Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Why do the British hate people with red hair?

Finlo Rohrer:

A red-haired family claims to have been driven from their Newcastle home because of abuse. Why is the harassment of redheads dismissed as just harmless fun?

Here's a joke. "What's the difference between a terrorist and a redhead?"

Here's the punchline. "You can negotiate with a terrorist."

Is this offensive? If it was made in your workplace, within hearing of a redheaded colleague, would you make a fuss? Probably not.

But mock someone's ethnicity, religion or sexuality and you will attract the beady eye of management. Make a sexist joke and prepare to be dismissed as an antediluvian relic.

Carrot-top, copper-top, ginger-nut, ginger minger, bluey (among Australians), Duracell, Ronald McDonald, Simply Red, Queen Elizabeth. And so on for hours and hours of the typical redhead's life. No wonder some gloss over their hair colour as "auburn" and "strawberry blonde" and even "titian".

Photographer Charlotte Rushton has been chronicling the UK's redheads for a book, Ginger Snaps. Of the 300 she snapped, only two have been spared bullying because of their hair. She herself has suffered verbal abuse from complete strangers.

"I was on the Tube, pregnant, and I was really humiliated by this drunk yob. He was shouting 'do the cuffs and the collars match?' He got right up into my face. You don't do that to other people."

She believes the phenomenon is long-standing and uniquely British in its most virulent form.

"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."

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.

Michele Eliot, the American director of British children's charity Kidscape, regularly has significant numbers of red-haired children in courses on coping with bullying.

"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."

Bullies at school and in later life may sense that ill-treatment of the red-haired will not be treated as seriously by the authorities as persecution of other groups.

"Bullies think that person is outside the norm, they will be able to attack them. The bullies find something to pick on. The bully has a problem and needs a victim," Ms Eliot says.

While there has been at least one report of a serious anti-red hair hate crime in the UK - a 20-year-old stabbed in the back in 2003 - it's unclear whose responsibility it is to monitor discrimination.

"It is certainly not us," says the Commission for Racial Equality.

Conservative backbencher Patrick Mercer, when recently sacked for alleged racism, sought to get himself out of a hole by comparing treatment of black soldiers to those with red hair.

"That's the way it is in the Army. If someone is slow on the assault course, you'd get people shouting: 'Come on you fat bastard, come on you ginger bastard, come on you black bastard.'"

One of these three epithets would now be regarded as totally unacceptable, and possibly against the law. Even the first, mocking someone's weight, is under a sustained assault from feminists and those concerned about what society's treatment of weight issues does to vulnerable teenagers.

But the abuse can be far from innocuous.

"We talk about kicking racism out of sport but this is just as bad in its way," said Reading striker Dave Kitson in 2005. He can't have been delighted when the Daily Star reported his remarks under the headline "Kitson's a right ginger whinger". Or when players' association chief Gordon Taylor said: "It belittles racism to compare the two issues."

Journalist Sharon Jaffa - also a red-head - says society must stop its ginger-baiting.

"Growing up as a redhead I was lucky enough to escape with just the occasional name-calling - having the surname Jaffa was no doubt a double-whammy. But attacking someone on the basis of their hair colour can be every bit as damaging as persecuting someone for their race or religion, and therefore, in some cases, needs to be taken just as seriously."

Red hair has great cultural resonance. Red is the colour of heat, danger and warnings. When applied to women, it is the colour of sensuousness, fiery temperament and emotional instability.

"Lilith [Adam's lover] was a redhead. It indicates red hair was bad. Shakespeare made all his most menacing characters wear red wigs. That seeps into culture," Ms Rushton says.

So when does this date from? Some claim it could be a throwback to anti-Irish sentiment from the 19th Century and before when the Irish, with a greater prevalence of red hair, were regarded as ethnically inferior.

Patrick O'Sullivan, head of the Irish Diaspora Research Unit, says he has never come across a link. "People could feel forbidden to attack their usual victims and are searching around for ones that have not yet achieved the protection of the law."

Professor Larry Ray, a sociologist at the University of Kent and an expert on racial discrimination, says the perpetrators could be habitual bullies. "If they are engaging in one kind of harassment they are engaging in others. They are looking for targets."

For those who claim their workplace taunts are just harmless banter, it could be stress rather than an anthropological aversion to red hair.

Workplace psychologist Professor Cary Cooper, of Lancaster University, says abuse can be "an unhealthy release valve for stress" and redheads, as a visible minority not protected by law, have become a target.

