It’s Not Easy Being Blonde

Laurie and Debbie say:

“Aw, come on! It’s just good fun!”

The folks at Keyboard for Blondes claim (and perhaps even believe) that “Don’t take yourself too seriously; don’t forget to have fun” is the motto behind their new product.

right half of blonde keyboard

Q: Why do i want to buy Keyboard for Blondes?
A: Everyday life can be hard and boring, world may be chaotic and stressful… why not lighten up your or somebody’s day with cool, fun gift that is sure to put a smile on everybody’s face every time they look at it or work on it!

number pad of blonde keyboard

There’s just one problem: they’re wrong.

A little over fifteen years ago now, Debbie learned what “feminists have no sense of humor” really means. She was working in a medical office, with four or five other women. In the first couple of months, each woman in the office came in to her area one by one to tell some kind of horrible story about her history, and each one said, “I know I can tell you this, because you won’t laugh.”

As women, we are so surrounded by inappropriate laughter, and so pressured to engage in it. It’s unbelievably easy to deny the nasty edge behind the laughter, to “join in the fun.” But the nasty edge is there, and it gets sharper when we don’t hear it. Jokes about dumb blondes are jokes about women, the same way that jokes about Jewish mothers are jokes about women (and about Jews).

The dumb blonde stereotype has another ugly aspect; it’s not like we’re supposed to think that women with dark hair (let alone women with dark skin) are smart. Blondes are a little more stupid, or a little more obviously stupid, that’s all. And if a woman happens to be coded as smart, then she’s not sexy or attractive, and no man would want her. To paraphrase the old joke about Newton’s laws of motionthermodynamics: as women, we can’t win, we can’t break even, and we can’t get out of the game.

Here’s the worst part: Men start these patterns of jokes, and then they use them as tests of women: can I get you to laugh at this one? This one is a little nastier; will you still laugh? What about this one? And sometimes these jokes about blondes, or Jewish mothers, or fat women, are truly funny. And sometimes women will laugh: partly because the joke is funny, but even more because the laughter says “I’m not like them.” I’m not a blonde, I’m not a Jewish mother, I’m not fat … or I am one or more of those things but I’m not like the one in the joke. I’m better than that. As women, we laugh … and we tell and re-tell the jokes ourselves, too.

When the jokes hit an edge where a woman says “That’s not funny!” the teller can always say, “See! I knew you didn’t have a sense of humor.” Meanwhile, we absolutely guarantee that for every joke of this nature there’s a woman (or ten or a hundred women) cringing in a corner, or biting her lip and acting like she isn’t hurting. It’s a very well-crafted trap, and the only way not to fall into it is to refuse to take the bait.

Many thanks to K. Tempest Bradford for the pointer. (And belated thanks to Aahz and Steven for distinguishing between laws of motion and laws of thermodynamics, which we should probably have known without being corrected.)

8 thoughts on “It’s Not Easy Being Blonde

  1. “(and perhaps even believe)” – Oh yeah … I’ve met quite a few people who really seemed to believe that their stupid jokes were helpful or something. “I only wanted to cheer you up!” Right.

    All of this is soo true. It gets especially bad if, for example, a feminist makes fun of fat people, or someone who fervently supports LGBT rights doesn’t get what feminists are so upset about, etc. >_< That doesn’t make any sense! How can you understand one thing and be totally ignorant of another that is based on the same principles? I mean, I still have a lot to learn myself, but it isn’t all that hard to differentiate between good jokes and offensive jokes.

  2. In around 1991, when there was a fad for telling blonde jokes, I picked a couple of the ones that were actually funny and told them with the pronoun “he” rather than “she”. I told them with cheer and enthusiasm and good timing, and the people I was telling them to not only didn’t find them funny, but corrected me and told me with obvious discomfort that I was telling them wrong.

    I meant that to make a very mild consciousness-raising point by inversion of expectation, blah blah blah. I did not expect it to completely invalidate the joke in the ears of the hearers, and I certainly did not expect it to be considered distressing or offensive, as people had been claiming the blonde joke thing was all just in good fun, etc. The consciousness that was raised was in the end my own; that was how I learned that these jokes are not about blondes (half of whom are, after all, men). These jokes are about women.

  3. Thank you.

    Blonde jokes are actually something I gave up confronting people on many, many years ago, because the amount of crap I got back when doing so just demoralized me to the point of not wanting to ever talk to the speaker(s) ever again… and I was afraid of running out of people.

    (And if you know how generally unaverse-to-confront I can be, that’s saying something.)

    Thank you for posting this. I wish I could time-travel and hand it to myself, back then.

  4. Jill, that’s awesome and I bet you raised other people’s consciousnesses too, only in a way that probably weren’t aware of until later.

    “Don’t take yourself too seriously” is one of those phrases that gets used to silence any number of alternate viewpoints.

  5. Jill, that’s an interesting story. In my language, the word we use for “blonde” is so gendered that it’s impossible to do what you did. The word doesn’t even have a male equivalent …

  6. The saddest thing to me is, there are jokes on that keyboard that *are* funny — if they weren’t pinkified and “blonde.” I want a keyboard that says “way up,” “way down,” and “really useless key” — but not this one.

  7. Blonde jokes work better on women.

    I just got one of these from my co-workers and it did not make me happy (made them happy and laughed alot). I am blonde, but I’m a guy, come on. They should put a warning on the website that says, “Not made for men”. You would think I was just a blonde flying around in Los Angeles in my charter jet and helicopter with some rap star. Don’t think so.

    I give kudos to the maker of this keyboard, they sure did get the buzz out about the product.

    Los Angeles, CA

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