2010

Blonde hair is a potent and highly visible sign in western culture. Although the popularity and desirability of blonde hair in the West is well documented, since the 1950s, blonde hair has also generated many negative associations and these have contributed to myths around blondeness. In particular, women who dye their hair blonde find themselves in a paradoxical position; they simultaneously evoke desire and derision. This thesis uses the model of feminine masquerade outlined by Joan Riviere (1929) as a locus for discussing the transgressive potential of the knowing use of blondeness as a sign. When women wear blondeness in this way they embrace it as an oblique means to access privilege. This self-reflexivity allows women to enter sites of power that they are otherwise excluded from. Drawing on ideas of the carnivalesque, as described by Mikhail Bakhtin (1968), this thesis also proposes that the carnivalesque is employed by women in order to transgress patriarchal boundaries through an ironic masquerade of the archetypal blonde. These paradoxical meanings of blondeness are evoked in the work of performance artist Vanessa Beecroft. Beecroft stages both the reflexive awareness of today's blonde woman and the way in which she is shaped by socio-cultural forces beyond her control. Through reference to Beecroft's art, this dissertation builds upon the optimism and transgressive potential of Bakhtin's 'carnival' and Riviere's 'feminine masquerade' to re-present the identity/position of blonde women as one of agency and power.