Fair features aren’t better than others. So why are blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids treated as special?

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I have a blonde-haired daughter. Before she came along, I don’t recall noticing the little comments that people utter about fair features. They were probably around sometimes, but I guess I became more aware once I had both a brunette child and and blonde one to love.

Even so, I haven’t felt then need to make these comments public until now. But after reading a book by a well-educated and influential author/journalist, I very strongly feel the need to shine a light on this. The main point I want to make is:




It might sound a bit crazy, but this is a very real bias in Western society.

To be clear, I’m not talking about conversations that occur in countries where blonde hair and blue eyes are very uncommon. We are well-travelled and understand that the rarity of fair features in many places can create a lot of attention for blonde-haired or blue-eyed people. Here I am talking about my home country Australia, which has been a multicultural nation for over 200 years.


The book that prompted this discussion

It’s called Adventures in Caravanastan by Greg Bearup, published in 2009. Greg, his wife Lisa and their son take a year to travel around Australia in a caravan, which was very interesting to me as my family was about to do the same thing. The book for the most part is enjoyable, well-written and insightful. Greg and Lisa even put their journalistic backgrounds to good use to help a remote community (of mostly indigenous people) access better food, and to question why Indigenous history is so neglected in most parts of Australia.

But: this is the back of the book, which highlights their son’s colouring although it has no relevance to the story. It may be argued that it is to paint a picture in the reader’s eye, but I think that’s false. I do not think the child’s eye and hair colour would have been mentioned if they were any other colour. When was the last time you read “My brown-eyed, black-haired little girl did some wonderful thing”?

Back cover of Adventures in Caravanastan by Greg Bearup

Greg himself probably didn’t write this blurb, but it was likely inspired from a sentence in his prologue which says:

“…my son in the back seat, all blue eyes and blond hair, like some kind of Nazi experiment gone right”.

I find this statement quite disturbing. It’s not just me is it? We could take it as a joke with a bit of literary license, but I think we need to look at it differently. This statement solidifies my objection to the back cover sentence, and together with many other seemingly-harmless things I have heard, demonstrates a modern-form of racism which needs to be understood and challenged.

Incidents of bias towards fair-featured children

My son Dante is our eldest child, and is a brunette with light brown eyes. My daughter Allegra has dark blue eyes and very blonde hair on top, with darker blonde to light brown underneath. Her hair is a bit unusual because it’s several colours, and it’s straight on top but curls into ringlets at the bottom. It’s very long too as she’s never had a haircut.

My daughter Allegra's hair.

My daughter Allegra’s hair.

So I understand that it would draw some attention, and yes, she does receive a lot of comments about her hair and her looks in general. But the number of comments she gets and these more unusual ones below point to something deeper going on:

  1. “Allegra’s so lucky to have blonde hair!”
    Why? Will it win us a million dollars? Will it ensure she has a long and happy life?
  2. Once when I walking in a shopping centre, holding my daughter’s hand:
    Young man (working in the centre of the mall): “oh wow, a blondie! Is she yours?”
    Me: “uh, yeah.”
    Young man: “where did she get blonde hair from”?
    Me (walking off as fast as possible): “The sun.”
  3. A friend of mine has a son with blonde hair and a younger daughter with dark hair. Someone once commented to her that it’s “such a shame that [her daughter] didn’t get his thick blond hair”.
    Again, why? Is being blonde the ultimate goal of life?
  4. I overheard an expectant mother commenting how she would “love it so much to have a blue-eyed child”.
    Well I can tell you from experience, it doesn’t make parenting any easier. 
  5. Some friends worrying about their blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls walking alone outside, with the insinuation that they were more precious being fair-featured, and thus more likely to be hurt or kidnapped.
    This was one of the first comments I noticed, and it really stuck with me. Was it true? Nothing in the internet research I have done shows that any type of features are more likely to incur harm or kidnapping than others. 

And other friends have to put up with many comments about their fair-featured children too. One friend of mine has two very light-haired kids, and people constantly comment about how beautiful they are. Yes, in Australia, all the time.  Wouldn’t it be nice if people commented about things that they were working diligently on instead? Or how kind they are? Hair colour may be noticeable but it says nothing about the soul of a person.

