Monday, September 17, 2007

Guest Post by Anaximenes: "Follicle Fallacy"

Stereotypes are allegedly out of vogue in our modern, politically correct society, supposedly espousing civility and respect toward those groups whose membership is of a specific age, ethnicity, religion, or sexual preference.

Political correctness as a cultural mores condemns the notion that a person might be smarter or dumber, lazier or more industrious, of greater piety or lower morality by virtue of one's maturity, skin color, preference of deity, or predilection of gender.

How hypocritical is it, therefore, that there remains today the popular misconception and an apparent acceptable canard that one's intelligence may be more or less developed depending on the color of one's hair?

"Dumb Blonde" has certainly become a part of our national lexicon, a concept that ascended in the 1940s and 50s with the classic Dumb Blonde personified by those who later became known as the "Three M's:" Marilyn Monroe, Mamie Van Doren, and Jayne Mansfield. The latter purportedly held the genius-caliber IQ of 165.

Movie racial stereotypes of pre-World War II America have all certainly fallen from favor, including the likes of Stepin Fetchit (a befuddled, mumbling, shiftless fool, played by America's first millionaire black actor, Lincoln Perry); Amos and Andy (a pair of befuddled, bumbling. shiftless fools who were actually played by minstrel-faced white guys, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll), and later on television in the 1950s, Jack Benny's butler and chauffeur, Rochester (who was less bumbling, shiftless and foolish, portrayed by black actor Eddie Anderson, but nevertheless played in a subservient role to his white employer, with a standing joke of how little he was paid).

These were racial stereotypes of African-Americans, of course, but let's not forget about other ethnic groups that were similarly typecast as buffoons and idiots well into the 1960s, like:

  • Hop-Sing, Ben Cartwright's cantankerous, cleaver-wielding Chinese cook in Bonanza;

  • Jose Jimenez, a stupid, nasally sounding Latino bellhop on The Bill Dana Show (where a Caucasian audience always laughed hysterically at Dana's trademarked grammatically bungled self-introduction with a concocted Spanish accent, "My name...Jose Jimenez,");

  • Baba-Looey, the somewhat dense Mexican sidekick (a small bull, actually) of the cartoon character, Quick Draw McGraw (a large horse, actually);

  • The infamous Frito-Lay advertising campaign from 1967 to 1971, with that classic south-of-the-border stereotype, sporting a criss-cross gun belt, mustache and sombrero, who was nothing but a light-fingered, thieving Mexican, known as the "Frito Bandito."

  • These stereotypes would all be considered distasteful, even shocking by today's standards. Yet the Dumb Blonde stereotype has nevertheless become ever more popular since the days of the "Three M's" with the likes of Dolly Parton, Suzanne Somers, Goldie Hawn, and more recently, Lisa Kudrow, Jessica Simpson, Anna Nicole Smith and Reese Witherspoon, to name but a few.

    And then, there is Paris Hilton. Admittedly, however, she's not really a stereotype who is actually acting like a dumb blonde; she really is a dumb blonde. In her case, however, the color of her hair juxtaposed to her high-school drop-out, semi-literate, self-indulgent, narcissistic lifestyle is merely coincidental.

    The blonde mystique has been further enhanced, perhaps as an offset to the negativity of being cast as brainless, by the notion that dumb as they may be, at least they may have more fun. In 1957, Clairol launched its famous "Is it true..." campaign that to this day, lingers as subtext to the notion that your hair color not only determines your intelligence quotient, but also the quality and enjoyment of your life. "Is it true blondes have more fun?" was the rhetorical question asked by Clairol in one of Madison Avenue's most successful ad campaigns of the 1950s to sell hair coloring products to sexually frustrated housewives, and cash in on the sexy "come hither" blonde personae being made famous by the Three Ms.

