Does the Rug Match the Carpet?
Authenticity, Race, and Redheaded Women

Amanda Third, School of Media Culture & Communication, Murdoch University

Pub Talk

Thursdays at the Fremantle Hotel, corner Cliff & High Streets
Presentations start 6.30pm sharp.

28 February 2002


'It takes a redheaded woman to get a dirty job done.' - Bruce Springsteen

This is a paper about race and gender. It begins with the recognition that, whilst the circulation of the stereotype of the female 'dumb blonde' has reached a high point in English speaking cultures and has begun to receive the critical attention of cultural studies scholars*, constructions of redheaded women, which are qualitatively different but equally powerful, have largely gone unnoticed. In the wake of Legally Blonde's debut and the recent declaration of a National Blonde Day, this paper argues that the time has come to consider the gendered politics of red hair.

One example of the positioning of redheaded women can be found in Bruce Springsteen's song, 'Redheaded Woman', in which Springsteen suggests that redheaded women know best how to give a man's 'engine' a good 'service'. This paper argues that the cultural positioning of redheads as fiery and sexually voracious needs to be understood in the context of their association with Irishness.

Historically, in the context of British colonisation, the Irish have been constructed as a feminised race of simian-like creatures who are lower down on the evolutionary chain than white Englishmen. I argue that Britain's colonisation of Ireland and the subsequent racialisation of the Irish have had very important consequences for the ways that redheads are perceived in Anglo cultures.

* See for example, Natalia Ilyin's Blonde Like Me: The Roots of the Blonde Myth in Our Culture (New York: Touchstone, 2000).

Amanda Third
Postgraduate Student (Communication and Cultural Studies, Curtin University)
Lecturer in Media Studies and Mass Communication (Murdoch University)

Amanda Third is completing a doctoral degree in the School of Communication and Cultural Studies at Curtin University, Western Australia. Her thesis, entitled 'Terrorising Women: Representing Female Terrorists', analyses the discursive construction of female terrorists active in North America in the late 1960s and early 1970s in order to argue that women's relationship with terrorism reproduces their relationship with the state in modernity.

Amanda has lectured and tutored in Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, Mass Communication Theory, Media Studies and Writing for the Media. She currently teaches in the School of Media Communication and Culture at Murdoch University, Western Australia.

Pub Talk | 2002

New: 20 February, 2002 | Now: 6 May, 2015