Monday, January 31, 2005

The fairest of them all...

I just want to put this here as I came across it. I'll refine some things and comment on it later.

THROUGHOUT history people have been in awe of blonde hair. In Medieval Europe, for example, men were intoxicated with its sexual allure and supposed supernatural powers. In Thirties Germany, on the other hand, the blond Nazi stormtrooper became a symbol of Aryan superiority. Blondness was projected as the epitome of male beauty even as, paradoxically, it became associated with some of the most grotesque, racially motivated barbarism ever perpetrated......

[Blonde] has become a blazing signal in code, part of a value system laden with moral, social and historical connotations that has rooted itself in the human subconscious of the West and increasingly across the rest of the world.

Its story begins in Ancient Greece [Wrong.] where Aphrodite, the goddess of love and fertility, had golden-blonde hair of such legendary sexual potency that she inspired ambitious imitations among the dark-haired courtesans of the country. She set the tone for a certain type of blonde who has stirred the fantasies of men and fed the aspirations of women ever since.

But the history of the blonde is not as simple as that. Its bounty is inexhaustible. Every age has restyled blonde hair in its own image and with its own preoccupations. Blondeness became a prejudice in the Dark Ages, an obsession in the Renaissance, a mystique in Elizabethan England, a mythical fear in the 19th century, an ideology in the Thirties, a sexual invitation in the Fifties and a doctrine of faith by the end of the 20th century. Its distinctive imagery of youth, vitality and wealth, built up over thousands of years, has woven itself into the most popular materials of the imagination.

....In every popular forum of our age - film, television, fashion, pop music, politics - many of the most powerful players are blonde. But there is something strange about all these blondes. Very few are genuine. Only one in 20 white American adults is naturally blonde, and roughly the same ratio applies to white northern Europeans. But you would never think it, walking down a crowded street in the urban West. Here, virtually one in three white adult female heads is dyed a shade of blonde, be it honey, platinum, ash or any other colour from our rich lexicon of blonde shades. To achieve it, women have gone to extraordinary lengths. In Ancient Rome, the most ruthless beauties used pigeon dung; in Renaissance Venice they resorted to horse urine. Today, women spend hundreds of pounds sitting for hours in hairdressing salons having their hair lightened.

WHY DO we do it? A key reason is youth. At its most basic people associate blonde hair with youth. The rationale is perfectly logical: babies tend to have paler and more delicate hair and skin than their parents. Some children retain the blondeness of their infancy but most lose it once puberty sets in. To emphasise the equation with youth, women find that after their first pregnancy their hair and skin darken permanently. The result is that the paler the hair and skin, the younger a person appears. Blonde hair in women might originally have evolved, along with other childish traits such as a high-pitched voice and fine body hair, as part of a package of sexual attraction, an evolutionary adaptation for attracting a mate.

Just as adults find babies attractive, men were attracted to women with such signs of youth. Blonde hair, although not intrinsically more beautiful than dark, became associated, through these long evolved mechanisms in the male brain,with youthful fertility - a kind of visual certificate of reproductive success.

These biological processes of sexual selection have gradually transformed over thousands of years into aesthetic and cultural preferences. Blonde hair has become linked to femininity and beauty. [...]

(Sunday Express
February 23, 2003

I guess I missed out on the supposed evolution of that meme because I don't feel that way about blondes.

I would glean some things to philosophize about in a different way from that article. I do think there is a point of blonde being associated with youth but it has little to do with "evolution" and the sort of drivel typical to evolutionary psychologists. Perhaps some blondes begin to fit a cultural script in which they are "blonde babes" based on its association with youth. That would be a choice. Everyone wants to fit in, you know, this has little to do with survival of the "fittest."

Some seem to like, choose it, like. It's all like, like something. Because as a blonde babe language is not refined and defined enough to say exactly what it is....but it sure is like, like something! If you're just a babe it is hard find a metaphor because you hardly understand the literal.

It's ashame that some people may fit into a cultural script which makes them be stupid. But that is what some people do. I would not dehumanize people in the same way that those who believe in philosophic naturalism do. Instead, I would say that there is the stereotype or cultural script and then those who begin to "fit" in, fit into it. I think there is at least some element of choice there. But once you are a certain type of person and things are habitual, maybe you don't have much of a choice by then.

That article is factually wrong in places because it did not go far enough into ancient history as far as the prejudices about light/fair/angelic and dark/evil. I do not agree that this prejudice "evolved" over thousands of years and the historical evidence shows that it almost begins at the beginning of history itself. Instead, it seems to have been there from the beginning of recorded history in many a mythology. Biblically it is written, "Let there be light."

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