    Well, is it? Is it true blondes have more fun? Perhaps one should ask the archetypal and aforementioned Dumb Blonde, Paris Hilton. She is today spending time incarcerated for being enough of a chowderhead to get caught driving intoxicated, in violation of the terms of her probation in yet another alcohol-related reckless driving case. This is so much more acutely stupid when you consider the fact that Paris is worth millions of dollars, and could easily afford a fleet of limousines with fulltime drivers at her 24-hour beck and call. So, blonde in this case may mean you're always dumb, but not necessarily always having more fun.

    Her family is so supportive of her plight, by the way, that they are focusing their time and attention on spending $800,000 for a celebration party when Paris gets out of jail, instead of investing in her apparent need for rehabilitation from alcoholism. In this case, her hair color may be the least of her worries and dumbness, like blondness, can be, no doubt, multi-generational, if not mutually exclusive.

    The Dumb Blonde is so much a part of our language de rigueur that recent news articles about actresses Sharon Stone and Isobel Stevens (of Grey's Anatomy) begin with qualifying their intelligence by actually saying, "She's no dumb blonde...." Dumb Blonde, it seems, is now no longer a subset of people with fair colored hair - everyone with blonde hair is now assumed to be brainless unless otherwise qualified.

    It is seemingly acceptable to engage in discriminatory jokes about people with blonde hair even in today's politically correct environment, which has somehow bypassed the attention of the ACLU. For some reason, insulting someone of Nordic lineage with blonde hair is less troubling for this liberty advocacy group than insulting someone with, say, African ancestry with dark skin and black hair.

    Tell this joke:
    Q: What is the most confusing day in Harlem?
    A: Father's Day.

    ...and it would be deemed racially offensive that if told on a late night talk show, would be edited, omitted or deleted.

    But tell this joke:

    Q: Why did the blonde stare at the can of frozen orange juice for two hours?
    A: Because the can said "concentrate" on it.

    ...and no one is offended; in fact, the Dumb Blondes that get the punch line may actually laugh at it.

    Personally, I think the first joke is funnier.

    Have you noticed that a Dumb Blonde is parenthetically always about dumb blonde women? Even when the gender of the person in the above joke is left unmentioned, almost every reader would have inferred that the blonde was a woman. Indeed, famous Dumb Blondes are all women. Men that have played the role of fool in modern films and television shows are always brunettes: Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, Bill Dana, Jerry Lewis, Groucho Marx and Jim Carey were all brunettes. Guys with blonde hair are generally not considered dumb. Harpo Marx would be an exception as he was blonde and dumb. Dumb, in this case, refers to his lack of vocalization, not his intelligence.

    Also incongruous to this notion of hair color being synonymously indicative of intelligence, or the lack of it, a Dumb Blonde is also always a good-looking blonde. There are no famous ugly or fat Dumb Blondes, with Anna Nicole Smith being the possible one exception. Perhaps that's because this myth plays to some extent on our desire for cosmic justice in the world. If God doesn't give you any brains, at least he gives you good looks; and so the converse must also be true. We are generally shaken when we see a female nuclear physicist with blonde hair and a body built like a brick shithouse. Come to think of it, I've never even seen a female nuclear physicist, let alone a good-looking one with blonde hair and a body built like a brick shithouse. But my point is that good-looking women in jobs that require high intelligence or education are very often disarming because we figure they got the best part of this cosmic payoff and so too, we find ugly, stupid women equally off-putting. Ugly, smart women, on the other hand, at least can carry on an intelligent conversation. And perhaps as the antithesis to the Dumb Blond myth, it seems rather noticeable that all ugly, stupid women are going to be brunettes or redheads.

    And so, the Dumb Blonde stereotype continues to take root and grow assiduously and insidiously, unchallenged and undefended by any single champion, political movement or legal action of defense by the ACLU.

    Anaximenes is here to change that!

    I do now here today, as a former blonde and surrounded by a family of blondes, declare myself as the self-appointed champion of a vast underclass that has suffered for all too long the yoke of unrighteous discrimination and bias toward us because of the color of our hair.

