A legendary 18th century courtesan is partly to blame for the fact that jokes are still made about women with golden hair. But is there any research to back this up?
Rod Stewart said that blondes have a better time, and Howard Hawks said that gentlemen prefer them, although they end up marrying brunettes. The collective imagination is full of phrases about blondes, some of them quite derogatory, as well as jokes about them. But if there is one belief above all others about women with a handful of dead cells growing on their yellow scalp, it is that their IQ is below average.
“Give me an ‘R', give me a ‘U', we blondes aren't dumb!“. If you haven't heard that joke or told it yourself on occasion, you're on a very low spectrum of the population. The truth is that the stereotype of the dumb blonde is quite old, and it can affect everyday life much more than a single poorly told joke can. But where does it come from?
Of ‘the first bimbo in history' it was said that she was “a vacuous creature who had developed the habit of silence not because she was mysterious, but because she had nothing to say.”
Actually, we can go back to her origins. Surprisingly, several historians emphatically agree that the notion that blondes are dumb goes back to a play performed 250 years ago and entitled ‘Les curiosités de la Foire‘. It was based on the legendary courtesan Rosalie Duthé, who is known as “the first recorded dumb blonde in history“. Although she knew how to move in society smoothly and quite ambitiously, and attracted the attention of a multitude of men in aristocratic 18th century Europe, becoming one of the most famous courtesans in history, the puritanical character of the time eventually destroyed her, and it was written about her that she was “a famously vacuous creature who had developed the habit of silence not because she was mysterious or charming, but because she really had nothing to say.”
In the play, the actress portraying Rosalie Duthé spoke in a slow, leisurely manner, which served to create the stereotype that blondes were dumb. With the arrival of Marilyn Monroe's characters, such as the one in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes‘ (1953), in which she played Lorelei, the stereotype of the quintessential innocent blonde became entrenched in the collective imagination. Some of the phrases that have passed to posterity from Marilyn's character emphasize this stereotype: “I may be smart when it's important, but most men don't like it“. In contrast was Dorothy (Jane Russell, a brunette), more intelligent and capable. Hitchcock also helped forge blonde innocence with the characters in his films.
“While jokes may seem harmless to some they have real-world implications and stereotypes often have an impact on hiring or promotions.”
However, stereotyping has been sought to be proven or invalidated on more than one occasion as it raises blisters among stakeholders. A study conducted in the United States a few years ago, with more than 10,878 women as a sample, concluded that natural blondes had an average IQ. In fact, according to the study's author, Jay Zagorsky: “While the jokes may seem harmless to some they have real-world implications and research has shown that stereotypes often impact hiring, promotions and other social experiences.”
The funny thing is that this is not the only study that has been done on this issue, which means that stereotyping gives real headaches. Stanford University also conducted similar research and, again, came to the conclusion that blondes are not dumb and that it's just a small genetic tweak (a single letter change in the genetic code is responsible for lighter hair, and it only affects the hair follicle). And for anyone who cares, unfortunately they also don't have more fun than brunettes. This all seems like a no-brainer, as it should, but we were also saying earlier that stereotypes make a big difference and can affect everyday life.
“It seems that blondes are often considered more approachable in places like nightclubs than their brunette counterparts.”
There is one last stereotype that does seem to hold true, though: according to studies, men do prefer blondes. This is because they attribute different personality traits to women based on their hair color, and it seems that blondes are often considered more approachable in places like nightclubs than their brunette counterparts. Other research (with opinions from over 350 men) went so far as to cite an evolutionary explanation for men's preference for blonde-haired women: they are apparently seen as more youthful and therefore better caretakers of potential offspring. Now all that remains to be seen is whether they still marry brunettes.
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