Because I have to compensate for my red hair somehow…

Last week Terry and I were in the car, on the way to the gym, when we saw a woman with brown hair jogging along by the side of the road.

So we rolled down the car windows and shouted, “HEY! BRUNETTE! F&^%^*$ BRUNETTE! YOU’RE UGLY!” And then we jeered a bit more and drove on. If we see her again, we’ll try and kick her, though, because that would be even more awesome.

Hee! Honestly, it was so funny, you should’ve seen the look on her face! I don’t know why she was annoyed, though. I mean, has she not got a sense of humour? And the fact is, there was absolutely nothing wrong with what Terry and I did, because brown hair IS ugly. It just is. (Especially on men. It can sometimes look OK on women, but on men it’s just butt-ugly. I’d never date a brunette man, never. I would rather eat glass.) Everyone knows it, so why shouldn’t we say it? It’s just a plain fact, isn’t it? Brunettes are ugly. It’s funny to tease them. If they don’t like it, they should either:

a) Get a sense of humour

b) Dye their hair

Actually, come to think of it, they should probably dye their hair anyway. Why wouldn’t they? If I was a brunette I would dye it. Terry’s hair is black, but sometimes I think it can look a bit brunette in certain lights. I worry about it. It’s why we don’t have children, actually: who’d want to risk the chance of having a brunette? It wouldn’t be fair to the child and I just don’t think I could love a brunette anyway. Thank goodness they’re dying out, eh?

Just in case it’s not obvious, I’m being sarcastic here. And of course,  Terry and I didn’t hurl abuse at anyone from our car just because they happened to have a certain hair colour – or for any other reason, obviously. Because that would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? And cruel. And it would make us a couple of assholes. Really.

But these are the kinds of things that are said to and about redheads all the time – certainly here in the UK, and in other places, too. Take this article, for instance, on an American site called Kotaku. Its author writes about his obsession with a video game, and comments:

“This is probably the most pathetic thing I’ve done in my entire life, and I’ve dated redheads. “

Right. So it would seem the old “gingerism” is alive and well in the US, too. And don’t get me wrong: I get that this is probably an attempt at “humour”. I understand that, and it’s far from the worst example of “gingerism” I’ve seen. I just don’t find it funny. It’s this kind of casual prejudice, when exhibited over a long period of time, that makes people think it’s OK to “hate” or despise a certain group of society, purely because of their genetic inheritance.  (And actually, some people DO refuse to date redheads, because they’re too “embarrased” and don’t want to be seen as “pathetic”. )It’s the throwaway remark, the un-funny “joke”, the blithe assumption that no one can possibly be offended because, hey: IT’S OK TO HATE REDHEADS. There is absolutely no taboo about it, as there is (and quite rightly) about making hate-filled comments directed at the colour of someone’s skin.  People defend comments that reinforce prejudices towards redheads because, after all, EVERYONE hates redheads, don’t they? And comments like that: they don’t actually hurt anyone. “Sticks and stones,” after all.

Perhaps the people who think it doesn’t do any harm, though, would find it interesting to speak to the person who emailed me just yesterday, having read some of my other posts about “gingerism” . This is a man who had been beaten so thoroughly beaten for being a “ginger” that he had required hospitalisation several times as a child, and eventually had to be home-schooled because the bullies wouldn’t give up.  Not so funny now, is it?

Or perhaps they would like to speak to the kids who were physically assaulted on National Kick a Ginger Day. Or the man who was stabbed in the back after comments about his red hair. Or the family who were forced to move house in a bid to stop people kicking and punching their redheaded children, and spraying graffiti on their home.

Funny? Well, not really, no. Maybe it’s just me?

This wasn’t the only example of casual “gingerism” I came across this week, though. Take the case of the Dulwich Mum, who posted a video (which she found on You Tube) of a redheaded child, on her blog. The post attracted a number of comments, some of which, like this one from a blogger called ‘Pig in the Kitchen’, chose to focus negatively on the child’s hair:

“He has to find some way to compensate for being ginger.”

Because yes, of course, we gingers DO have to always find ways to compensate for our… our what? Our disability? Our affliction? Our downright ugliness? Is that what’s being suggested here? Sure sounds like it.

Against my better judgement, I left a comment on that post, knowing perfectly well what would come from it. And it didn’t take long before someone calling herself “Titian Locks” responded with the predictable:

“Sorry all you “ginger ” nuts but get a sense of humour…”

Yes. A sense of humour. That’s what’s needed here. We just need to all lighten the hell up and understand that bullying, prejudice and hate is actually FUNNY. That’s why the very next time I see that brunette out jogging, I’m going to walk up to her and smack her in the face. Then we’ll both laugh about it, and it’ll be, like, SO hilarious. Won’t it?

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(Note: I just wanted to clear-up a misapprehension that exists about my occasional “gingerism” posts on this blog. I realise the nature of these posts can make it seem like I spend a lot of time thinking about this, or that I get very, very upset over comments that other people probably see as no big deal. I don’t, and I don’t go looking for this stuff either: most of the time people email me with links to it, because they know it’s a subject that interests me. Sure, these things get my hackles up, but I just want to be clear: they don’t hurt me personally, or upset me. I’m very happy with the colour of my hair, and no amount of “jokes” or nastiness about it is going to change that. The reason I write these posts is because these kinds of comments are insidious: they have become the “norm”, and that’s something that does bother me. I don’t like the thought of a society where it has become “OK” to express prejudice against certain groups, and where anyone who dares to speak up against that prejudice is branded “humourless”  or”over-sensitive” and told to get a life. And so I feel that when this kind of thing occurs, it’s important that it be called out, and recognised for what it is: it’s bullying and it’s prejudice, and it’s NOT OK.)