It’s really funny to see people’s reactions when you change from this:
Oh my goodness is that a brunette?!
Reactions have ranged from the complimentary “That’s a nice change, you look better as a brunette” to “oh, that’s… different…” (said in a high-pitched tone which really means “oh my God what have you done that was a terrible idea!”). I’m getting a good laugh out of it.
Being super blonde was too high maintenance. So earlier this week I asked my hair stylist to dye my hair the same colour as my roots. Apparently, this is my natural hair colour. I had no idea. I thought I was in the blondeish-light brown category. Nope!
Although the main reason for the colour change was to go back to my “natural” colour, I’m also seeing this as a great social experiment. I’m curious as to whether I’m taken more seriously as a brunette than a blonde. We can’t help but make assumptions about people based on their looks, and I know that there have been times I wasn’t taken seriously partially because I was blonde. So this will be fun to see if there are any changes in people’s attitudes.
Why am I talking about hair colour here? Who really cares? Well, apparently a lot of people do: according to a 2006 study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, resume applicants were “rated more capable and were assigned a higher salary when depicted with brunette hair color”. It’s easy to make assumptions based upon stereotypes, and even if we’re aware of the stereotypes and aware that there isn’t any factual evidence to support the stereotypes (for example, the “dumb blonde” stereotype), we still have difficulty in viewing blondes on the same caliber as brunettes.
Furthermore, when it comes to judgment and appearance:
- 83% of consumers believe that personal appearance is key to professional success, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery
- The Social Issues Research Centre found that 55% of people’s initial impression of you is based on your appearance and body language
- The current media height/weight ideal is achievable by less than 5% of the female population
- 81% of 10-year-old girls in America have already dieted at least once and at least 80% of women over the age of 18 are unhappy with what they see in the mirror.
This is saddening. Can we break out of this? I think we should try. The big issue is: how?
I was blonde for such a long time because I felt like a blonde. It felt right. I was comfortable with it. But just recently I decided it was time to go back to my roots (quite literally), and this too feels right. That is what we should be doing: asking ourselves what feels right and why it feels right, and then enacting that right-ness. And doing our best, as always, to be aware when we find ourselves making judgments based upon stereotypes so that we can try to adopt a more objective point of view.