Illustration by Bijou Allard.

“I read online last night that all blonde people are dumb,” said the bothersome boy next to whom I had the misfortune of sitting. I was in second grade and this was the beginning of a lifetime of unfounded assumptions. I stared at him for a moment in disbelief and then began an argument, during which I accused him of being just as blond as me and also a liar. My teacher resolved the situation by assuring me his hair was red, but that his statement was still false. This was not enough.

When I went home that day, I’m sure I complained to my parents, but that was the end of it. I forgot until fourth grade, when I was helping a group of my classmates write a skit involving a confused person asking a series of moronic questions. “We need someone blonde to say those lines.” I stared down at my Ugg boots and my pink dress and my stupid blonde hair and felt burningly inadequate, but I didn’t say anything. It only recently occured to me to get mad.

I’ve spent a lot of time since second grade trying to prove my intelligence. Not to anyone in particular, and not even necessarily to myself. I used to brag about how early I started reading books with sentences like “Sam had a cat,” as though this would impress anyone. I memorized 50 digits of pi just in case I ever needed them. I stood near the SAT prep books in the public library long before they were ever relevant to my life. I studied for spelling bees just so my classmates knew I was nerdy enough to be in one. When I was a little older, I obsessed over characters like Annabeth Chase and Luna Lovegood, blonde girls whose intelligence wasn’t questioned constantly. I wanted to be just like them: a great leader and a bit weird, and above all, respected for my mind. Even now, I haven’t totally stopped trying to prove myself. I’ve been determined to be a valedictorian since my first day of high school, and I feel bad about my grades if they’re less than 95 percent. 

I know how ridiculous that sounds, but it’s true. The idea that I have to try harder than others to prove myself has been so deeply ingrained into me since elementary school. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just crazy and reading too much into a couple situations that happened years ago. Good news, everyone! I’m not the only one. Abby Darr (10) shares a similar experience, explaining, “when I started middle school, I definitely started to feel the need to not fit into the dumb blonde stereotype by making sure everyone knew I was smart.” Personally, I was absolutely insufferable in middle school because of this, and I’m honestly surprised and very appreciative that anyone was able to tolerate me for so long.

Darr also brings up the interesting topic of how blondes are portrayed in popular media. She recalls that when she watched cartoons as a kid, all the blond characters were “popular but also lacked common sense.” This stereotype appears in many shows aimed at children, and can clearly have a negative effect on their self esteem. Many blonde characters on TV are snotty, simperingly sweet, and/or oversexualized, but are very rarely praised for their intelligence, and this is frustrating. Moreover, this stereotype is only ever levied against blonde women. Blonde men in media (and in life) largely have the privilege of being known as well-rounded and fully intelligent life forms. 

I know the problem is getting better. Just the fact that characters like Annabeth existed for me to look up to in elementary school indicates a social change. Moreover, it’s 2020, and by now one would assume humanity would be done making arbitrary judgements based on something as simple as hair color. Alas, the stereotype pervades. So much so that I still feel guilty for looking up the difference between blonde and blond for this article. Clearly, we as a society must strive to end harmful and untrue stereotypes.

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