This isn’t a scientific study of course, but they are very real examples of the kinds of interactions blonde and blue-eyed children receive here. Dante doesn’t get half as much attention about his looks, and has never had a comment about his hair colour — only about its length when he grew it long as it made many people uncomfortable.

Allegra admiring a temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Allegra admiring a temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

It is difficult as a parent to see that one of your children clearly receives more positive attention for how they look than your other child. It is also grossly unfair: no-one gets any say about what colour their head turns out to be. Just because many people seem to like how Allegra looks doesn’t mean she is better than her brother, or anyone else on the planet. Yet she is treated as special while her dark-featured counterparts are not commented upon. Why?

Is it because light features are less common?

Many theories about biases towards blondes suggest that it’s due to their rarity, and yes, that does play a part in the attention they receive. About five percent of the whole world’s adult population is naturally blonde: with of up to 16% of people in the US and up to 80% of people in some Scandinavian countries. I can’t find stats for Australia but I think they would be similar to the US, as we also have many migrants from Europe. Also, some aboriginal Australians are born with blonde hair, due to a gene mutation that is also seen in some people from Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. It is not the same gene responsible for blonde hair in Europeans, but both reasons for blonde-haired children often do not last into adulthood.

That’s right: blonde hair is more common in children than adults, as many instances of blonde hair will darken with age. This is not the case with red-haired people, who are the least common of all: only one to two percent of the world’s population has red hair. Red-haired children also receive a lot of attention in Australia, (and pretty much everywhere I think) because they are so unusual. Redheads are also often preferred for TV advertisements because they are remembered best by viewers.

But the novelty of fair features doesn’t explain the positively-biased comments about blonde-haired and blue-eyed kids. Red-headed children receive attention too, but as most school kids will report, names like “ginger”, “carrot-top” or the awful term “ranga” (likening them to orangutans is common here) are hardly positive. Rarity does not equal favourability, only attention it seems, and I question that too actually.

Green, hazel, amber and grey eyes are less common than blue.

Green, hazel, amber and grey eyes are less common than blue.

Hazel and green eyes are less common than blue, which is the second most common eye colour. Eight to 17% of the world’s population (depending on your source) have a variation of blue eyes, while five to eight percent have hazel and only about two percent have green. Yet I don’t recall ever hearing anything positive about my hazel eyes, or my mum’s green ones. (One of my high school teachers once said my eyes reminded him of his dog’s though. That’s neither a positive or negative statement I guess, but I wasn’t very impressed at the time!)

Green eyes are more commonly associated with jealousy than beauty, and I can’t think of any celebrity who is known for any other eye colour like Frank Sinatra’s “ol’ blue eyes” nickname. Can you? I do remember a teacher having the brightest blue eyes at school though, because people often commented behind her back that she must be wearing contacts, because “no-one has eyes that colour”. Jealousy indeed.

So fair features are less common than darker colours, but blonde hair isn’t all that rare in childhood especially, and blue eyes are not very rare either. Red hair and amber eyes are the least common colours, and yet they’re not blatantly favoured or considered so beautiful as blonde and blue. There must be another explanation for the biases I and many others have observed.

The evolutionary theory + cultural influences

Fair features were prized long before Hitler’s madness. It’s been suggested that as far back as the Stone Ages, fair features may have been the best indicators of youth and health. Light skin and blonde hair were easiest to read for signs of illness, speculates Professor of Psychology Brian Bates. Also as we’ve seen, fair hair is often a youthful characteristic, so blondes were pretty much guaranteed to be fertile and thus became the preferred partners for cave men.

Many scientists support this theory of our evolutionary history, and Brian thinks the dumb yet sexy blonde stereotype still exists today because it is embedded in our subconscious. Youth being associated with fair features meant health but also a lack of accumulated knowledge and experience. Naivety is a feature of youth that has become synonymous with blonde hair, despite many studies proving there is no difference in intelligence or capability between any hair colour (or skin or eye colour).


This theory may be the reason why many people have clear biases today, but it doesn’t explain why some people of non-European descent also show preferences towards fair features. These must be due to cultural influences which have pressured people for thousands of years, and now marketing influences in which only certain types of people are portrayed as beautiful.

Colonisation has undoubtedly influenced beauty standards across the world. European ideals have been forced upon so many countries, and the dominating groups more readily accept people who are similar to them than those who aren’t. This paper on eurocentric beauty ideals in women traces ideas about whiteness being ‘pure’ and colour being ‘impure’, as well as the white-washing that occurs in beauty magazines and advertising.

Beyonce's Loreal advertisement show obvious skin and hair lightening.

Beyonce’s Loreal advertisement show obvious skin and hair lightening. (image credit: http://scalar.usc.edu/works/cliche/eurocentric-beauty-ideals-for-females)

In ancient China and Japan, snow white skin was a sign of nobility and the ideal for beauty, and these ideas persist today. The quest for pale skin has become an obsession throughout much of Asia, with skin-lightening products now a multi-billion dollar industry. Some Middle Eastern and African countries have large demand for these products too: in Nigeria it is reported that 77% of of women use them.

Asian celebrities are usually very pale and some have become whiter as they have become more famous. They have a huge influence in China, Korea and Japan especially, but we also noticed their prominence along with a multitude of skin-lightening products in Thailand and Malaysia in 2017.

Rae Chen introduced me to the term Colorism: the tendency for society to assign people to particular categories based on the colour tone of their skin. She outlines the privileges she gets being a light-skinned Chinese woman, and she makes the distinction between colorism as it pertains to looking like you belong to a particular socio-economic group (which she receives in Asia), and colorism as it pertains to looking like you belong to a certain racial group (which she receives in Canada).

Many Asian people are categorised by the lightness of their skin.

Many Asian people are categorised by the lightness of their skin.

In Canada colorism is focussed on passing as being white or close to it. Rae writes:

My darker-skinned Chinese friends and family experience more microaggressions and racial profiling than I ever have, and it’s made schooling and looking for work harder for them. I have mixed-race cousins who have taken their Caucasian parent’s last name in order to pass as white in interviews, and POC friends with dark summer tans who have been stopped and checked by law enforcement officers in their own communities because they “looked out of place.”

These biases may be rooted in our ancient history, but they are definitely being reinforced by modern cultures all around the world. Let’s take a closer look at the biases today and see how they relate to treating fair-featured children better than others.

Implicit biases

Studies of modern humans certainly demonstrate clear biases, yet participants often believe they are very neutral and unbiased. What they point to are implicit or unconscious biases, that most of us have without knowing why or how they got there. Consider the Starbucks incident in Philadelphia and the tendency for more unarmed African-American suspects to be shot than white suspects. Or the tendency to see blonde women as dumb yet more attractive.

Biases due to hair colour are quite apparent in many studies: blonde (caucasian) waitresses earn significantly more in tips and are reportedly paid more in other workplaces too. Also blonde women are approached more in social situations, yet blond males do not get any special treatment. Poor red-heads receive significantly less attention for both males and females.

It gets interesting when the researchers look at why this is occurring. The social studies above point to blondes being viewed as needier and thus less likely to reject male advancement, while brunettes are seen as more self-assured and even arrogant, and thus more likely to reject men’s approaches. Red-heads are viewed as the least attractive and most temperamental.

These views are supported by workplace research too. This study indicates that men view blonde female leaders as less independent and competent, even though blonde women are over-represented in US corporate leadership roles. Brunettes were viewed as better bosses yet harsher, while blondes were viewed as more warm and likeable, leading to the researcher’s quip that

Barbie can be CEO as long as she is young and/or docile”

Blonde women are seen as likeable leaders but not as competent as brunettes.

Blonde women are seen as likeable leaders but not as competent as brunettes.

There is considerably less research about men’s hair colour and its effects anywhere, unsurprisingly (sigh). And have you noticed that in most of the talk about hair colours, a huge portion of the population is missing? There’s no official word for black-haired people, as ‘brunette’ describes those of us with brown hair, not black as well. And grey and white-haired people also don’t have a convenient moniker.

It’s not surprising that older generations are ignored I guess; they are ignored in many ways by our youth-obsessed society. But why are black-haired people also ignored? They are the largest group of hair colour in the world! It is rare to see black hair discussed in an article about hair colour preferences or biases, and I don’t believe it’s because they are just lumped in with brunettes.

Black, grey and white hair colours belong to a huge group of people, and if those people do not have a category name and are systematically ignored — by popular Western culture at least —  a message is being sent, and that message is not kind. It is symptomatic of a larger issue in which the elderly and people of colour are still not valued or treated equally in our society.

Millions of people with black hair all around the world are systematically ignored.

Millions of people with black hair all around the world are systematically ignored.

How the biases are gendered

Black has often been the colour of bad, while white is pure and good. The tendency of people to associate blonde features with youth feeds into this: sweet blonde children and fair golden maidens are juxtaposed with brunette bullies and dark, mysterious villains. Feminine and masculine identities are also assigned to fair and dark features, respectively, though there are exceptions.

Being blond is not advantageous to adult males in many cases, yet it is for females. Blond men do not get approached or accepted more often by women; they’re more likely to be “perceived as low-commitment and unreliable“. This irresponsible surfer-dude stereotype is a youthful characteristic, and as you might expect far less blond men than women are found in corporate leadership roles.

Blond men are more likely to be viewed as irresponsible and unreliable.

Blond men are more likely to be viewed as irresponsible and unreliable.

So being blonde is a positive for women, but being dark is a positive for men. Dark features are associated with competency, life experience, independence and reliability, which are traditional characteristics for an ideal husband. They are also seen as better in leadership roles requiring more masculine characteristics, hence the perception that brunette women are more competent bosses. Dark features = masculine.

Blondes are associated with being beautiful, youthful and playful (fun and bubbly), but docile and naive. These are traditional characteristics for a trophy wife and ideal children, yet we see a disproportionate amount of blonde women in leadership roles. How can that be? Because they can get away with more assertive and aggressive behaviour when their persona is more feminine and childlike. Blonde features = feminine.

But the feminine warmth associated with blonde hair disappears in some cases, with the ice-queen persona taking over instead. Lack of colour in light blue eyes, pale skin and white or very blonde hair, is often associated with coldness. People with blue eyes are regularly the baddies in movies and TV shows, creating an image of an ‘icy’ villain. Even Hannibal Lecter’s “maroon eyes of the devil” in Thomas Harris’s books were transformed into steely blue in their movie adaptations.

The unpredictable and untrustworthy connotations given to blond men may be a part of this stereotype too. Fewer men remain blond into adulthood and they are not perceived so likably as blonde women, plus a myth persists that most real serial killers are white. I even have an image in my mind of male villains being pasty-skinned blonde men with very light blue eyes. It has been perpetuated in the media and popular culture, like Silas in the Da Vinci Code, the stalker in The Bodyguard, and recently Perry in Big Little Lies was a blue-eyed, fair-haired bad guy.

Also Game of Thrones has some notable examples of fair features being positive for women and negative for men: Daenerys Targaryen is a warm, heroic queen, but her brother Viserys was a cold-hearted monster; and young king Joffrey Baratheon is a blond psychopath, while his younger siblings are sweet and innocent (that youthful blonde purity again). Their mother Cercei may also be blonde and ruthless but she has some redeeming features that the audience can relate to; Joffrey, however, was so monstrous that viewers cheered when he was murdered.

These entwined colour and gender stereotypes are continually reinforced in the workplace, in our social lives and in the media. Children are not born biased, but do pick up on our implicit biases and the comments they hear or don’t hear. When the colour black is ignored, is associated with impurity or has other negative connotations, or when blonde hair is constantly commented upon and treated as special, they receive the messages.

How the biases relate to children

The stereotypical personalities associated with hair colours fit with how children are viewed and treated, in Australia at least:

  • Blondes are pretty and fun but naive and docile (attractive in childhood, gains attention)
  • Red-heads are firey and unpredictable (unattractive but gains attention in childhood)
  • Brunettes are mousy and dependable (attractive in childhood but does not gain much attention)
  • Black-haired people are invisible or not well-understood (unattractive and may not gain attention, or may gain negative attention)

The comments I and my friends have noticed about our children fit these stereotypes perfectly. Red-haired kids are noticed but not gushed upon like blondes, and brunettes are rarely commented upon. I am sure black-haired people are not misunderstood or invisible in many circumstances, but when they are the minority within a group of people from European descent, they will often gain negative attention or be ignored.

