On Blondes - A Review
Joanna Pitman has given us everything we wanted to know about blonde hair and some stuff we didn't. (Can you say goat urine?)
On Blondes is about the people who love it, those who desire it, those who fake it, those who steal it, those who envy it, those who paint it, those who write about it, and those who kill in the name of it.
Beginning with the allure of blonde hair through time from the days of Aphrodite to modern day Hollywood.
A Lasting Impression
According to Pitman Aphrodite of Knidos is who we have to thank or blame for the elicit response that blonde hair permeates. "More than two thousand marble Aphrodites survive today as well as many more in bronze and in terracotta..." Pitman points out that "...her image must have been seen by everyone, a universal and utterly democratic blonde goddess inspiring Greeks of all classes, ages and inclinations."
Pitman teaches the extremes that the Romans and Greeks and succeeding generations went to for blonde curls. This self-abuse for blonde went on for centuries to the detriment of health and scalp. Substances as natural as saffron to as toxic as ammonia, bleach and the aforementioned goat urine were used to achieve the desired shade of blonde.
She tells us that by the end of the sixteenth century, "lust had emerged in the confessionals as the number-one sin." This may have been due to "the spread of printing and the increased circulations of images, sight was emerging as the pre-eminent erotic sense." Blonde had become "both beautiful and dangerous."
The zest for blonde has not always been positive; in fact most of it seemed quite negative. The desire to be blonde seems to be prominent amongst those of the oldest profession: prostitution. Often the most intriguing blondes were called Hetairai ("the most elevated both in the hierarch of whores and in female society..."). There was a period when blonde spent "two hundred years out of fashion," but Blonde hair always seems to come out on top (no pun intended). The first account of the "dumb blonde" was in 1775. "The appearance of the first nude blonde calendar girl in 1913 had not helped the image of the blonde in the eyes of high society." Nor has it improved it's image today.
"A blonde heroine was essential to a successful fairytale," and Hollywood extended its fairytales to movieland. The "theme of the beautiful blonde and reluctant bride and the grotesque animal groom has shown great staying power over the centuries and has been the inspiration for numerous pantomimes and melodramas." like King Kong. "The broad pattern of character-typing by pigment is unmistakable." Mae West "is one of America's first blonde pin-up girls." And who is the most famous blonde? Pitman sites Marilyn Monroe as the "big chief of all blondes".
"Blonde hair was highly divisive and provoked extreme reactions." And no where is this more apparent then during Hitler's reign. Pitman's journey into Teutonic and Aryan history was informative and answered many questions for me on the German philosophy of Blonde hair/blue eyed superiority and how Hitler managed to promote it despite his dark colouring: Propaganda. After World War II the world knew of Germany's love of blonde hair.
Pitman's book reads like a weekly dose of the History channel with each chapter being a new episode in the series of events. In some areas she seemed like she was rambling and off topic going on about relationships or other personal quirks of the characters she chose to include. The history of the white flour wigs seemed to drag on long after the main idiosyncrasies were driven home.
With present day society and technology, it gets harder and harder to tell who is natural or not. "Only one in twenty white American adults is naturally blonde." I think Shirley Polykoff summed it up in her ad for Clairol, "Does she or doesn't she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure."
According to Pitman older women like Hillary Clinton and Margaret Thatcher went blonde because it makes them "look younger, it demands more attention, it is sexually attractive and it signals status and control. I wonder if this accounts for Celine Dion's recent transformation to platinum blonde.
In the Afterword Pitman states she approached "several American women academics," on the study potential of blondeness and they "refused to discuss it at all." Perhaps a sign that they are embarrassed they didn't discover the topic themselves. I'm sure Pitman's On Blondes will be a text in future feminine study. On Blondes left a lasting impression on me.
I'd Like to Recommend...
Each chapter directs the reader through the seductive seven lives of Blonde hair: "a prejudice in the Dark Ages, an obsession in the Renaissance, a mystique in Elizabethan England, a mythical fear in the nineteenth century, an ideology in the 1930s, a sexual invitation in the 1950s and a doctrine of faith by the end of the twentieth century."
"Beautiful and dangerous"
The Most Recognizable Blonde - Marilyn Monroe
Are you blonde?
A Stanza from a German Love Song
“Where did ever mortal eye
See two lovelier cheeks displayed?
Lily-white, without a lie,
Sweetly, featly are they made.
Long and pale and gold’s her hair.
If hers and mine the whole realm were,
I would give no one else a share!”
"I'm not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I'm not dumb... and I also know that I'm not blonde." ~Dolly Parton
Leave a warm fuzzy about this lens, book or something on being blonde in general.