uncomfortably blonde

When I was little I had blonde hair. As I grew older it darkened to what could best be described as ‘dirty blonde’. So for years, every six weeks or so, I have restored my ‘natural’ blondeness with the help of a home hair dye kit. I hope I’m not especially vain, but somehow ‘blonde’ is one of the many jigsaw pieces that makes up my identity, my sense of self. It’s a small jigsaw piece, but occasionally a troubling one. Like now, this past week, with the hysteria around a little blonde girl ‘rescued’ from a Roma community in Greece, another taken from her, as it turns out, biological parents in Ireland. What is it about little blonde-haired blue-eyed girls that attracts the media, that generates such a frenzy? Why is it assumed that such a child could not belong in a Roma family? The sudden taking of children from marginalised communities on the basis of rumour, supposition and paternalistic notions of the child’s ‘best interests’ – for me, as an Australian (another, much more complex and fraught jigsaw piece), there are terrible echoes of the Stolen Generations. I’m shocked, though I probably shouldn’t be, that there is still such deep prejudice against people from the Roma community. And then there is this strange privileging of ‘blonde’ in mainstream society, in the media, so that I start to wonder if I am feeding into that by continuing to dye my hair. This point, of course, is trivial. What is troubling is the fixation with looks/image/the visual, and how so many people don’t seem able to see beyond that to the real people, the real families struggling to get by. As humans, we are more than mere instinct. We can reflect, pause, think about consequences, try to empathise with the other, the outsider. But then, what would I know? I’m just a dumb blonde.

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