Children all over the world love to be valued for who they are.

Children with black hair are visible and need to be valued too.

I’ve only learned the what the term ‘nappy’ hair means this year. I looked it up after watching the Netflix movie Nappily Ever After, as it is an unfamiliar term here (nappy is what diapers are called in Australia). I had no idea that there has been such a push for people of African descent to straighten or control their hair, and I’m glad to see the tides are turning in the UK and the US now, with celebrities like Michelle Obama and Lupita Nyong’o leading the way, and Maria Borges being the first ever Victoria’s Secret model to wear natural black hair.
Hlonipha Mokoena discusses the myths about black hair including why it has been considered to be dirty and unmanageable. It has been misunderstood over the centuries, and of course not considered beautiful when it is compared to sleek and light coloured hair. But even when it is ‘managed’ here in Australia, conservative institutions may not find it acceptable. In my home town Mildura in 2017, a young student was expelled from his Catholic high school for refusing to take out his braids. His father is Nigerian and he preferred to wear his hair in braids, so he’s ended up at a public school which didn’t have such uptight uniform policies.

Black hair is often misunderstood in Western countries.

Black hair is often misunderstood in Western countries.

This is not unusual in Australia: many other kids have had to change or be booted out too. Wouldn’t it be so much better to have some real conversations about appearance and cultural values, leading to more tolerance and understanding? No wonder children don’t understand black hair if the adults around them are always trying to change it or get rid of people with it.

Should we capitalise on being fair and beautiful?

Both of my kids are gorgeous. I am of course biased, but many other people seem to think so too: once a woman we passed in the street even went out of her way to tell me that we “had the most beautiful children she’d ever seen”. It was a bit surreal but they have that effect on some people.

I will support them to do whatever they want to in life, but I won’t exploit them for this blog, nor will I encourage them to be child models. I ask for their approval before uploading any photo of them online, and I reserve the most special photos for our memories only.

Dante & Allegra

Dante & Allegra. (Getting a photo of them together that they both like is really hard!)

They won’t ever be tall (sorry kids, you lost out on those genes) but we could still enter them in a children’s modelling agency. What’s so bad about that? They might earn lots of easy money and it’s all harmless, right?

Wrong actually. It’s feels to me like pimping our kids out to an industry that praises their superficial beauty while ignoring millions of other kids who work for slave labour. Many of the products being sold are made unethically and take advantage of other children around the world — you know, the ones that don’t look like them. The unfairness in the industry as a whole is enormous. Have the right look and you can sell things to the people who don’t, and you can make a profit from being pretty while the rest feel bad about themselves, or work to create the product you’re selling.

Also, my children being models would perpetuate the myth that their kind of beauty is the type that matters. This is a great post discussing the many ways beauty industry tells us that to be beautiful is to be European, and I don’t want my family to be a part of that either. It’s easy to be ethnocentric in Australia despite our multiculturalism, and modelling would exacerbate it in our life.

Cameron Russell also discusses in her popular TED Talk about people of colour being hugely under-represented in modelling, and it’s easy to see why when Eurocentric beauty ideals are the norm. Even within my own very multicultural town, people originating from European countries are more readily accepted than people from African, Asian, or Middle Eastern countries, or sadly, Australia’s Indigenous people.

People from non-European backgrounds find acceptance harder here.

People from non-European backgrounds find acceptance harder here.

Other reasons for not capitalising on their looks come to mind too. What if Allegra got picked to model and Dante didn’t? Then what would they learn: that being fairer is more attractive? That her look is the right one and she should make money from it? I can only imagine the impact on her life from constant reinforcement that her superficial layer is valuable, but her brain and heart aren’t really.

And then what happens when she didn’t get booked for jobs, or her juvenile blonde hair darkened to common old brown: how would her self-esteem go? Would she be bleaching her hair at seven, or worse, develop an eating disorder? No thank you.

