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Bold, Blonde — and Not Dumb

Has the “dumb blonde” stereotype been exploded by some recent critics of the Iraq war?

February 14, 2004

Has the "dumb blonde" stereotype been exploded by some recent critics of the Iraq war?

Remember the Dixie Chicks, the Texas country music trio that acted way out of the American stereotype for dumb blondes?

Conservative Republicans all over the United States sure do. How can they forget what Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the group, said during a Dixie Chicks concert in London on the eve of the war in Iraq?

Back in March 2003, Ms. Maines told her audience from the stage: “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.”

Not surprisingly, almost a year after her statement, many country music fans in the pro-Bush, Republican parts of the country — such as Ms. Maines' native Texas — are still boycotting the Dixie Chicks' music.

Their anger has been both acute and lasting, because much of what the brave Chick said at the time proved correct — which is certainly galling.

Although she later softened her remarks — "I feel the President is ignoring the opinion of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world." — she did so in a way that couldn't have pleased the Bush Administration and its supporters.

This came at a time when Ivy League-educated political scientists both on the right and on the left of the American political spectrum were uncritically cheering for the Bush Administration's decision to attack Iraq unilaterally — without waiting for all those peaceniks in Europe and elsewhere to come aboard.

Of course, subsequent events proved that the Dixie Chicks have been right all along.

The U.S. military is perilously stretched between Iraq and Afghanistan, and the reconstruction of Iraq is a drain on the U.S. Treasury. Then, of course, there is David Kay's report that there were, in fact, no WMD in Iraq.

Now, even the Bush Administration has started to look for ways of bringing the UN and additional allies on board to gain more legitimacy in the eyes of average Iraqis.

Wait a minute. What's going on here? Aren't blondes supposed to be dumb? Aren't there plenty of jokes you hear in locker rooms around the United States in which "blonde" is used interchangeably with "brainless"?

And, of course, there are movies that play on the same stereotype. Clueless (1995), starring Alicia Silverstone, is a classic example, as well as Legally Blonde (2001, 2003), a two-part — and counting — smash-hit Hollywood comedy starring Reese Witherspoon.

Yet, in the case of the Dixie Chicks, those supposedly dumb blondes seem to understand the danger of alienating America's friends and allies across Europe.

Ms. Maines didn't say so in so many jargon-laden sentences, but her statement implied that Washington might one day regret going it alone in Iraq.

Since her fateful comment in London, most Democratic politicians, political commentators and columnists have belatedly come around to the same conclusion. Many now regret supporting the invasion of Iraq so uncritically.

"[O]ne of the privileges of being an American is you are free to voice your own point of view," declared the valiant Ms. Maines. This is something that too many supposedly upstanding American "patriots" tend to forget.

But what about another unlikely critic of the Bush propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American public?

Jessica Lynch, a former POW in Iraq, has been made into an inspirational hero of the war by the Pentagon — with the enthusiastic connivance of the obedient U.S. media.

White House and Pentagon propagandists had hoped to exploit her for their own political gain. But, instead of basking in the unexpected publicity and national adoration, the West Virginia native — and a natural blonde — decided to come out and tell the truth.

Not only did she explode the myth of her own heroism during the Iraqi attack on her convoy — but she also criticized the Pentagon for blowing her rescue out of proportion.

"[T]hey used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff. Yeah, it’s wrong," Ms. Lynch said.

She may not have been as articulate as the Dixie Chicks. But her honest statements probably did more to let the American public know the truth about the Iraq invasion than all those thousands of hours of breathless and reverential reporting by imbedded journalists.

Of course there have always been obstreperous, liberal "blondes" who have been speaking out in America. Going all the way back to the Vietnam War, there was Jane Fonda. She wasn't a blonde, but certainly a sex symbol — and known for her anti-war sentiment.

More recently, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange and Sharon Stone, to name just a few vocal and visible anti-war critics of the Bush Administration, have jumped on the bandwagon.

But they, of course, were the notorious Hollywood establishment. They were far too smart for their own good — and they were easy to classify and vilify.

There was certainly no danger that right-thinking true-blue American males would be swayed by their arguments.

But the Dixie Chicks and Jessica Lynch? They certainly can't be easily pigeon-holed and dismissed as Communist agents or traitors.

The fact that they are different — and as girl-next-door-American as you can get — is what is so status quo-shattering about their decision to speak out.

And another revelation — although perhaps not so earth-shattering: Being a sexy blonde (or just a woman, for that matter) doesn't preclude you from being smart.

Nor does it make you a coward. In fact, both Ms. Maines and Ms. Lynch have given a few lessons to the high-paid, grown-up men in Washington.

Instead of jokes about dumb, scared blondes maybe you'll soon start hearing things like: "Hey, have you heard that one about the dumb think-tanker?"