Before the “Dumb Blonde” Joke

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Literary blondes have always held a totemic power….Sex, politics, and power: fictional blondes had it all.

For the Toast, Stassa Edwards looks back at centuries of literature and culture—Petrarch’s Laura, Middlemarch‘s Rosamond Vincy, Taylor Swift—to parse the semiotics of blondness.

From redemptive purity to sexual danger, we’ve been reading all kinds of meaning into blond hair for a long time.


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →