The Dumb Blonde Stereotype
Being a natural blonde, I have always taken somewhat an affront to the dumb blonde stereotype. If you're a blonde reading this you're probably thinking, "Me too!" and if you're of another hair color you might possibly be thinking, "Well I know quite a few blondes who could fall into that category!" I'll admit that I do as well, but no more than dumb brunettes.
DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece based on theories I have heard and personal experience, not something published in an academic journal. If you want sources, go to the references I list at the end of the article or do your own research, but I wouldn't use this article as a reference for a school paper unless you want your teacher thinking you are some dumb blonde.
First of all, let's take a little look at where this whole "dumb blonde" idea comes from. One theory is that the ancient Greeks and Romans so admired their flaxen-haired neighbors to the north, they would bleach their hair to make it blonde. Seeing as they didn't exactly have the health standards we have today, a considerable amount of bleach repeatedly placed on the scalp and being inhaled could have some effect on one's mental status.
Another theory is that in the Middle Ages, while the lords and ladies pranced around and shaded their delicate features, common people worked outdoors in the fields and became tanned and their hair grew lighter. As the lower classes didn't usually have a formal education, tan skin and blonde hair became associated with unintelligent, lower class people.
Then there is the ever famous book by Anita Loos (that sounds like a made up name) and the movie based upon it, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, starring Marilyn Monroe. Released in 1953, this story about two showgirls-a clueless blonde and a sassy brunette. While perhaps highlighting the "fun" side of blondes (in fact, brunette women held a demonstration protesting the movie, showing that brunettes could be just as much fun), this certainly did nothing to showcase their intelligence.
Nature, Nurture, or Nonsense
The color of one's hair is determined by either a gene, or a choice to make a chemical alteration to the color. Does that one gene, or whatever gene we have that makes us gravitate toward blonde-ness also affect intellectual capacity? Genetically, it doesn't appear to be that way.
Let's look at another reason people may suspect blondes of being inherently empty headed. Often children are born with or grow to have blonde hair. Tow-headed is a term usually referring to children, and invokes a sweet sort of innocence. Even those who have light brown hair but play outside often usually have hair that turns blonde in the summertime. We think of those children as naïve, cute, and playful, and treating them in such a manner may overlap to the treatment of blondes. I for one can't count the number of times I've been spoken to in a near baby-voice by auto mechanics or when I'm shopping in Home Depot. I always want to respond with something to the tune of, "Yes I know what a chassis is and if you speak to me in that tone one more time I'll give you a first hand look at it when I drive over you!"
Blondes Make Men Dumb?
What is interesting is a study has come out from the University of Paris X-Nanterre that shows that after exposure to blonde women, men performed worse on general knowledge tests. They concluded that the men subconsciously mimicked the dumb blonde stereotype presented before them.
So now we have some history of the dumb blonde--dark headed Greeks and Romans trying to be blonde--and a study showing not that blondes are dumb, but rather make other people dumb....interesting.
And a quick side note--why is it that when people hear "blonde" or "brunette" or "redhead" they envision women? For a bit of reference (and perhaps defense), the person with the highest IQ in the world is a woman--Marilyn vos Savant. A brunette, yes, but then interestingly enough many people argue Hillary Clinton is the world's smartest woman, and she is a blonde. Just some food for thought...
A Look at International Standards
While there might not be a whole lot of research on the IQ status of blondes vs. brunettes in the scientific world, there are some interesting studies done every few years to see what countries have "the smartest" kids. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducts a test of 15-year-old children around the world every three years to compare student performance. This past year, Finland scored the highest. Yes, Taiwan and South Korea were up there too, but so interesting that the Nordic, blonde-haired Finnish kids scored the highest.
So, to sum things up, there are all types of smart people and dumb people. Your intelligence is not determined by the fact that you spent too much time outside last summer, felt like trying something new at the hair salon, or were born with a gene that gave you blonde hair. Intelligence is a fluid thing, always changing, always able to be used or neglected. So here's to all hair colors, even though everyone knows that blondes still have more fun...just kidding.