Blondes – it’s always the blondes, but what is it about them? Chris Cotner just put up a post about smoking hot BLONDE softballer Jennie Finch replacing super hot BLONDE Anna Kournikova as the Hottest Female Athlete.
Coincidentally, the NY Times ran a story about blonde power over the weekend:
- Blondes. The very word sets off reactions: identification, hostility, envy, attraction, even jokes. All are relatively harmless compared with the impact of blondes through the ages. In the West alone, they have variously personified seduction, sanctity, innocence, immorality, intellectual simplicity and racial superiority.
What exactly is the strange power exercised by blondes?
Joanna Pitman, an English journalist, first asked herself the question 20 years ago when she was working for a medical aid charity in a remote part of Kenya, where the sun had bleached her hair yellow. Because of her hair color, she recalled, the Africans attributed to her powers of healing. Then, during her stint as a foreign correspondent in Tokyo, provincial Japanese were no less fascinated by her hair, staring at it and even wanting to touch it.
That happened to me in Japan also, especially back in ’79 when we visited some little mountain towns. I walked into a tiny shop off a back road and the woman started shrieking the Japanese word for “yellow” (I can’t remember it now) over and over again.
Pitman has written a book on the history of the yellow-hairs:
- For Ms. Pitman, 39, a Cambridge University graduate who is now the photography critic of The Times of London, much of the work involved research into art, religion and politics. But first, as if to test her premise, she bleached her hair blond. Her surprised husband remarked that she looked like Andy Warhol but, more significantly, when she stepped out into London, she felt different. Above all, she was treated differently.
“I got wolfish looks from men and complicit smiles from blond women, who seemed to acknowledge my beaconlike hair as if I was now a member of an elite club,” she writes, recalling that she was suddenly given preferential treatment at the market as well as at the London Library. Her new look also made her feel “younger and, strangely, more positive.” And she muses: “After a while I wondered whether I could afford not to be blond.”
Man, that’s exactly how I feel: in the Ohio winter when my (remaining) hair darkens up, I feel like shit. My hair even looks thicker when it is light blond, which makes no logical sense at all if you think about it. I look better, feel better, there’s no getting around it.
When I was appearing weekly on the Fox affiliate morning show in Cleveland, the producers flat out told me that I look best blond and tan, and they expected to see me that way. Period.
Check out these stats:
- While among white American and northern European women, only one in 20 blondes is naturally so, in the urban West, Ms. Pitman writes, “one in three white adult female heads is dyed a shade of blond, be it honey, platinum, ash, ‘dirty pillow slip’ or any other color from our rich lexicon of blond shades.”
That means 5% are naturally blond, while 33% are blond by choice, almost seven times as many. And it’s been going on for a few thousand years:
- Ms. Pitman starts her story in 360 B.C., when Praxiteles may have used his voluptuous mistress, Phryne, as his model for a statue of a blond Aphrodite, who came to represent all forms of love. The statue was endlessly reproduced, inspiring prostitutes to find ways to lighten their hair. The poet Menander decreed that “no chaste woman ought to make her hair yellow,” but Homer preferred to imagine Aphrodite emerging from the sea wearing nothing but her blond tresses.
….Ms. Pitman then jumps more than a millennium to the Middle Ages, when blondes, at least those with dyed hair or wigs, were still considered hussies. And by now, she notes, Venus has transmogrified into Eve, duly portrayed as a beautiful — and blond — temptress. “In her wake trailed Mary Magdalene, one of her most promiscuous descendants,” Ms. Pitman writes, pointing to Masaccio’s 1426 “Crucifixion,” which shows Magdalene at the foot of the cross, her long blond hair tumbling over a vivid red cloak.
Simultaneously, however, a battle over the symbolism of blondness was taking place in other parts of Europe where the Virgin Mary was being portrayed as a blonde. These images were inspired by Saint Bridget, a 14th-century Swedish holy woman and presumably a blonde herself. Soon blondness was also representing purity. The 14th-century “Wilton Diptych” by an unknown artist shows a blond Virgin holding a blond child surrounded by 11 blond female angels.
….The battle between the blond angel and the blond devil escalated anew in Victorian England. “For Victorian men this powerful blond imagery was sinister, frightening, grasping — and irresistible,” Ms. Pitman writes. “The quivering, glinting blond locks worked on them like alcohol or cocaine; stimulating, exciting and deadly. In their fevered imaginations, fired by the prudery of Victorian society, blond hair became the source of overt temptation, the most menacing sexual man trap yet.”
….In the 20th century, however, much of the ambiguity disappeared with the emergence of the blond as a symbol of racial superiority. Long before Hitler seized power in Germany in 1933, anti-Semitism was accompanied by a new myth of Aryanism, encouraged by the new fad of eugenics. But Ms. Pitman also draws interesting parallels between the Nazis’ adulation of the blond, the Soviet Union’s promotion of the dynamic blond ideal and “the development of a radiantly sunlit blond American ideal, the WASP American dream.”
….In the United States, though, by the 1940’s the vampish images of the likes of Jean Harlow and Mae West had been replaced by what Ms. Pitman calls “socially well-behaved blondes,” like the wartime pin-up Betty Grable. Yet within a decade, prudery had again been swept aside by Marilyn Monroe. Soon there were “dumb blondes” like Jayne Mansfield, regal blondes like Grace Kelly and girl-next-door blondes like Debbie Reynolds. And young American girls had their own blondes in the shape of Barbie dolls. All that has changed since the 1960’s is that it has become simpler to become a blonde.
Why this continuing fixation with blondness? Ms. Pitman has no single answer, but she suggests that, by choosing to become blond, women may feel younger, whiter and sexier. And if this idea was long promoted by poets and painters, it is now constantly drummed into the public by television and magazine advertising.