What’s my blonde ambition? For people to shut up about my sodding hair, for starters.
Saw a Q&A with Gwynnie Paltrow in Stylist last week. She’s been plugging her new cook book/manifesto for food fascists and got to talking about life and stuff, as one is want to do when one is a mega famous celeb person.
Now, far be it from me to go agreeing with anyone that has loadsa dollar and too much time but she did say something that made me nibble the end of my pen (I was in the process of giving her a luxuriant moustache, a la Kaiser Wilhelm I) in pregnant thought. “I don’t understand the whole idea of blondes having more fun. I’d say brunettes have more fun as they can go under the radar a little bit more. People are just waiting for blondes to get drunk and fall down, because we’re so visible.”
My hair is also blonde; bale-of-hay blonde rather than ray-of-sunshine blonde but, yellow it nevertheless is. I dyed it all in one session after an unfortunate dalliance with auburn (it came out aubergine) and, after five and a half hours in the chair, I was totally (to quote the hairdresser) ‘transformed’. Though I would argue that I looked much the same it did take some getting used to. I’d walk past shiny surfaces, catch a glimpse of myself and do a double take, not recognising my own reflection. Or notice out of the corner of my eye someone’s blonde hair near my face, go to swat it away, only to find that it was MY HAIR.
The suddenness of it also meant that I was more aware of the reactions I was getting: in the first week a builder called me slut, a barista gave me a free coffee and a colleague announced that from now on he would be calling me ‘Barbie’, to which I replied, ‘yeah, well at least I have hair!’…not out loud though. In one five hour bleaching frenzy I had become the butt of a thousand jokes and a beacon for every leery passer-by who cared to comment.
Would I have gotten a similar reaction if I were a dude? Not likely. I mean, Boris Johnson espouses all manner of shit and isn’t called a bimbo. For women, blonde is Playboy Bunny, ditzy giggles and dumb moments, stereotypes that exist only in relation to women. As a society we’re expected to laugh at the jokes and as women we’re expected to giggle at the proverbial bottom slap that is being told our hair colour proves how silly or slutty we are.
Blonde is as blonde does you might argue (if you’re a twat) and god knows there are some stupid blondes (men and women alike) in the world but then there are also stupid brunettes and gingers. I’ve been one of each and my intelligence has remained unaffected. But that’s not really the point, is it?
The point is – hold on to your chairs lads and ladies, I’m about make a profound statement – hair is only hair. It is the dead stuff that grows out of your head. Not only is it reductive to have to sit in a presentation where the speaker, to fill some time, makes a dumb blonde joke but it is also a massive confidence killer when the room erupts into guffaws of delight.
It is an insidious form of putdownery; flippant, silly sexism that creeps into society masquerading as humour and means that someone like me has to be on the defensive about my choice of hair colour, which is probably one of the most painfully ridiculous things I’ve ever had to be on the defensive about, like EVER.
Was I taken more seriously when I was aubergine-hued? Reason dictates that I should have been laughed out of any serious business-y stuff I was doing, because my hair was the colour of an aubergine, which is odd. But no, it was all good. A dye job later and I’m not listened to quite as intently or asked to participate quiet as often. In bars I’m a magnet for rogue arse grabbers and sleazy bump-n-grinders and in a library last week I was asked (sympathetic head tilt) if I needed help finding the right section.
See, I sort of think that Paltrow, flaxen haired Yoda that she is, said the right thing, just the wrong way round. For me, it’s not really about visibility so much as the fact that a mop of yellow hair means that people are immediately expecting you say or do something stupid, to ‘get drunk and fall down’, to topple forwards and land flat on your face, just like the Barbie they think you are.