I am doing my best to transfer to my kids great body image and self-esteem, by accepting myself and trying to show them that being healthy and happy is what really matters. I don’t obsess about my own looks, we practice positive affirmations, and we watch shows and read stories about all sorts of people.

They have friends with backgrounds from many different places, and one of my hopes for our travels with them is that they make friends all over the world; seeing for themselves that people can look and live differently, but no-one is better than anyone else. They played easily with children in South East Asia, (like at the cafe pictured below during our time volunteering to help sea turtles on Tioman Island) even when they couldn’t speak to each other, so I think that plan is working.

Playing in a cafe on Tioman Island, Malaysia

My kids playing with a new friend in a cafe on Tioman Island, Malaysia

Once they’re older and have a great grounding in which they know who they are and what their non-superficial qualities and strengths are, then whatever they want to pursue will be their choice. But being a child model is not going to happen, no matter how much money they could earn.

Challenging the stereotypes for our kids

It is woven into many cultures that being fair is better, but we can challenge that in our daily interactions with others.

Please be aware of comments that elevate the status of fair-featured children, by showing positive biases towards them or negative biases towards others. ALL kids amazing and none get any say in how they look. They all benefit from us recognising and talking about their inner qualities rather than their looks anyway.

The things that make my daughter incredible are not her eyes, skin or hair colour: it’s because she’s pure love, she’s a firecracker of a kid, she’s brave and fun and smart and thoughtful and amazing. She’s also loud, cheeky and crass, and has been dropping the f-bomb perfectly since she was two! She’s a total package of awesome, as is my son in his own unique ways. And every other child in the world is too. 

Me with my cheeky, funny, amazing and clever daughter.

Me with my cheeky, funny, amazing and clever daughter.

At the end of the day, Allegra is a young female person who happens to have fair features right now, and the only thing that really means is her hair is honey-coloured and her eyes are bluey-grey. Anything else attached to those colours is a fabrication; it has no meaning at all unless we say it does.

Have you experienced positive or negative biases? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below. And please share this post if you found it helpful. 

Pin it for later:

Fair features are not better than others, yet blonde & blue-eyed kids are treated as special. I examine the stereotypes and biases, examine how they relate to children, and offer a challenge for treating all kids equally based on their inner qualities. #colorism #racism #weareone #innerbeauty #eurocentric Fair features are not better than others, yet blonde & blue-eyed kids are treated as special. I examine the stereotypes and biases, examine how they relate to children, and offer a challenge for treating all kids equally based on their inner qualities. #colorism #racism #weareone #innerbeauty #eurocentric

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18 Responses

  1. A really interesting read. I have one fair and one brunette child. So true that it’s not there features that make them the characters they are.

  2. corrado says:

    blonde is rarer. its also closer to how ancient europeans looked before having a small influx of brown eyed and haired people. my father side parents are both blonde with bright blue eyes. my mother side dark haired with one grand parent with dark blue eyes. So its like 3 grand parents with blue eyes and one without. my mother is brown eyed and hair. out of 3 kids none got blue eyes, one green the other 2 brown. hair wise only one dirt blond the other brown. there is only 16% chance to have blue eyed kids if one parent is brown eyed with brown eyed parents. over the course of many generation eventually these genetic features will be lost even if only a small group of brown haired and eyed people get absorbed.

    • Emma says:

      Thanks for your comment Corrado. Yes, red and blonde hair are recessive genes so are much less common.

  3. John says:

    Your daughter doesn’t have blonde hair. Is clearly (light brown). The ends of her hair are blonde baby hairs; likely because you never cut it.

    • Emma says:

      Funny how you think you could be an expert on my daughter by looking at a photo or two!

    • Ang says:

      Exactly. The child seems to have light brown hair. Her eyebrows are dark too. Like many children, it starts out light and then turns brown.

      • Emma says:

        “The child”‘s name is Allegra, and as I’ve replied to many people on this post, it is about how she is treated in everyday life, not how many blonde hairs she has. It would be great if you read the whole post before commenting.

