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How People Treat Me Differently Depending on My Hair Color

How People Treat Me Differently Depending on My Hair Color

Much to the exasperation of my hairdresser - who is as worried about the health of my hair as I ideally should be - I love dying my hair. For years now, I have been going back and forth between various shades of blonde and brown. It has gotten to the point that my friends who haven't seen me for a while, are always unsure whether they should be searching for a light or dark headed person in the crowd. At least I’m consistent with the length - my hair is always long, falling well below my shoulders. Everyone seems to have an opinion on which color they like best, but the weirdest thing about the changes? How people treat me differently depending on the color of my hair.

The way people react to me is definitely based on some underlying societal perceptions associated with various hair colors; stereotypes that are underscored by movies and TV shows. There’s the brunette girl-next-door, and the blonde bombshell darling. Men and women, whether consciously or not, often change their behaviours towards me ever so slightly based on these ideas.

In my experience, men hit on me a lot more freely whenever I am blonde. As much as I would like to think it is something specifically about me, I really do think it is the blonde given the amount of times men have chat me up. Guys will start flirting with me in bars, on the streets, and even on airplanes. What I find particularly interesting is the way they approach me; they call me sweetheart or cutie. The number of times I’m approached is significantly lower when I sport darker hair. When I am a brunette, I tend to get babe, sexy, hot stuff - words that, in my eyes, have more grown-up connotations rather than being sweet terms of endearment. Men also tend to, to a certain extent, talk down to me whenever my hair is blonde. They certainly seem to think I’m dumber then, buying into yet another stereotype. They also tend to be more persistent; almost as if to signal that if they don’t give up, I’ll give in. My guess? I’m blonde, and so they think my life is all about being wild and having fun, in whatever form.

On the other hand, when I am a brunette, men don’t only come up to me less, but they also go about it in a different way. For one, as mentioned earlier, they use different words to address me. Generally, they seem to also view me as being more intellectual. The way they speak to me is less condescending and they seem to expect that there is more to me as a person than just a girl being hit on in a bar. If I brush them off, they accept it a lot faster. If I tell them that I am in college, and quite a prestigious one, they don’t ever doubt it and ask me interested questions about it instead. 

At this point probably not unexpected, men also see me as more helpless when I am blonde. If a guy spots me struggling with lifting or opening something even for a second, they will come over to be my knight in shining armor, usually flashing what I’m sure is meant to be a reassuring smile. When I am dark haired, I am suddenly capable of being a lot more independent.

I suppose it surprised me less to realize that men treat me differently. I think, overall, one is quicker to buy into stereotypes about the opposite gender than about your own. However, I have also noticed some subtle signs when it comes to other women. Mainly, that as a blonde haired woman, they seem to view me as much more of a threat, particularly when it comes to their partners. I see exactly where they are coming from - think He’s Just Not That Into You or The Other Woman. Both movies are examples of instances in which the guy cheats on his girlfriend with a light haired woman. It fits with the idea that blonde women are wild and careless, just out to have a good time. Therefore, women tend to look at me with more suspicion around their boyfriends or act bitchier around me, whereas, as a brunette, I easily turn into their new best friend.

Buying into the dumb blonde stereotype once again, other women frequently take me a little less seriously  whenever my hair is light. In class or in a work setting, I can see it in their eyes, and hear it in the way they speak to me;  they don’t expect me to say anything particularly smart or insightful. 

When I have blonde hair, the bombshell stereotype, or the little girl association, seems to be particularly prominent with men, although women show some signs of it too. I am not saying that every man or every woman treats me this way; perhaps, not even the majority. However, the differences in other people’s behaviour and attitudes towards me is still strong and frequent enough for me to have noticed it, repeatedly, over time. Sure, on occasion playing into others’ perception of me being blonde, and hence stereotypically being naive or dumb, at a bar can be quite fun, and definitely gets me free drinks, but it can also be very frustrating. It makes me particularly sad when other women seem to treat me differently based on my hair color. Shouldn’t we know better than to judge a book by its cover by now? Moreover, it also makes me evaluate my own stereotypes and if I even consciously have any in association with hair color. For example, what do I think being a red-head says about someone? Do I flirt with men differently based on their hair color? Can we, as inherently social and judgmental creatures, even fight and win against our subconscious stereotyping?

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