While other forms of the discrimination are the subject of marches, lobbying and education campaigns, redheads cannot expect the arrival of the politically correct cavalry anytime soon.

Thugs drive red-haired family out of three homes in as many years


At 6:48 AM, Blogger KA Compson (and Ari-dog) said...

I'm an American, strawberry blonde (dye it to disguise it), living in Britain for a few years... and I have to say... I'm not impressed at all. I've experienced the red head abuse (so I dye it now) and I've found the people on the whole to be rude, pushy, racist (which was a HUGE surprise) and generally just gross to be around. Now... I don't think ALL British people are like this... but it is so much more in your face because of how small the country is. Everyone is stacked on top of each other! I've never met a more hateful and cranky group of folks... and the anti-American sentiment is so rife I feel hesitant to talk to much of anyone except my American friends. It's a real shame because the country itself is so serene and beautiful. Too bad it houses a bunch of American-jealous, crabby Brits. You can sign me to this one. I'm having a definite I hate it here day.

At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an American woman and I don't know who told you being a red head is glamourous in America but it's not. The redder the hair, the worse the comments, the more vulgar they become with age. Everyone has something negative said about them I'm sure but the lude remarks are disgusting and very tiresome.

At 11:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kudos to the lady with the comments on the Brits. I'm a red headed American and I was treated horribly by Brits mostly because of my hair. How do I know? They told me it was my ginger hair. I went to Britain thinking our country was Allies. The older the Brit the meaner the comment. An old man actually called me a terrorist!! I said sir, I am American, He informed me I was of obvious Irish descent, that made me a terrorist. then he told me I smelled.

At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow this site is so true im a teenager in highschool and the newest nickname is "firecrotch" its very hurtful and i dont think people can see the real damage it does to people!!!!

At 6:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've red hair as have 2 of my 4 sons and the eldest is treated with such disrespect and spoke to as if he were sub-human. It seems that having red hair gives people the right to abuse you without any reprocussion. If you were black or female you can be prosecuted for abuse but having red hair, well, you just get persecuted.

At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am currently planning a trip to the UK, but now I am not so sure I want to go. Who the hell cares about hair colour anyway? Very pathetic, England.

At 9:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey you guys!! Not all British people are like that at all. I am a Brit and I have red hair and I love it! So maybe I got a few taunts at school, and some strangers have called out something rude in relation to my hair colour but on the whole I recieve compliments and such about my hair! I actually think that where I live has something to do with it. I am from the south of England and there does not seem to be as much ginger-hate down here as you hear about up north.

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I think red hair is beautiful! Other people are jealous because their hair color is boring.

At 5:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a teenager in the last few years if my high school education. Ever since I was born I've always had a shock of what used to be bright (literally orange) ginger hair. Ever since primary one I have grown up with verbal and physical abuse and even been beaten up once or twice because of the colour of my hair. It can come from all directions, left right and centre from all kinds of people. Strangers, other students even my friends make up excuses such as "that's cause she's ginger" and they don't appear to see anything wrong with it. Even after making it quite clear I wanted their "jokes" gone or their mouths shut they still believe it's just "harmless" or "having a laugh" but I have observed that being red-headed has led me to somewhat be what one might call "the underdog" of my group. The less important one.

As I've gotten older I've noticed the insults and jokes have moved on from being innocent such as "carrot top" and so on to sometimes becoming mainly sexual jokes. I think it's at the point I don't even want to laugh and blow it off as another stupid insult because since moving from the RAF base in Germany where I lived for the first 6 years of my life I've never received any genuine compliment about my hair outside my own home. As stated I think the fact it is more of a British problem is worryingly and upsetingly true. Bullying has left me with some quite severe trust issues and I quake to think about how this might impact my life if abuse carries on outside of my education.

At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dont worry in Argentina people abuse beautiful girls at school, and its supposedly the chosen country by the Virgin

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous ana said...

Sure they all are crazy... they went crazy noone with any1 with a decent conscience could be racist and hit anyone

At 1:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't worry! I swear almost every redhead has been bullied because of their hair!! Im a redhead and I've been called a Ginger, firecrotch, oh yes and the newest one everyone says fire and runs around! Not nice oh yes I've forgotten one fucking red yes mean!

