Tuesday, October 9, 2007

redheaded prejudices

I recently came across this June article from BBC News Magazine called, "Is gingerism as bad as racism?" (For anyone unaware, Britons refer to red hair as "ginger".) The article says that in Britain redheads are often the butt of jokes and mocked without the same fuss made over racist or sexist jokes. "In adult life, women get stereotyped and red-haired men take much of the worst abuse. Treatment of red-haired children in school ranges from mild taunts to grim persecution."

The article also speaks of photographer Charlotte Rushton, a redhead, is working on a book called
Ginger Snaps. She says that of the 300 redheads she chronicled, only 2 have never been bullied because of their hair!

Interestingly, this seems to be a uniquely British problem. Rushton says:
"In other countries redheads will get teased at school but it stops when they become adults. If you are a woman you are fiery and alluring, beautiful."

And Michael Elliot, an American who runs a British children's charity, says:
"There is nothing like this in the US where having red hair is not a precursor to having someone abuse you. Red hair is considered glamorous."

As a redhead, I must say that it what I have found. Other than being asked if I have a bad temper (I don't), or the one stupid 14 year old boy who asked me a highly inappropriate and personal question regarding my hair in 9th grade, I have never been made fun of because I'm "ginger haired". In fact, it's exactly the opposite. Since I was a child, I've had strangers comment on my hair. One old man in a Cleveland grocery store even touched my head in disbelief when I was about 4 years old. And my husband certainly is enchanted by it.

But I have also felt that for some red hair is either loved or hated. I found that especially true for guys. Some are either very attracted to it, or aren't really at all. I had a hair stylist once who told me that when she first lived in Provo, she had her hair super blonde. As a blonde, she would get asked out all the time. But after she colored her hair red (and it was really cute, as was she), she got asked out way less. Interesting, don't you think? Of course, this was also in Provo, where for those of us who have lived there, blonde does seem to be the hair color of choice, whether natural or not.

I also think that there is a double standard for male redheads. I will be the first to admit, that I think there are way fewer good-looking red-haired guys than red-haired girls. I wonder why we think that. Of course, I've just never been attracted to guys with red hair. It always seemed like just too much of a good thing. And I felt like people would think we were related.

So while the prejudices aren't nearly as bad here in the US, perhaps they do still exist. What do you think? I know there are some redheads out there reading this! Have you guys ever been picked on because of your hair? For the rest of you, have you ever felt there was a prejudice against redheads?


  1. I totally agree that women with red hair tend to be better looking than men with red hair. Maybe its cruel, but true. Strangely, on the same note, I always thought that if it was the right shade of red, I'd be attracted to it-him (but that's no longer an option, obviously, I'm not looking.) I LOVE your shade of red, and it is interesting how the intensity of color seems to hold different stereotypes (maybe I just made them up, because as I stop to think of it, I've never heard them verbalized). However, for whatever reason, there's that comment about "being beat like a red-headed step child"-or is that just a dumb comment I've heard over and over from my darling?

  2. I've never been teased about my hair, but it is so ugly and offensive (in need of a trim/style) right now I'll bet I could hurt some other people's feelings with it.

    I think I love red hair because of you. Your hair is exquisite.

  3. huh interesting. well I think I am mostly a little jealous because I think that being called "ginger" is charming (esp. if you do it in a British accent) It does seem like little kids tease about red hair, but then again they tease about anything that is perceived as vaguely unique or different. my mom has red hair and I think that people are intimidated by it (although it may have nothing to do with her hair). Your hair is gorgeous!

  4. Katrina .... did you go to that stand-up routine with the handicapped comedian at BYU during spring fling? I will never forget one of his "jokes" where he said, "Handicapped people marry handicapped people, fat people marry fat people, and red heads marry red heads."

  5. Emily, No I didn't. But that did make me laugh. And of course I totally disagree about redheads marrying redheads. I don't know any actually, although I'm sure there are some all redhead family's out there... Like the Weasley's ;-)

  6. while redheads may be mocked in Britain, let's not forget what hair color gets the majority of laughs in the US...ahem...

