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Not offended or angry, but quizzical
Why is this joke, which was extremely funny and completely unacceptable when told about Paddy the Irishman, suddenly acceptable when told about blondes?

Have we decided, as a culture, that it's acceptable to take the piss out of women who just happen to be blonde? Or do we really think that blondes are stupider? Can you imagine this joke being told about blond men? Note the classic strategem of apologising to the group maligned in the joke, too. ("Oh no, flick or hhfishlifter. I didn't mean you! Obviously you're not dumb. But everyone knows that 'blondes' in this joke means 'generic group of people mocked for their stupidity'.")

Both men and women shown pictures of blonde women judge them to be stupider than pictures of the same women with dark hair, red hair or grey hair. So I think it's a pretty safe bet that they're discriminated against at school and in the workplace too.

Blonde women tell tales of being systematically put down all through school because of their hair colour. And there are far more blonde jokes now than there used to be. Now, it's fine for adults to dye their hair whatever colour they like, but we don't normally encourage children to dye their hair. Is it reasonable to expect blonde girls to put up with people assuming they're stupid, and making jokes at the expense of their ethnic group?

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Why is this joke, which was extremely funny and completely unacceptable when told about Paddy the Irishman, suddenly acceptable when told about blondes?

It isn't.

From my point of view it isn't. There's no reason to demean anyone for any physical feature, chosen career, nationality or other distinguishing characteristic. Unfortunately homo sapiens is naturally tribal, and as a result xenophobic rather than xenophiliac.

It's annoying and upsetting, and I have no idea what we can do about it...

We need to find an ethnic group that doesn't exist about whom to tell jokes. I vote for the Elbonians.

Blondes have more fun

I hate to be so un PC but this is a load of cobblers. Judging by the children I see streaming out of the high school oposite me, 9 out of 10 girls dye their hair blonde as soon as they're allowed near a packet of Clairol. There's certainly far far more blondes than there were in my year at (Scottish) school and I don't think you get much mutation within a twenty year period.. my nieces both dyed (highlighted, streaked etc) their hair from the age of 10 or 12 and this seems normal nowadays. I think there's far more positive endorsements to become blonde due to its connotation bubbly sexy etc than there are putdowns. No one seriously thinks blondes are stupid when they tell these jokes; they just need, as Mike has sussed, a target for generic jokes about "stupid people". On the other hand as somone who recently became blonde I am fairly certain more people really do turn their head to look at you when you walk into a room or party which I, and probably most schoolgirls like (tho some obviously might not).

In picking a generic group of stupid people, I myself am tempted to make jokes about "university secretaries" . That will no doubt make me REALLY popular.

And then of course there's the suppressed joke about Tonies... (bwa ha ha)

Re: Blondes have more fun

Me being me, the minute I was allowed near a box of Clairol, I dyed my blonde hair black. Fifteen years on and I'm still being hit with Goth jokes. So perhaps the immoral of the story is that human beings will find something to poke fun at regardless.

As a culture, then I think, yes we have ..

... and while each of us "knows" better, there are films like "Legally Blonde" and characters like Marilyn Monroe and Patsy (in AbFab) and so many other areas where the blonde is very pretty and very stupid. And the big twist is quite often when it turns out the blonde has a brain as well.

But this hasn't always been the case, the blondes in the Film Noir detective movies were always both smart and devious.

But this hair colour thing goes further: Red Heads are firey and fun, brunettes are more intelligent and sensible. And it's true for men as well. "Ginger" men are ridiculed, blonde men are considered weak willed or admired for their physicality, while most CEOs are dark haired.

Could there be a genetic basis to this? Is there something about blue-eyed blondes and the fact that two recessives must meet up for that description to be true (I believe) be possibly some indicator that there are other genetic weaknesses (but aside from a penchant for Saabs, saunas and suicide, I'm not aware of any great Scandinavian plague, though of course they practiced euthanasia up until the 1960s...)

I've just done a fair bit of websurfing to see if there are any believable comparative figures, and I couldn't find any ... the best we could have done locally was the BBC "Test the Nation" which did have some figures by hair colour I believe, but they've taken down all those pages.

In the meantime, two URLs to check out.

I'd love to read this site, but it's blocked from work
Another interesting site

The "joke" was that the vacuous airheaded blonde, when it looked like she'd lose her dark haired rich "aristocrat" boyfriend, decided she had to get into Harvard Law School with him, so she studied and succeeded.

The moral of the story (in that part at least) is that you can actually be very clever and able to study, but being blonde means you don't have to (usually) and very few people seem to have attacked the film on that basis.

Have we decided, as a culture, that it's acceptable to take the piss out of women who just happen to be blonde?

It doesn't actually say that the group of blondes is women; only the leader's gender is specified.

First, a group of blondes is by definition female, if they're all male, or a mixed group, they're a group of blonds. Second, blonde jokes are jokes about blonde women, and in fact they're much more about the alleged stupidity of a particular class of women than they are about the alleged stupidity of people with blonde hair.

I'm not blonde.

I'm ginger.

Wow, I'm actually gritting my teeth as I type this

It's not acceptable. It's tiring and it's dull. If someone tells me a blonde joke, I will usually completely lose interest in whatever else that person has to say, if only because I start to associate the speaker with the sort of person who told me blonde jokes when I was an undergraduate. These people were usually poorly-socialised young male engineering students, typically those who had gone to single-sex high schools and who weren't entirely convinced yet that women were in fact human. I strongly doubt that the_magician bears any resemblance to these people, but an association has now been made.