At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

im a filipino. and i think red hair is cool! :))

At 12:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When i was in sixth grade my boyfriends friend was telling a blonde joke to which my boyfriend said " that wasnt a blonde joke that was a redhead joke." now in high school when i mess up people say " its ok she is a redhead." i might get bullied but i would never dye my hair. you can get other hair colors in a bittle but you cant get the natural red color

At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where people get the idea that this doesn't go on in the US. I've been made fun of my entire life for having red hair, to the point that I didn't want to go to school..EVER. I grew up 100% believing that I was the worst breed of human being imaginable. To the creators of ronald mcdonald, howdy doody and the like, a big FU and thanks for nothing arseholes. Nobody should have to grow up this way, as mentioned somehwere in the article we are the only group of people where it's socially acceptable to antagonize us and if we say anything or fight back due to it WE are labeled as over sensitive or "it's because we're red heads". Just goes to show all societies hate what is different and what they don't understand so sadly this red head believes there is no hope for me and my kind. I used to have dreams that id wake up with a different hair color or just finally be put out of my misery. To not go through this is to not understand it.

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Darvin said...

I dont know but for me people with red hair are cute, especially women of course. Im not either american nor brit. Im from el salvador and believe it or not, there are red hair people here.

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Ametista said...

Well, people hate what is different, unfortunately it is still part of human nature. I am Brazilian but I am Danish descent, which makes my skin almost albino white, although I have brown hair. I never tan, ever. In a tropical country, this is weird enought. While growing up, I suffered bullying for being so white, and received all sorts of nicknames, from sour milk to Casper. I was the underdog for everything. And many of my classmates had German ancestry! But with the racial mixtures typical of my country, I was still "the white one". Today I got over it, although I still heard some "gringa" jokes occasionally. But it was very difficult for a while, as a child I did not see that the problem was in the others, not me. Redhead or not redhead, people will always fear the unusual.

At 10:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Guys,

I feel really sad that you have had such experiences in my country. I'm a Gingernut and proud of it. I am born and bred in East London and for the most part I love and admire the US - Just the same as the silent majority of this country does. The anti American brigade are just the noisy minority. Have a nice Day.x

At 12:51 AM, Anonymous INicklaus said...

Red Hair "Gingers" are beautiful. I have actually been studying this for some time, sadly I haven't found much. It seems to have a religious root. It is weird, The Scandinavians don't look down on people who are fair haired. There seems to be more red heads up in the North Ireland as opposed to South Briton. There is also a "ginger-hate" in Australia, which fair haired people are given the name "bluey". There seems to be an American show that taunts about "Gingers" but they taunt a lot of things, that's probably the only red head rascism you'le find in the United States. personally, i love red hair especially w/ green eyes!! :)

At 12:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Ireland there is less ignorant "red-head" and "ginger" slurs than in Britian. Come to Ireland, weel accept u.

At 1:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RED HEADS AND "GINGERS" ARE BEAUTIFUL!!!!! More Beautiful than any of the common British rascists you hear in public!

At 1:19 AM, Anonymous actual scientist said...

Red Hair comes from the MC1R protein also found in blonde people. Explaining why many Scandinavians also have red hair. Opposed to the rare R1 gene found in india and Southern Russian parts such as Ukraine. people with two normal copies of Mcr1, pheomelanin production is stifled and hair is whatever color the other genes dictate brunette or blonde. When there is an abnormal Mcr1 gene, the pheomelanin run free, giving a Red tint to everything. There are actually nine known variants of abnormal Mcr1 -any of which can combine together to influence hair color.

At 10:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a woman in Australia with red hair. it is so awful - people here are OUT of control. students teachers strangers and yes even my own family my mother and sister don't support me. news, tv, radio, film and even bill boards sell product to customers by portraying anti-redhed attitudes/slogans. i've had food thrown at me, i've had people i work with, both closely and not, make horid remarks - firecrotch, ginger minge and what seems to be a favorite amongst the australians is to refer to 'my kind' as F**'n ranger - slang for orangtan. I am 26 years old, kind, funny, intelligent but people feel it is not their right but there duty to yell at me shouting that i am a disgusting primate. people with redhair are incredibly strong & brave. another person would not last a week in our shoes, we have to face war every day just to live our lives.

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

me again, forgot to mention that a few weeks ago a tv show talking about genetic profiling of children gowing in the womb could possibly mean letting future parents know earlier if their child will be born with conditions such as autism or red hair. not only was this deemed ok for free to air tv but - wait for it ... funny?!