    I shall take up the mantle of leadership and begin a new national movement: to demand the rights and recognition of blonde-headed people seeking justice and recompense for years of unjust treatment and the blunt of countless numbers of Dumb Blonde jokes that used to be reserved for Texas Aggies and people of Polish descent.

    Anaximenes will organize a national march on Washington, with hundreds of thousands of towheads in tow; he will stand at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, and deliver, as Martin Luther King delivered, this resonating and resounding address to stir the nation to action, and to oppress our oppressors, eliminating the term "Dumb Blonde" forever from our language, and grant blondes everywhere the same opportunities for equality, justice, freedom and recognition for individual contribution as our brunette and redhead cousins:

    I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as yet another of the greatest demonstrations for freedom in the history of our nation.

    Seven score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. Unfortunately, none of them were blonde, and so his action meant absolutely nothing for those of us assembled here today.

    Fifty years after Martin Luther King stood here asking for freedom for the Negro, the Blonde still is not free of being the blunt of such blonde jokes as "She was blonde with half a brain. In other words, she was gifted."

    The life of the Blonde is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation from Redheads and Brunettes, and the chains of hair color discrimination. Fifty years later, the Blonde lives on a lonely island of hair color and intelligence assumptions in the midst of a vast ocean of cosmetic prosperity and general stupidity. Fifty years later, the Blonde is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself, and mostly herself, an exile in his, and mostly her, own land.

    And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

    In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir to the color of their hair. This note was a promise that all men, and mostly women, and yes, blonde men and mostly blonde women, as well as brunette and redheaded men, and mostly brunette and redheaded women, would be guaranteed the "unalienable rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of 'Does She or Doesn't She?'" And while her hairdresser only knows for sure, it is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of fair hair color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given Blonde people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficiently brunette."

    But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of cosmetic supplies of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of peroxide and the security of hair spray.

    But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of cosmetology: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for hair color freedom by drinking from the cup of Clairol and L'Oreal. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our hair color protest to degenerate into random peroxiding. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting red head and brunette force with blonde force.

    The new militancy which has engulfed the Blonde community must not lead us to a distrust of all brunette and red headed people, for many of our brunette and red headed brothers, and mostly sisters, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny in hair color is tied up with our destiny in hair color. And they have come to realize that their freedom to add highlights is inextricably bound to our freedom to add highlights.

    We cannot walk in the beauty parlor alone.

    And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

    And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream about hair color. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream about hair color.

    I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of offbeat humor and will not laugh at Dumb Blonde Jokes like "she was so blonde, it took her six months to figure out she could listen to an AM radio at night."

    I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former Dumb Blonde joke tellers and the sons of former Blondes will be able to sit down together at the table and discuss the nature of Clairol Nice 'N Easy Root Touch Up.

    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of hair color injustice, sweltering with the heat of hair color oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of brunettes and redheads who are just as confused by being asked to alphabetize a bag of M&Ms as are their blonde counterparts.

    I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their hair but by the content of their mousse.

    I have a dream today!

    I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious Dumb Blonde joke telling people, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "she was so blond, she took a ruler to bed to see how long she slept" -- one day right there in Alabama little blonde boys and blonde girls will be able to join hands with little brunette boys and brunette girls and laugh together at how ridiculous people with orange hair and freckles really look.

    I have a dream today!

    From every mountainside, let Dumb Blonde jokes like, "she was so blonde she sent a fax with a stamp on it" either improve in its imagery or be applied to another hair color.

    And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. From every mountainside, let blondeness ring. And when this happens, when we allow blondeness to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, blonde men, and mostly blonde women, and brunette men, and mostly brunette women, auburn haired and redheads, brown heads and blue hairs, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual:

    Blonde at last! Blonde at last! Thank God Almighty, we are Blonde at last!"


    (Site: The Rants of Anaximenes)

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