    Reply
  47. I feel blonde jokes are just another form of discriminatory humor. They serve to perpetrate a stereotype and do women an injustice since the majority of the time they are sexist and derogatory. And really, aren’t they a bit stale at this point? I enjoyed this post very much! 🙂

    Reply
  48. It’s funny, I think every hair color has a stereotype that can be bad or good. Having been a brunette all my life, we get the smart (good) stereotype, but we also get the boring dork one. Redheads get fiesty and fiery – which can go either way, depending on how you look at it.

    I can’t say I’ve ever referred to someone being “a blonde” to mean anything, though (my little sis is blonde), but I have said that my roommate is definite redhead (awesome fiesty personality). I meant it as a compliment, and I am pretty sure she takes it that way. 🙂

    Regardless, I do love that your post didn’t take a whiny approach to the whole issue, but a practical examination of it.

    I just read an article today where a redhead was complaining about Merida (from Brave) being depicted as a strong, fiery redhead, and how it’s perpetuating a sterotype to a new generation. Her article seemed a bit pointless given that Merida appears to be a strong female character (which is great!) and is SCOTTISH – which is likely to account for the red hair. /rant

    Thanks for being education, not whiny. 🙂

    Reply
  49. Excellent. I also used to use the blonde jokes and ‘blonde moments’ but stopped for similar reasons. I hate that I am often judged before I open my mouth. I’m not dumb, not ditzy, I’m a CFO and writer and fabulous mother, and all around just freaking awesome. I’ve come to the conclusion my relationships with men don’t work because they expect less of me than I am. And they can’t handle the real me. I’m good with that… :). I also suffered with an eating disorder (anorexia). If you are interested, wrote about that a decade or so back. http://www.mamashealth.com/eat/mystory.asp

    Reply
  50. This is a complicated topic. You’ve brought up some good points. To some degree, I don’t have a problem with it if it’s truly just gently ribbing – that’s how I roll sometimes. But on the other hand, those who do it to propagate the stereotype or because of their insecurities – that’s a different issue.

    I love all my women equally. Doesn’t matter if I have a female boss, blonde, brunette, etc. But there are some haters out there. Those are the people who should be reading this, but probably won’t. Right??

    Reply
    • Tough to say, MJ. But one point I hoped to make is that even gentle ribbing can cause damage in some cases, particularly if it becomes habitual. I think the same holds true for all types of self/other deprecating humor. Thanks for your thoughts and support!

      Reply
  51. When I as 14 I had to tell my father to lay off the blonde jokes. It wasn’t fair to his 3 very blonde daughters, myself being the oldest. I had enough other issues, and I was trying to keep my sisters from developing issues. He really listened to me. That was more than twenty years ago, and to this day, I have never heard a blonde joke from my father’s mouth. Honestly, I think the fact that his kid was telling him to think about the effects of what he says really made a difference, as I have never heard a joke from him since that could be considered deroggatory. Unless, of course, you are a bright yellow gorilla.

    Reply
  52. Author Kristen Lamb

     /  June 23, 2012

    I am not someone who walks around looking for reasons to be offended and I laugh at myself all the time, but I am getting to a point that the “dumb blonde” thing is starting to really tick me off. It has invaded our culture and people think it is okay, and it isn’t. I am tired of movies portraying blondes as stupid, conniving, home-wrecking sluts. If a woman is easy, she is blonde. A home-wrecker? A blonde. The evil girl in high school? A blonde.

    Pay attention to commercials. The mom who is so stupid she carries liquid Benadryl and a spoon to the playground is a blonde, but the “smart mom” (a brunette) has the single-serving Benadryl. The girl who can’t figure out teeth-whitening strips? (Because whitening strips are seriously difficult technology) Yep, blonde. Oh, but the gal who is smart enough to use an Aquafresh whitening TRAY, is a brunette. The woman who can’t figure out birth control? Blonde. The one who takes the once a month pill? Brunette.

    In shows and movies, the adulteress or easy girl is the blonde, but the smart, savvy gals are brunette. Even in the movie, Thor (which is supposed to be founded on SCANDINAVIAN legend) the main female was a brunette….because blondes can only be bimbos and home wreckers and there wasn’t a slot for that in the script.

    I guess I have gotten to the point that, if we took the same jokes and inserted a certain skin color (race) in there, we would be fired and in serious trouble. We would be ostracized from social groups if we told racist jokes (as we should be). Yet, it is okay to tell the same jokes with a person of a certain hair color. So little blonde girls get to grow up believing they are stupid and easy and that the best career choice involves the Playboy Mansion because, well, everyone know that all the scientists, engineers, lawyers, and doctors aren’t blonde. Blondes are just dumb sluts.

    Maybe I am taking this a little too personally (being a natural blonde), but I have been on the other end of this kind of discrimination, and the only “evidence” used to judge me was the color of my hair. Years ago, I was in a writing group and we had a member who needed help with a NF he was writing that was heavy on the science. I am actually very good at physics, so I was helping him make the language a bit more narrative and easier for the lay person. We met at the library (with 20 other writers) and worked on his pages (as part of a GROUP). I never did anything other than what the president of a writing group should do. He must have been having problems at home because his wife shows up after one of the meetings and accuses me very publicly of trying to steal her husband…because I was BLONDE.

    What if she had shown up and publicly accused me of some infraction because I was black? Or gay? And I have had people tell me, “Oh, well it isn’t the same. Blondes can dye their hair.” Thanks. Instead of realizing we are being cruel to a certain group, just let an entire group change who they are instead of being sensitive and finding something actually funny…like dancing chickens. Dancing chickens are always a crowd pleaser :D.

    Reply
    • Wow, Kristen. Powerful stuff. I don’t think you’re taking the issue too personally at all. If no one takes it personally, nothing will change. Those little girls will be fed the same negative examples and the same derogatory stereotypes will be perpetuated. Two or three generations ago, racial jokes were an acceptable norm, well after segregation was outlawed. I’m sure many people claimed it was “all in good fun.” But obviously it wasn’t, and still isn’t. The effects carry on and on, affecting people more than we realize. It’ll take time, but thoughts and passion like yours can go a long way. I’m already standing up taller since trashing my blonde card; I can only imagine what would happen if everyone did.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I vote for those dancing chickens. 😉

      Reply
  53. I know I’m late to the discussion but had to say Great Post, August! I don’t tell blonde jokes but I used to laugh at them. I will try to monitor that in the future. Even when we poke what we think is good-natured fun at people, it can have subtle negative effects on them, and society.

    I was reminded as I read this of an ongoing discussion I have had with several men in my life, who tend to blame bitchiness in some middle-aged women they know on hormones. As a post-menopausal woman I find this offensive.

    Thanks for the enlightening post!

    Reply
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