The Lithuanian sales gimmick that caused this week’s media outcry shows us just how damaging received ideas of physical attractiveness can be.
Picture it: an island idyll populated entirely by beautiful blondes. No, this is not 1940s Germany, but in fact a business ploy set up by modern Lithuanian company Olialia.
Ostensibly working to combat the immortal stereotype of the dumb blonde, Olialia (‘Ooh la la’) has its perfectly manicured fingers in numerous pies, from computer software to its own identikit girl band. The company ethos? Every employee is a blonde. Now, managing director Giedre Pukiene has her sights set abroad, as her plans for a holiday resort in the Maldives employing only blonde staff were announced this weekend.
Pukiene might say her gimmick is an attempt to reclaim a toxic stereotype, just as the gay community did with joyous, infectious chants of ‘we’re here, we’re queer, get over it.’ Maybe her satire is too finely-drawn for my irony detector. But, as buxom blondes with batwing kohl leer from her adverts (in one, they puzzle and pout over complex-looking science experiments) I can’t help but feel that, like so many of her (primarily male) big-business predecessors and compatriots, she simply knows that sex sells.
But plans for this peroxide paradise bring together two age-old social minefields. Not only will the resort objectify women as decorative furnishings, but it will disregard Maldivian employment law – foreign companies must employ at least 50 per cent local people. Replace ‘blonde’ with ‘white people’ and Pukiene’s whole plan sounds a little too Aryan supremacy for my liking. In fact, it’s downright racist.
This latest publicity gimmick shows the extent to which narrow, Western notions of physical attractiveness still impinge on society at a global level. From stars like Beyoncé (whose hair seems ever more caramel in tone) to horrific stories of draconian plastic surgeries, so many examples of this aesthetic racism surround us that it would be the deepest folly to imagine we have eradicated disturbingly restricted notions of that elusive 'perfect body'. As long as people like Pukiene keep utilising these dangerous ideas for material gain, they will never be challenged and changed.