Does Society Have Different Rules for Blondes?
The Freakanomics blog today highlights a story that has the interwebs a buzz with blonde jokes and ladyblogs asking a lot of questions. A study out of the University of Queensland found that blonde women make more money and marry wealthier men than women with other hair colors. According to the Daily Telegraph story:
Researchers at the University of Queensland, who surveyed 13,000 women, said that the difference in pay remained the same even when other factors such as height, weight and education were removed.
They could not explain why blonde-haired women enjoy more financial success, but said no other hair colour produced similar results.
Do sociological factors determine the success of blondes?
Disclosure: I have blonde hair. Therefore, I apparently make $2,400 more than my non-blonde peers and will likely marry a wealthier man. (My mom should be breathing a sigh of relief over that one.) Naturally, I have dark blonde hair, but have had hair color all over the spectrum. I've had platinum hair (a mistake which drove me to only trust my hair stylist to color), brown hair and red hair. I was a faux redhead for two years.
Since at least the Middle Ages, blonde-haired women have been the standard of beauty. As such, I theorize that blondes have the upper-hand because we've been conditioned to view them (or I guess, us) at the top of the social strata. That explains why blondes would marry wealthier men. In economic terms, the man with the most resources would be able to take his pick of bride. Why not marry the woman who most closely resembles society's ideals?
But do we make more? I don't personally know since I've never compared salaries to women in similar jobs as me. Confidence is the major factor contributing to salary negotiation, and women are generally terrible at asking for higher pay. Since society views blondes as having the ideal beauty, are the flaxen-haired more confident than other women with the same socioeconomic factors excluding hair color?
I do believe that society has given us an easy out when we make mistakes. I'd love to see a survey question how many blondes have taken advantage of the dumb blonde stereotype.
Admittedly, I've used that crutch. It's an easy, easy excuse to make. When faced with a social or professional mistake, which course would you take? Making people laugh by shrugging it off as a "blonde moment" or face more serious consequences? It's human nature to try and make a tense or bad situation funny, so perhaps blondes are more apt to perpetuate that stereotype to diffuse a situation or get out of trouble.
According to Hollywood, dumb blondes are also much more successful. From classic movies with Marilyn Monroe to The Girls Next Door, dumb or shallow blondes always end up winning. Also, because society has pushed the dumb blonde stereotype, are people more likely to expect less of blondes? Is it a catch-22? We're held to lower standards because of the stereotype and when situations arise, we use it to get ourselves out of trouble?
As Jezebel notes, the statement from the International Blondes Association (which sounds just as silly as the proposed Blonde Defense Fund in the book version of Legally Blonde), this quote is rather absurd:
Olga Uskova, president of the International Blondes Association, told the Mail on Sunday: "Blondes have wealthier husbands because we are more fun and outgoing, and men are more attracted to us.
"We also do better in the workplace because when we make a mistake we can say, 'Oh, sorry about that, it's because I'm blonde' and get away with it."
How do you know blondes are more outgoing and fun? Can that realistically be measured? Again, that's just a perception promoted by Hollywood and apparently members of the International Blonde Association.
Having experimented with my hair color so much, I do think that society has special exemptions for blondes. I noticed a distinct difference in the way people treated me when I had red hair. I find that I'm viewed as less threatening as a blonde (of course a woman espousing conservative views is always viewed as threatening). As a confident woman with a strong personality and outspoken views, I'm accepted far easier as a blonde than I was as a redhead. Of course, my experiences are anecdotal and can usually be explained by other factors.
Am I happier and more outgoing? There are many more factors that go into happiness than hair color. I don't think that changing my hair color had any bearing on it. I feel more like myself as a blonde than when I had red hair. It is far easier to maintain your natural hair color than a fake one, especially in DC where a cut and color top $150 every six weeks.
What about men? Are blonde men viewed differently? Why does this standard only apply to women? While thinking about this post, the only example that I could remember was some backlash from the James Bond franchise when they announced Daniel Craig was the new Bond. Since he deviated from the Bond tradition of dark-haired men, his hair color was the lede.
What do you think? Are blonde women happier and more successful? What would cause the results of this study? Is this an example of research dollars being wasted or a sign that it comes down to genetics to determine success and happiness?