At 2:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a "ginger" and some of the crap people say about me make me cry at night! My "friends" family and basically everyone! My teachers don't say anything when people do it in front of them, I'm sick of it! I'm a normal human being, and this stuff actually does happen in the u.s. ! I live in Michigan and sometimes, I feel like people only hate me and make fun of me call me ugly (even though I'm not) and I've been asked out Alot and when they do ask me out people ask them why there going out with a "ginger" it's sick and discriminating people don't know how much it hurts sometimes

At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im a red head living in ireland and all you get is abuse because after hearing the same comments over and over it would drive any one mad..who ever said brown hair is the chose colour that there normal and were not..personally i cant take this crap anymore and will probably end up doing serious harm to some one and then people will stop coz im short tempered and if i start i wont stop and i dont want to have to do this but i cant listen to that shit.even walking past people u start trying to think i wonder what there saying about me coz u know they are trying to make a laugh of you..well i dont give a fuck any more im taking serious action and then people can say theres that mad red bastard dont say nothing to him..ill show them all..priks wish they never crossed me

At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Canada and have never experienced any bullying at all in regards to my hair colour.

In fact, I was always complimented on it and to this day feel it's one of my best features, I've grown it nice and long.

As a kid, sometimes I wished I could just be like everyone else and have been born blonde, like the rest of my family members. But now, as a 30 yr old woman, I love being unique!

I truly believe any hair colour can be beautiful, it's all in your confidence and how you carry yourself. It's weird to me, to hear people say that redheads are so bullied in GB, because everyone I've met or chatted to from that country has loved red hair.

The moral of the story is, move to Canada! We don't really care what colour your hair is!

At 1:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a woman just dye it, everyone dyes their hair, whether brown, blonde etc. As for anti american, yes a lot of people are in the uk as in the world. Bit like the french hating the english if you go there. I blame the television, in the UK, so much is american it gets very tiring and the shows tend to be very annoying, with a very few exceptions. I doubt if americans would want uk tv on every night, every hour, every show either to be honest. Very occasionally they will turn out a gem, for example, third rock, big bang theory, early Frasier, the 70'show. Mind you uk tv is now the pits with constant reality programmes and 'fame' shows.

At 9:00 PM, Anonymous Sally J said...

In America, the liberals hate Christians. The "tolerance" of the left...

At 8:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a 35 year old red-headed woman in America. I was tormented all through school because not only is my hair red, it is EXTREMELY curly! (if you have seen Disney's film Brave-Merida doesn't even come close to what I have!) Being called 'Little Orphan Annie", carrot top, & several other such 'creative' names leaves a mark. It has taken my husband 16 years to get me to see my hair as something other than a curse. Each time I have been pregnant, I prayed the baby wouldn't have red hair. People, no matter where you live, are mean.

At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of the things I have heard on this forum is truely soul destroying! Ppl are so evil! Why go out of your way to ruin someone's day , year , life? I hope you all find peace and tranquillity and may karma nail each and every one of the bullying bastards 9 fold on what they've dished out and bless you all xx

At 9:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have red-hair but I was never bullied once as a child and perhaps only a few times I've had people mention my redhair when I was an adult, but I guess never in an insulting way like many people here have (i.e. I've just had a few people say 'he has orange hair' which is more or less a statement of fact anyways. I've actually had a fair few compliments on my hair lol :-) I live in Australia however, which is for the most part a rather tolerant country (because we're forced to learn to try and be tolerant as children in school, because we're such a multicultural country). Australia also has many redheads here anyways.

I'm planning to go over to the UK within the next few years so it'll be interesting to see if anyone bothers mentioning my hair colour or to see in anyone will try and insult me. I honestly don't think they will. I think people usually pick on redhair in combination with facial features. I may have red-hair but my facial features look very germanic so red-hair suits me. Perhaps the people who are teased a bit more have more obvious redhair in contrast to their facial features and skin complexion. IT's still very unfair however and I don't understand why idiots feel to need to tease people just because they're more unique? Anyways when I go over to the UK if anyone tries to be a smartass and insult redheads I'm prepared to just knock-them-out. Hopefully that'll teach them a thing or two about being disrespectful. It should be an interesting experience but honestly I don't think it will get to that stage haha.

At 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up a ginger male but they didnt call it that then. they just called me redheaded faggot lol. was always unappreciative of my my hair and freckles. but little old ladies always loved it. my hair got dark when i turned 22. and no one would ever know that i was a redhead now. but strange thing happened i fell in love with someone who was extremely attracted to redheads. which made me take a second look at gingers and in a whole different way. and now im attracted to them too. plus i know from being one how passionate we are and we are great in bed :) even though being teased as a child was bad. i would still rather be a ginger then to go through what black people go through. now thats a rough childhood im sure... and probably adulthood too.

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You didn't quote the source of this article: BBC NEWS.


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