Monday 23 October 2017

Mariella Frostrup: why are blondes still the butt of jokes?

Anita Singh

Blondes suffer as much sexism now as they did in the days of Marilyn Monroe, according to Mariella Frostrup.

The television presenter said society continues to perceive blondes as airheads.

"Female stereotyping has changed little in the last seven decades," said Frostrup, 47, who first dyed her hair aged 16. "If I'd known then what my shade of choice suggested to the world I might have thought twice.

"Few women may be born blonde but that hasn't stopped it becoming a noun. In blonde world whether you're a brain surgeon, a lapdancer or an oligarch's wife, it's all the same. Blonde is the description - anything else merely informs us of the variety. Pinch me if I'm living in the 21st century."

Frostrup has made a Radio 2 documentary, Blonde on Blonde, exploring the lives of Hollywood actresses including Monroe, Lana Turner and Jayne Mansfield.

She told the Radio Times: "Beneath the make-up and beyond the studio publicist's spin a sorrier bunch of women you couldn't stumble across... like so much else in their lives their most celebrated asset, their platinum locks, were fake. Perhaps it was the shadow of that deception, one of the many required to qualify as screen sirens, that saw so many of their dreams end in tragedy."

According to Frostrup: "Being blonde means never saying you don't understand unless you want to be predictable. Being blonde means always trying to tell the blonde joke first." She added: "Our roots are often only skin deep and, despite assumptions to the contrary, proven side effects don't include brain impairment."

She cited Meryl Streep, Hillary Clinton and the pop singer Lady Gaga as examples of women who combine blonde with brains. And she quoted Dolly Parton, who famously said: "I'm not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I'm not dumb - and I'm not blonde either."

The presenter recently apologised for accusing Radio 4 bosses of sexism, claiming the Today programme was run by "a bunch of misogynists".

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