The "magnificent blonde" with the yellow hair of a kewpie doll" is simultaneously a symbol of the oppression of the young black men in the group—she becomes the tool of their sexual humiliation and possible punishment, if they dare to return her gaze. She is also an object of the white men's sexual exploitation—the white male spectators place her in the ring to arouse their own lust and to arouse that of the young black men while also forbidding the young men from expressing that lust.
In this scene, Ellison luridly illustrates the sexual hegemony of white men—that is, the way in which they ensured their own sexual dominance through the violent control of black male sexuality and exerted control over white female sexuality through the promise of racial privilege.
The blonde is a caricature of femininity, with her heavily made-up face, and, as a blonde, an exemplary form of white womanhood. In the era in which Invisible Man was published (1952), the most celebrated Hollywood icons were blondes. In my imagination, whenever I read the scene, I imagine Marilyn Monroe. Like the star, the blonde in Ellison's scene is both vulnerable and very aware of her magnetism: "She seemed like a fair bird-girl girdled in veils calling to me from the angry surface of some gray and threatening sea" (19).
The American flag tattoo on her belly, just above her genitals is a brand, declaring whom she belongs to. The fact that the white men have sexual access to her and are able to objectify her—something made clear when they toss her around, as though she were an actual doll—means that they are entitled to a form of citizenship that the young fighters will never have. The blonde is a metaphor for the relationship that the young black men have with their country: tentative, fearful, wanting to possess it, but knowing that they cannot lay claim without fear of retribution.