Hair Color Stereotyping: Ethical or Not?

A study concludes that in the mid-nineteenth century, golden hair became an attribute of pure and innocent maiden; while dark hair suggested the women of passion and experience. This research means that hair stereotyping had begun from a long time ago. Society unconsciously creates a form of prejudice surroundings hair color; unaware that this leads to racism. People now take this matter lightly and any attempt at creating humor about hair color is considered okay; which is not. Judging a person by their appearance does not define them. Human categorization by hair color is not ethical; it should not define one’s intelligence, behavior, and character.

There are several aspects to the stereotypical perception of a certain hair color. Blondes, for example, are subjected as a bombshell or a mainly ignorant people. A blond bombshell is a term that employs a really attractive blond haired woman. They are one of the most remarkable and prominent female character types in movie. People also assumed that fair haired person does not use their brain more often. A dumb blonde is a popular calling for blond haired people, especially women. A possible explanation is that attractiveness is also an asset; they do not need to be bright to ensure their future.

Over history, women with blond hair have been considered alluring and desirable. In European culture, they have been assumed more agreeable, especially when paired with blue eyes. It is often known that men preferred women with blond hair because they find them more attractive than women with other hair colors in popular culture. Blondes are often subjected to be livelier and less serious in North America. Society in Europe expected blondes to be vivacious and jubilant yet idiotic. Unsurprisingly, in some countries like Brazil, blond women do not hold in high regard and sometimes looked down by society.

This perception takes to a whole new level as they are exploited by advertising. A novel by Anita Loos in her 1925 called Gentlemen Prefer Blondes may have promoted the idea of blond stereotyping; a blond woman is more attractive than woman with other hair color. A 1775 play named Les curiosities de la Foire where a blond French paramour named Rosalie Duthé acted ludicrous by pausing for a long time before talking suggested that blond women not only brainless, but also literally dumb. This also applies to a commercial by Clairol for hair colorant with their phrase “Is it true blondes have more fun?”

Annette Kuhn creates a list of blond stereotypes in cinema. She broke them down into three categories in The Women’s Companion to International Film. The ice-cold blonde is a definition of a woman who hides fiery passion behind a cold and superior outer. This presented by characters like Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, and Mae Murray. The blonde bombshell presented a woman with attractive quality and men-gratifying. Lana Turner, Joan Blondell, and Marilyn Monroe are the famous example for this role. The last one, dumb blonde, defined an overly sexual women that have no sense. Popular examples for dumb blondes are Jayne Mansfield, Alice White, and Marie Wilson.

Despite all these degrading thoughts upon blond, a study from Nature Genetics has proven that the gene that hold the “switch” responsible to hair color does not affect nothing but hair follicles, it does not expressed elsewhere in the body. The gene encodes a protein called KITLG (stem cell factor) which responsible for different function based on where it is expressed. Hair gene is not linked to other attributes, like skin tone and eye color. It is certainly not linked to intelligence either.

It is no difference with red haired people. They are assumed to have sharp tongues and fiery tempers. They are strongly supported by characters from various books or movie. A say of Anne Shirley, a character in Anne of Green Gables, that “her temper match her hair”. “People with red hair are supposed to get mad very easily, but Allie [his dead brother] never did, and he had a very red hair,” this came from Holden Caulfield in a book called The Catcher in the Rye.

Redheads, a popular calling for red haired people, also believed to be overly sexual. In Gulliver’s Travels, A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms, Jonathan Swift writes that: “It is observed that the red-haired of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest, whom yet they much exceed in strength and activity.” He continued by saying: “…neither was the hair of this brute [a Yahoo] of a red color (which might have been some excuse for an appetite a little irregular) but black as a sloe…” A protagonist in a novel and film called Red-Headed Woman is portrayed by a sexually aggressive woman who throws temper tantrums as a habit. In the 19th century, Cesare Lombroso and Guglielmo Ferrero, based on this belief, concluded that red-haired most likely have explosive sexuality and claimed that 48% of this type of women were redheads.

