Sandra Benedetto: Open Letter to A Society That Wants Its Successful Women to Tone It Down

Dear Society,

I’ve just learned that women who want to be leaders should dye their hair blonde, according to science. I learned this by reading an article entitled “Why Women Who Want to Be Leaders Should Dye Their Hair Blonde, According to Science“.

It seems that women in leadership positions, who must be authoritative and competent in order to attain those positions, feel compelled to soften their look so they’re not perceived as too authoritative and competent. Naturally (no pun intended), they do this by dyeing their hair blonde.

Forget for a moment that this might be mildly offensive to blondes. I’m a natural blonde and I can’t seem to muster any genuine outrage about blonde stereotypes, but really? Do you really think that hair color is an indicator of intelligence or lack thereof? Oh wait, it seems that some of your factions still believe there’s a correlation between intelligence and skin color, so I shouldn’t be so surprised. Touché, Society.

The thing about these research findings that makes me want to shake you so hard that your nuts fall off is this Faustian pact you’ve made with women. We can be successful, but only if we alter part of our identities in order to compensate for our strengths. We can reach the same lofty positions that men do, but we’ll crash back through that glass ceiling if we lose our grip on the role you’ve prescribed for us. Why you gotta make us strategize so hard?

You might argue that hair color is a choice (thanks, Clairol!), and that women who dye it have needlessly chosen to succumb to real or imagined pressures. That’s a bullshit simplification, Society, and you know it. We may have a choice, but it’s definitely on your terms. Kind of like shaving our legs and wearing heels and compartmentalizing the Madonna and the whore.

I didn’t want to do this, but you asked for it. I’m going to get political. Why do you make Hillary walk the tightrope between major kick-assery and mothering (not just her own daughter, but all the children of the world)? She’s probably authentically excellent at both, but that’s irrelevant. So what if she’s better at campaigning than nurturing? Why is that a problem for you? Can’t you forgo the exhausting dissection of her voice, laugh, and wardrobe and just skip to the Benghazi thing again? She can’t win at your game because she’ll never be hard enough, or soft enough, for you.

You might argue that you’re also obsessed with Trump’s fingers and hair, so you’re an equal opportunity judge of appearances. To that I say: 1) He is the exception to your rule, because there’s never been a presidential candidate like him, 2) Please stop, because it distracts from the real horrors of his campaign, and 3) You don’t actually hold Trump to the same standards as Hillary, because he’s a man. You don’t expect him to counterbalance his dogged pursuit of power by working to end human trafficking, for example. Hell, you don’t even expect him to run his businesses legitimately or not touch his daughter in a creepy way.

While the research findings are gross, I don’t doubt their validity. If Hillary had Trump’s “hair” instead of her own perfectly coiffed blonde ‘do, you know she wouldn’t have gotten the Democratic nomination. Do better, Society. I can’t wait to NOT hear about the hair color of all the smart, capable, assertive, powerful broads in our boardrooms and laboratories and city halls.

Sorry, was this letter kind of bitchy? I’d better soften it with a nice closing.

Warm regards,







  1. Bitchy is fine, but I have never ever given any thought to the color of any woman in powers hairstyle or color as an indicator of their ability to lead others . Really, doing so would be so superficial. I watch what candidates have done in the past and are doing at present when deciding who would make the best President. Neither candidate by past or current actions seems like someone I would expect to lead our country, but then I am a registered member of the Socialist Party-USA, and only Bernie Sanders came close to what I would hope for in a President. I have no idea what color hair he had before it became gray. So are my fellow female redheads and brunettes, like the Irish in Boston who read signs on doors announcing that “Irish need not apply.” I haven’t seen any signs saying redheads and bruettes need not apply. As so many Irish have red hair , perhaps the signs would have been just effective if they had read, “Redheads need not apply.”

  2. Bitch all you want; it won’t change reality because reality was largely coded into our genes when we were still small, hairy, and rightfully terrified of leopards. All that changes are the signifiers, e.g., hair color.

    And yes, while the specific signifiers are different, the standards are equitable between the sexes. You have to present the proper image if you want a less difficult path to success and some people just got born lucky and already have those traits.

    One thing of more humor – at my age and not being Christian compartmentalizing Madonna and Whore just doesn’t work. I think of a whore – with a kicking voice and taste in music – dressed in quasi-religious trappings.

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