    A blonde went to buy a pizza and after ordering, the assistant asked the blonde if she would like her pizza cut into six pieces or twelve. "Six please" she said, "I could never eat twelve!"

  7. I'm not a redhead, but am the grandmother of one. I think it's wonderful. And don't think the child has been bullied. But all the attention to the hair color, has sometimes been a problem, for her. In hopes this will grow into the wonder of it, which we all see.

    And, it seems to be doing thus. Who could not want to be a redheaded female????

    In this county, that is.


  8. Okay, a couple things.

    First, I think it's interesting how some people call themselves red-heads that are BARELY -I mean BARELY--red tinged. I'd hardly even call it red. You, obviously, are a red-head. I am an obvious red-head. But because me and my son have red hair, people would often say things about my daughter Hazel having red hair. She DOESN't. Not one bit. If her mother and brother didn't have red hair, no one would EVER say she's strawberry blonde. My family has this argument about it, and we count votes. (Not like it's a big deal, I just think it's funny.)

    I have been called a terrible name that has to do with being a red-head, but that was in junior high by some boys who would have found anything to be incredibly rude about, so I almost don't even chalk it up to my hair.

    Secondly, I think some things that guys I have dated have said about my red hair are funny. Lots of things like "I never thought I'd be attracted to a red-head." Thanks?

    There's this thing about red hair that makes every stranger come up and tell you about that person in their family who has red hair. "My cousin married a red-head." "My great-grandpa had red hair." "I always wished I had red-headed kids." And now that I have red-headed kids it's, "Where'd they get their red hair from? ha ha." and "Does their dad have red hair too." and I always say, "No, but his beard is red."

    The thing about red-headed females being better looking than red-headed males I think is totally a person-by-person judgement. But, girls do get to wear mascara when their eyelashes are transparent, so that helps. (I never go a day without mascara--it's a rule.)

    One definite benefit for me personally of red hair--the first good thing my mother-in-law said about me was, "Well, I always wanted red-headed grandkids." Other people have told me they are jealous of my red hair, like my sister-in-law, and my sister said I was always getting attention for it. Sometimes, I wished I could just have brown hair, cause you don't ALWAYS want to feel so conspicuous. Did you ever feel that way? Of course, most the time I'm very vain about my color. Although, you get the skin that will never tan.

    Okay, that was so incredibly lengthy. Probably more in depth than you ever wanted to know, but oh well!

    Did your husband tell you about President Monson's remarks about red-heads in the priesthood session? Loved it.

  9. Kayli, thanks for your comment! I totally enjoyed it. And i agree with everything you said.

    I have known a few people who called themselves redheads and I think, "say what? I don't see any red." But some people claim it if they have the fair coloring and a slight tinge. Whatever. Oh, and Hazel's hair is blonde for sure.

    Strangers love it. I had a funny experience just the other day. I was at Target and this old, white-haired woman was giving out cheese cake samples. Yum!
    "You have beautiful hair! I used to have hair just that color." (I have been told this quite a few times by older ladies and don't really believe it when they tell me.)
    "Thanks." (polite smile)
    "I bet the men just love your hair."
    "Well my husband certainly likes it."
    "I was married once and my husband really liked my hair too. But then he died and I became a waitress and boy did I have fun then!"
    (How funny is that?)

    But I've always loved my hair and I have to admit the attention it's gotten me. I feel special. I wouldn't trade it.

    Long live redheads!

    Oh, and I did hear about Pres. Monson's story. Love it!

  10. I am the oldest of 6 sisters (we have brothers too, but they don't matter). I have nearly black hair and four of my sisters have various colors of red hair. ( the last one is a dirty blond). Anyway, people are always commenting on how wonderful my sisters' hair is and where did I come from? Hey, I was here first! I have two grandparents with black hair and no relatives with red hair. I do think red hair is lovely, but don't tell my sisters.

  11. Your hair is beautiful. I don't see why people are reluctant to acknowledge that red hair is beautiful. One of my friends who is a ginger said that people are overwhelmed by how beautiful red hair is, that they don't know how to react and therefore react with fear or superstition. I think her comment was spot-on.