In medieval belief, red haired are seen most likely to be a moral degeneration. They are viewed as an epitome of barbarous sexual desire. In Der Eisenhans, a fable by Grimm brothers, the spirit of the forest of iron is portrayed by a savage red-haired man. In a translation of the Malleus Maleficarum, Montague Summer declared that red hair and green eyes is the sign of a witch, werewolf, or a vampire during the middle Ages. He writes that:

“Those, whose hair is red, of a certain peculiar shade, are unmistakably vampires. It is significant that in ancient Egypt, as Manetho tells us, human sacrifices were offered at the grave of Osiris, and the victims were red-haired men who were burned, their ashes being scattered far and wide by winnowing-fans. It is held by some authorities that this was done to fertilize the fields and produce a bounteous harvest, red-hair symbolizing the golden wealth of the corn. But these men were called Typhonians, and were representatives not of Osiris but of his evil rival Typhon, whose hair was red.”

Brown hair is no exception either. They are spread wide and frequently seen in Asia, Africa, and South America. It is the second most common hair color, ranked below black hair. People with brown hair usually called brunette. They are most likely viewed as to be more approachable and dependable. They are often assumed to be diligent and committed to their work. A study shown that employers are more likely to hire brown haired when presented with three candidates, with hair color differences but similar skills and qualities, because they think that the brown haired will handle the job more responsibly than a blonde or red-haired candidate.

Brunettes are perceived to be more mature. Anita Loos, the author of the novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, wrote a sequel called But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, this novel later made into a film Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, starring Jane Russell and Jeanne Crain. This novel may have suggest the idea that men will most likely fantasize more often on blondes but the ones they will want to settle is brunette. Some men viewed brunettes as marriage material; they are more serious and tend to form long term relationships.

Majority of Nobel Prize winners are brown haired. Thus, most people will think that brunettes are hard workers and persistent in their purposes. They are often touted for being more intelligent and self sufficient.

A research found that when the brunettes’ stereotype was tested, they found that brunettes tended to be boring. After ten conversations with each hair color, the amount of time to become boring was generally the same. Five blondes became boring faster than the others. This shows that the myth that brunettes are boring is another myth.

According from Daily Mail by Deborah Arthurs, men find women with darker hair more sexually attractive. A poll created by a social networking website called Badoo claimed that more than 60 percent from 2000 men said that they prefer dark haired women. A separate research, conducted by Viren Swami and Sheishin Berret also provided the same answer surrounding these topics. Their experiment found that men usually approach darker hair women than lighter one.

Hair racism is more real than most people think. This was said by a woman with experience:

“My boyfriend’s own mother judged me before she even met me based on my hair color. She saw a picture of me and said to my boyfriend, “Aren’t redheads supposed to be easy?” I have also had my best friend’s step-mother tell her she shouldn’t be my friend since I am a Jew (since all redheads must be Jewish, of course).”

It is true that not everybody is comfortable with the idea of ambiguity, thus decided something on their own. They quickly judged someone based of what everybody believes. Everyone is judgmental, we could not deny that. Society will always have a split personality. This coupled with the fact that the prejudiced hair-color people existed, strengthened the idea that hair color stereotyping is considered ethical. They live out society expectation by acting as what people believe they are. Hair color stereotyping might just be a solution for people who do not consent such thing as ambiguity. However, that perception is not lived out by everybody. You may find a blond genius, a redhead with unlimited patience, or a brunette who act like a three year old kid. Now, many people refuse to be stereotyped and start acting as their real nature, regardless of society view on their hair colors.

I thoroughly oppose the idea of hair color stereotyping. It does not define someone’s true nature, least dictating what they should be in the future. It is a prejudiced idea veiled with poor attempt of humor in hopes of finding something funny to ridicule. The perception could lead to moral degradation, casting weight and clouds of uncertainty upon people. Society might just take this matter lightly and turn blind eyes upon it, but the outcome of this perception might make people think twice. I personally think that stereotyping hair color is no different than stereotyping skin color. These views are racism towards people, no matter how trivial the subject is.

World is full of diversity. We should rejoice in it instead of chastising one of god’s creations. It is no difference with hair color. People were born with different hair color as a variation to color our lives. In the end, hair color stereotypes are often something people tend to ridicule for the sake of having fun. Conclusively, making fun of it is intolerable, people unconsciously remarked people with different hair color with the word such as “ginger” for red haired, unaware that this is one of racist remark. Categorizing human by their hair color is not right, it does not define their intelligence, behavior, and character.