As I was curling my hair the other day, I got to thinking about different hair colors and decided to blog about it. This subject didn't just pop into my head, mind you, but to tell you how it got there requires a little back story.
Since I was in my early thirties I have been getting my hair highlighted. My three sisters are all blondes, and I am the only brunette, so I put a little blonde in my hair to make me fit in!
Anyway, when I started noticing gray hairs I began to get highlights and lowlights. (that's some blonde and some brown highlights.)Then the gray went crazy, and I now have to get all my hair colored brown, followed by highlighting with blond. This has been working fine until I got a wild hair up my you-know-what and decided I wanted a little touch of red. A few of my friends had gone this route, and I liked the way it looked on them. So, I had my hairdresser add a touch of red to the brown dye.
The results weren't bad, and I got a lot of compliments on my hair. Still, when it was time to redo the color, I decided I liked the darker brown to contrast with my dark brown eyes. I told her to just add a small smidgen of red this time.
As I leaned back in the shampoo bowl while she rinsed out the color, I heard the three words you should never hear from your hairdresser.
"Oh my God!"
"What'?" I asked, trying not to get alarmed. I have crappy hair anyway. I didn't need an OH MY GOD moment.
"I'm pretty sure you're gonna want me to redo this," she said as calmly as she could.
"Are you freakin' kidding me?" I asked when I got my first look. I was now a redhead. And not just a chestnutty redhead. I was a Lucille Ball look-alike without the curls. Needless to say I freaked out. Even after she redid it, it didn't entirely remove the red. So, because my hair is so fragile and it had already been dyed twice and still needed the blonde highlights, I decided I would just have to stay a redhead for a few months before I dared to redye it.
And you know what? Although I will definitely go back to the overall brown, the reddish tone does make it look like I have more hair than I actually have.
Anyway, all this got me thinking about Jordan McAllister, my heroine in the Clueless Cook series. She's a redhead with bright blue eyes and the fiery temperament of the Irish. See what I just did there? I stereotyped her the way I imagine all redheaded women to be--feisty and independent. Redheaded men aren't so lucky in my mind. I'm guessing they took a lot of teasing in their youth.. You know, "I'd rather be dead than red on the head." Admit it--you tortured some poor redheaded boy at least once in your life.
All this made me curious, so I did a little research, and I found the most interesting study about hair colors and stereotyping. We've all heard the blonde jokes, and we know that redheads are seen as competent but cold with a fiery temper. This article addresses whether stereotypes affect job progression, mobility, and the rise to the corporate suites. They used 500 members of the London Financial Times Stock Exchange and discovered that blondes, who are viewed historically as less competent but likable, were under presented in positions of corporate leadership in the UK. Redheads, while a miniscule number in the UK population, were over selected to lead some of the United Kingdom and Europe's largest wealthiest companies
“This stereotype of incompetence, by definition, affects the status of blondes in society and in particular in the workplace. One may conclude if a stereotype operates to label a group as incompetent, it also restricts
their ability to raise their status in the corporate hierarchy. Thus, negative stereotyping of hair color does appear to affect placement into leadership positions, particularly at the CEO level. The dumb blonde myth
then is not a myth. Perception becomes reality and the pattern perpetuates.By having an awareness of the issue, further investigation into the stereotyping is important and warranted. While the research indicated
stereotyping is unconscious, moving such awareness to instruments including job screening forms could help counter such seemingly discriminatory actions and possibly minimize the stereotype.”
Who knew that the color of your hair would help you rise to the top of your company? Read the entire article here.
What's this all have to do with writing? The next time you are giving your characters certain attributes, remember that hair color can be very important. I just finished copy edits for MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT, and the copy editor begged me to add some different eye colors other than dark. We all know that a person's weight and dress affect them in a job interview. I wonder if there's been a study about eye colors and stereotypes.
Now I want to know your take on all this. Are you conscious of this stereotyping when you're writing in your characters new characters?
While I wait on yout comments , I'll just sit here and try to figure out how I can get to the UK and a new six-figure corporate CEO position with my new red hair. Someone's got some 'splainin' to do.