Language both reflects and shapes our culture, and our use of it can profoundly affect our lives. When I decided to trash my blonde card one year ago, I did so on principle. I’d realized that the “humor” is damaging, and not laugh-worthy at all. While I felt optimistic about the shift, I didn’t anticipate was how deeply its effects would run for me personally. Here are some of the takeaways the venture provided.
1. Blonde “humor” was hurting me. For years, I thought little of it when I jokingly blamed my hair color for mistakes and oversights: “I found my lost keys in the freezer. I’m such a blonde!” (Even typing that just now felt uncomfortable.) Rather than the truth, that I’m a daydreaming creative who has better things to ponder than key storage, or simply laugh at the humanness of it all, I told myself and anyone in earshot that I, and other blondes, lack intelligence. Within hours of drafting my blog post, proclaiming my commitment, I was standing up taller and grinning—so much so that my husband thought I had some spectacular news to share. (I did, but he probably the thought the news involved a writing award or Oprah. ;))
2. Sharing our commitments gives them (and us) power. The support from you all and others blew me away, magnifying the empowerment. It also gave me a sense of accountability, strengthening my vow. I’m proud to say that I haven’t blamed my hair color, told a single blonde joke or let another’s sexist joke fly by without tactfully stating why I didn’t find it funny for the past year. You all helped make the process a piece o’ cake, so thank you!
3. Targeting something as superficial as hair color (or shape, size, gender, race, age…) is a form of bullying. My friend Rob shared that his granddaughter went so far as to die her hair dark, simply to forgo blonde-related ridicule. Heartbreaking. No one should have to alter their appearance to please or gain acceptance from others. I’ve heard numerous similar stories this past year. Each one affirmed just how hurtful belittling jokes can be.
4. Celebrating one damaging stereotype opens the door for others. More than once when my ‘blonde card’ remained active, people responded to its use with equally harmful untruths. “Well I get to blame my old age!” they’d say, or “At least you’re not short!” All sexist, agist, racist, sizeist jokes are damaging. Partaking in one type of demeaning humor essentially says that others are okay.
5. “Dumb blonde” stereotyping runs rampant. If you’ve ever shifted your eating habits from not-so-healthy to super healthy, you probably became hyperaware of the overabundance of unhealthy foods and habits in the public. The same thing happened when I improved the healthiness of my everyday language. “Ditzy blonde” stereotyping is everywhere—from TV commercials, books and movies, to social media and everyday conversation. It’s also frequently celebrated by blondes, perhaps because we’re wrongly taught that the supposed humor is endearing or funny.
While searching for stock images for my novel cover, I was stunned by how difficult it was to find a serious, strong and intelligent-looking blonde woman. A search of the terms, ‘blonde women’ and ‘weapon’ drew up so many pornographic and ditzy-type images, I became equal parts annoyed and curious. Changing the hair color to ‘brunette’ in my search drew up entirely different photos. (Both searches drew too many sexualized images of women with weapons, however, which is another topic entirely…) I ended up choosing a bare back of a woman, and had my talented cover artist add blonde tresses.
6. One person can make a significant difference. It only took one conscientious person to suggest that there’s no need to lean on false stereotypes to have me rethinking my thoughts and behaviors. Numerous folks have told me that my post (inspired by that friend) motivated them similarly. We can make huge, positive changes in the world by simply taking a stand for what’s right. If we’re not fans of sexist jokes, we can ignore them or go beyond subtle opposition and set the person straight. (This doesn’t require meanness or hopping up onto a soapbox, by the way. “I quit telling blonde jokes last year because_________,” for example, works well. Or heck. Blame me. I’d be honored. ;))
Have you gone from celebrating harmful humor to banning it from your lingo? How do you respond to blonde, or otherwise sexist, jokes? As always, I welcome your thoughts. ♥