  4. Sherbear says:

    My brother and I are both brunette with dark eyes. My mother used to comment that she could hardly make it through the grocery store when my brother was a baby because everyone had to comment about his “big brown eyes and long dark eyelashes.” Funny, that didn’t happen with me and we were almost identical as babies. Maybe because he was a boy (probably dressed in blue, argh!), they thought the darkness was ideal. For me, not so much. I live in the U.S. and have always been amazed at the attention blonde females receive, no matter their age. I grew up in the heyday of Farrah Fawcett and was repulsed by the attention she received over her co-star Kate Jackson, who is a much better actress! Thanks for the article. Hopefully someday the world will be colorblind!

    • Emma says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts. It’s still very obvious in many TV shows and movies isn’t it, the blonde of a group will be the leader and always pictured in the centre of the group. And yes, even as babies the gender stereotypes shine through here in Australia too. Perhaps things are slowly changing, perhaps. I hope so.

  5. Madeline says:

    I’m sorry to hear about the bias your children have experienced based on their features. Maybe it’s because I live in the Netherlands but blondes here aren’t so “special”. Also, my hair is naturally much lighter than your girl’s and I’m in my twenties! I wouldn’t consider her blonde but maybe it’s just a different perspective. Anyway, thanks for an interesting read 🙂

  6. Kate says:

    You daughter is not blond. Not even close. Sun burnt hair is not blond. And her eyes are not blue as I can see. But yes, as a mother of 1 dark haired, dark eyed kid and one very very blond with light blue eyes I see the difference in what people say – but both my kids were getting equal attention and compliments as babies. Maybe you just forgot how it was with your older one as a baby. When they grow people pay less attention)

    • Emma says:

      As a mother, do you like it when people you don’t know tell you that you don’t know your own children? I find it incredible how many people dismiss a mother’s knowledge and experiences. I haven’t forgotten anything. You are seeing photos of her taken on a phone, through a computer, and telling me I don’t know my child and how people treat her. Her level of blondeness is actually beside the point anyway: she is treated as blonde by many people in daily life, and that has formed the basis of this post. Her eyes are also dark blue: something I can see every day, while you cannot through a computer, obviously.
      Have a look at our facebook cover photo (https://www.facebook.com/smallfootprintsbigadventures/) which was taken by a proper camera, and tell me she isn’t blonde. And why would you bother trying to tell me I’m wrong (about my own kids!) when you have also experienced what I’m talking about?!

  7. PM says:

    I’m quite surprised by this article in two ways: that any of this is new to you, and that terms like colorism and nappy hair seem new to you despite being well-travelled. Light skin, hair and eye colours have sadly received privilige for many centuries, and the reasons for this are as obvious as they are well-documented. I don’t know why non-native Australians, who as far as I know, are predominantly of white, European descent, would remark on blond hair or blue eyes at all. Living in The Netherlands I can safely say that blond children are neither rare, nor singled out as particularly special or precious, here. They’re just blond (and a whole lot blonder than your daughter as well). At least early in life, as many Dutch end up with a darker blond or even brown hair colour as they mature.

    I was extremely blond a a child, as was my sister. White blond, a we call it here, which is the lightest shade of blond there is. I can’t recall any comments on my hair, and neither can my parents. It’s very odd to me that your daughter would receive this special attention in a country such as Australia.

    That said, I totall agree that colorism and the unreasonable cultural preference for lighter skin/hair/eye colours or a certain straighter type of hair need to disappear. It’s nothing but outdated and discriminatory.

    • Emma says:

      Thanks for your comment. It is obvious that Australia has a way to go on this topic, for whatever reason it is still happening here. We are behind in many ways on issues of race and privilege so perhaps it’s not so surprising.
      Just to clear up, I am well-travelled in Australia and Southeast Asia, they are the only continents I’ve been to so far. And just as you don’t understand why things happen here, I do not know about or understand things in every other country of the world.
      I’d like you to question yourself as to why you felt the need to mention that most children in the Netherlands are a “whole lot blonder” than my daughter. The point of this post is not how many blonde hairs she has, but how she is viewed and treated because of them.
      The number of people having to point this out is disturbing in itself, like she doesn’t qualify for the experiences she’s had or something. Grading shades of blonde feels very off to me.

  8. Maria says:

    Blonde women are called dumb, sluts, vain, uneducated etc. and you really think they are privileged? This hatred and jealousy has to stop. It is disgusting how you write about blonde people.