Now that I am a proper grown-up and all, I seldom have to deal with people who find this sort of thing amusing (also, my hair has darkened somewhat). But a couple of months ago I was at a party attended by Person A, whose entire conversational style consisted of nervous locker-room humour and the denigration of women and gay men. I have to say that I was surprised by the strength of my reaction. Conversationally, I am normally a very placid individual, and I am pleased to say that I did not actually lose my temper, but vile and devastating retorts ran through my head. On several occasions I had to change seats because I was becoming overwhelmed by thoughts of doing actual physical violence to his person. It turned out that dmw felt the same way and we ended up leaving the party early.

I agree with green_amber that blondes are still thought to be more attractive, but I can't see this as too positive if the stereotype is "attractive and stupid" especially if there's an underlying assumption that only stupid women can be sexually attractive.

It's true, people generally will rate the intelligence of a dark-haired woman as higher than that of a light-haired woman, all other things being equal.

But it's also true that they'll rate the likeability and performance of the light-haired woman as higher than that of the dark-haired woman, all other things being equal.

Blondes, like other groups considered more attractive, are marginally more likely to get dates, job offers and raises, all other things being equal.

So who's the real victim here?

- Not a Blonde
(at least, not since I was very, very young)

Yikes, here it is 2002, not 1972, and I am reading here the very same conversation that I had with my best friend in high school. She was blonde. She was tall. She was athletic at a time when that meant she could be a cheerleader, but not a basketball player. She had a brain in her head too. It was hard times. Now there is much better funding for girls' athletic teams. But the brain in your head part is no better for either boys or girls than it ever has been, and possibly worse. You don't have to be able to put a coherent sentence together to be President.

I think there is a historic difference in how these issues played out culturally in the U.S. and in the U.K. Now we share this language about "political correctness" but the value of intellectual effort and verbal expertise is entirely different in our cultures. Divided by a common tongue, like the fellow said.

It has a lot to do with why Bridget Jones was such a hit in Britain and sank pretty quietly here in the States. The issues of appearance makes women crazy in similar ways on both sides of the water, but the intelligence issues seem to be different. I was going to say, some of my best friends are blonde... and so is Hillary Clinton, who still gets a hard way to go.

I hate (again) to be so stereotypically me, but what about Buffy? there's your classic buzzy, beautiful, ditzy popular cheerleader style blonde who in typical Joss Whedon metaphorical style has to face up to the responsibility & reality of actually being clever and competent and brave (and sometiems not automatically poular because if thexze things). if that isn't a metaphor for the fact that women can't get by on being dumb and attractive alone (however nice and easy that might be, and yes, it IS sometims v tempting) then I don't know what it is. (Curiously the nearest there was to a dumb blonde in Classic Buffy was Cordy, who was the most dark haired character apart from Angel. It is in fact noticeable that the less Joss has had to do with the day to day running of the series the more characters have become blonde or blonder - Anya, Cordy, Willow. Is Spike a dumb blond?)

Have we decided, as a culture ...

I posted the joke, I'd heard it on BBC Radio 2 being told by a blond(e) woman.

I got six replies, all positive. Four from women, two from men.
Of the women, I think we have one German, one American, one Swiss (maybe German) and one Brit.
Of the men we have one American and one Brit.

When I posted a follow up message with some quotes from here I got another five people commenting, two Brits, two Germans and an American. Maybe they were being polite, maybe they were being supportive, but out of the eleven I've just mentioned that expressed a view on the joke, every single one of them thought it was amusing/funny.

So whose culture are we talking about? Me, I'm fairly mid-Atlantic (which is why I can't spell Blond(e) and didn't realise it took a gender, which would make it a fairly rare word in English, interesting, no?)

Would it have been as funny/insulting if it were, say, Government employees or Government ministers or Oxford graduates or religious fundamentalists or Al Quida or nuns or traffic cops or people named Dave or Burger King employees ... ok, let's try that one

A person walks into a Burger King restaurant and notices that the crew are all cheering and giving each other high fives and chanting "51 days". The person notices that there's a picture of Barney the Dinosaur on the counter top, so the person steps forward and aasks the burger-droid behind the counter what's up? And the serving unit says "We wanted to prove that just because we're all uniformed cogs in the machine working for minimum wage and going home stinking of burger grease, that we're not as stupid as people think ... so we bought this Barney the Dinosaur jigsaw puzzle and we've managed to complete it in 51 days, even though the box says 2-4 years!"

Is that funny? Is that insulting to those fine men and women (like gothtart) who work in Burger King? Yes, of course it is ... is it *as* insulting though?

Re: Have we decided, as a culture ...

Damn. Before I got to the last couple of lines I was thinking "Ooh. I'm going to tell gothtart you said that...

Seriously, though. I've spent a significant chunk of my life as the butt of asorted Irish jokes - until working in recent years working in London when I was the butt of assorted Scots jokes - and in some circles I get bisexual/pagan/SM jokes of varying degrees of viciousness (some of my former colleagues managed to form the impression I was only a member of any of those groups as a ploy to score with particular people - none of whom I'd intended to get off with), but I was always able to do the mental translation of the joke into the "Two stereotypes go into a bar" form, and enjoy the joke for its own sake.

But I've just realised that I'm coming horribly close to the archetypal School Bully's "what's wrong with you, can't you take a joke?" and that's not what I meant so say at all...

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