Sunday, May 19, 2013

Blondes vs. Brunettes: Stereotype or Reality?

For decades it's been a matter of speculation…possibly even for centuries: blondes have more fun but brunettes are smarter.

Is there any truth to that stereotype? The one that claims blondes are dumb as far as intellect is concerned but have that innate ability to manipulate men with their sex appeal. The one that claims brunettes are by far the more intelligent and capable but lose out in the sex symbol department?

Even Hollywood has played into the hands of the stereotype, by making changes in the image they present to the movie going public. In the days of the silent movie, blonde Mary Pickford was the sweet and virginal heroine while brunette Theda Bara was the bad girl sex symbol whose screen persona was the vamp who stole boyfriends and wrecked marriages.

Then in the 1930s the show biz image changed. The blonde became the home wrecking hussy, the gold digging sex symbol while the brunette was either the dutiful wife, the hometown girl next door girlfriend, or the uncommon situation of the intelligent woman who stepped out of the housewife mold and pursued a career in the business world as a single woman.

Most of the big screen sex symbols were blondes, a few natural and most from a bottle of peroxide. There were a few brunette sex symbols and the occasional redhead such as Rita Hayworth. Probably the most famous of all time was the iconic Marilyn Monroe whose name became synonymous with sex symbol. Marilyn co-starred with a brunette sex symbol of the time, Jane Russell, in the ultimate blonde vs. brunette movie—the 1953 release of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

But do gentlemen really prefer blondes? Results from a study conducted by the University of Westminster in the U.K. and the Scandanavian Journal of Psychology show something quite different. Their study shows that men actually prefer brunettes. The study was conducted with a woman going to three different nightclubs as a brunette, a blonde, and a redhead to see how many men approached her. She was approached most as a blonde, second as a brunette and least as a redhead. That would seem to prove the gentlemen preferring blondes theory.

However, followup with the men in the same three nightclubs showed that the men found her most appealing overall as a brunette. They said she came across most attractive, intelligent, approachable and dependable as a brunette, more temperamental as a redhead, and needy as a blonde. Previous studies had upheld the stereotype by showing that men prefer blondes.

Interestingly, women of all hair colors prefer men with dark hair…another stereotype of heroic tall, dark, and handsome. And apparently that choice applies to female lions as well. Male lions with dark manes are more likely to be pride leaders!

In a different study in 2011 in the U.K., 2000 men were surveyed and blondes were selected as the preference. Then when the same study was conducted in France, U.S., Spain, Italy, and Brazil, the preferred hair color was dark. Psychologists say that women who are not natural blondes usually go blonde because thy want to stand out. Since only about 10% of the population are natural blondes, this tactic works.

Hmmm…I guess those psychologists forgot about the mature women who go blonde because it softens their facial features, i.e. makes the wrinkles not as noticeable while not being that mature gray color.

However, old stereotypes die hard. With the current state of the economy, society has observed more blonde women dying their hair dark in order to be perceived as more professional in the work place and thus less likely to be laid off.

Interesting Fact:  Natural blondes have significantly more hair than brunettes. Evolutionary science tells us that hair evolved in part to protect our scalp from the sun's rays. With less pigmentation than brunettes, blondes developed more hair to achieve that protective barrier.


Harlie Reader said...

I'm a brunette and unfortunately, when I was younger if I stood next to a blonde friend I was typically ignored.

The one thing that I could always count on was that the blonde never figured out why she could never keep a boyfriend, while I had long lasting relationships. Hmmmm...


Grace Elliot said...

When at university I shared a hall of residence with a lot of Norwegian engineering students. Apparently the Norwegian's consider dark hair the height of sensuality! Interestingly, most of the Norwegian men were either blonde or light brown haired - so it could be that opposites attract.

Samantha Gentry said...

Marika: You took your own personal survey...the blonde got the immediate attention but you won the lasting relationship. :)

Thanks for stopping by.

Samantha Gentry said...

Grace: Since the Scandanavian countries are noted for their majority numbers of blondes, it looks like they appreciate what they don't have...the old 'grass is greener' syndrome. :)

Thanks for your comment.

Fiona McGier said...

My late Mom told me the whole saying is: Gentlemen prefer blondes, marry brunettes, and mess around with redheads. While I was in college I dyed my hair red and used that as a pick-up line in bars! Then when I got tired of doing my hair so often because it was so long, I told friends I didn't want to attract gentlemen anyway!

I think men still think of blondes as exotic and brunettes as approachable. I can find attractive things about almost all men, and if they're honest, I'll bet most men can say the same thing.

As for blondes being dumb? I don't think being able to manipulate men by leading them around by their privates is dumb...old-school, yes, but if effective, certainly not dumb.

Samantha Gentry said...

Fiona: My hair has been different colors at different times in my life, too. I've been brunette, frosted, blonde, silvery gray, and currently auburn. Since those colors occurred at different times in my life I can't really say how or if they personified a specific stereotype. And the concept of dumb blonde? "They" say Jayne Mansfield had an IQ in the genius 160 range and could speak 5 languages. :)

Thanks for your comments.

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