"In the 1940s and 50s, Dr. Kenneth Clark published research about Black children’s self- esteem. Known informally as “The Doll Test”, his work showed that Black children internalized messages about racial inferiority to the extent that they found white baby dolls more attractive than brown ones. This research had a significant impact on our understanding of race and on the practice of school segregation. But it also helped establish the subtle power of culture in perpetuating the hierarchy of beauty that affects all girls and women: being fair is better than being dark, blue eyes are better than brown eyes, being blond is better than being brunette.
Natural blondes account for a small proportion of Americans — 1 in 20 in 2019, and probably more in the 1950s, due to immigration patterns from dark-haired countries since the 1960s. There are fourteen girls in my fourth grade class photo, only three of them blonde (21%). Assuming on this thin evidence that the proportion sixty or seventy years ago was 20%, blonde girls were strangely over represented in the Sears catalog. Twenty-eight percent of the models in the 1-6x size range were blondes, and in the larger 7-14 range it was just over forty percent. Since many blond babies become brunettes, rather than the other way around, this raises an intriguing question. How early did we learn beauty standards, and how diffuse and subtle where those lessons?"