Territory and Hair Color

As a redhead, this is a topic that has intrigued me for a while. Even though they are referring to animals, I was excited to see Deleuze and Guattari briefly mention how color plays a role in defining territory in A Thousand Plateaus.  I am very interested in the way people have preconceived notions of others based on what their hair color is. It seems that some hair colors are more submissive (brunettes), while redheads are allowed to be domineering and territorial.

In the chapter “1837: Of the Refain,” Deleuze and Guattari discuss the idea of territory. They state that territory and milieu, a person’s environment or social setting, are not the same thing. Territory is rather “the product of a territorialization of milieus and rhythms” (314). 

Deleuze and Guattari then go on to consider the way in which animals can mark their territory based on color. They state that expressive qualities, like color, are what play a role in characterizing territory among animals. Colored birds are dominant when it comes having a distinct territory, where uncolored, or white, birds will live together as a collective. Some other ways animals mark their territory are by means of excrement or by exposing bright-colored sex organs, as with monkeys (315).

For me, color as a means for marking a territory is not something that should be exclusively animal. Among the human race, many people use their hair color as a way to mark their territory and get what they want. Whether they are true or not, as humans, we have been conditioned to believe these hair color stereotypes and allow people to get away with certain things because they can. However, this theory is mostly applicable toward women, especially redheads, who use their hair color and the temperament that goes along with it to.

Redheaded women, who are known for being sexually aggressive and temperamental, use their hair color as a way to mark their territory among males. Although red hair can be evocative for some, part of the reason redheads can get away with this behavior is because the media, specifically in American film, has reinforced these stereotypes and make it seem acceptable for some with red hair to use sexuality as a way to gain something; it is as if redheads are using their hair color as a way to mark their sexual territory.


Although blondes are often presented in a similar manner, they typically come with the dumb stigma, like Marilyn Monroe played up in her films. Redheaded characters are too smart and confident for their own good and know how to manipulate others. Red haired actress can easily get away with playing the femme fatale type of character. Rita Hayworth, who is actually of Hispanic heritage and born Margarita Carmen Cansino, was “whiten” by Hollywood. She used her bottled hair color to mark her territory in Hollywood and in the movies she was in, most famously Gilda.

This is not just something that exists solely in live-action film and television. What about Jessica Rabbit?


In the 1932 film Red-Headed Woman, Jean Harlow plays Lillian Andrews, who uses her red hair and aggressive sexual nature to seduce her boss and destroy his marriage.


And on an unrelated side note, the interest in territorial redheads seems to be an American thing. The red haired femme fatale usually appears in American media. We must not forget this Christmas card that once garnered negative press for a British supermarket. 


– Danielle Mantione

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. Print 314-15.

One Response to “Territory and Hair Color”

  1. Concepcion Yeaney Says:

    Hair color is the pigmentation of hair follicles due to two types of melanin: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Generally, if more eumelanin is present, the color of the hair is darker; if less eumelanin is present, the hair is lighter. Levels of melanin can vary over time causing a person’s hair color to change, and it is possible to have hair follicles of more than one color.”

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