Ginger Hair – What You Should Know About Ginger Hair Color and Bullying
Bullying comes in many forms. Name calling, physical harassment, and and social ostracism are a few methods of bullying, and it is a big enough problem that many schools have anti-bullying programs in place.
To rational, mature people, the things that seem to put a target on someone’s back for bullies are heartbreakingly unfair. No one should be judged by the color of their skin or teased because they wear glasses or braces. We do what we can to raise awareness and acceptance about other people’s differences.
However, one “reason” for bullying, if you can call it reason, is often overlooked in social awareness programs. You may be surprised to read that the color of someone’s hair, specifically, bright red hair, can create animosity and bullying.
I’m talking about Gingerism, which is explained below. Redheads are sometimes called gingers, and the bullying of gingers is a serious problem.
Have You Heard of Gingervities? What about Gingerism?
There is a popular cartoon on Comedy Central called South Park. An episode in Season Nine is called “Ginger Kids.” Taken from a Wikipedia synopsis, the episode starts as follows:
For a class presentation, Cartman delivers a hate speech, against what he calls “Gingers”: people with red hair, freckles, and pale skin due to a disease called “Gingervitis”. He describes them as being disgusting, inhuman, unable to survive in sunlight, and having no souls. When Kyle points out that he too has red hair, Cartman says that there is a second class of redheads, the “daywalkers,” who have red hair but not pale skin and freckles.
After this episode aired, six redheaded kids were attacked in the UK in what some kids called “Kick a Ginger Day”, according to the Telegraph, a UK newspaper. The kids were not targeted because of the South Park episode – bullying of ginger people happened before the show aired. But the episode highlighted a problem that needed to be addressed.
The writers of South Park are writing satirically, but behind every joke is a grain of truth. No, the truth is not that bullying of gingers is acceptable behavior; the truth is that Gingerism, a form of racism against ginger people, is real. As Canadian Shawn Hitchins said, “Although it isn’t a real word, ‘gingerism’ exists, and bullying exists. … Kids are being subjected to taunts or being bullied in schools just for having red hair.”
A Common Theme: Persecution of “Other”
According to a DNA project completed in Scotland, about 0.6% of the world’s population has red hair – an obvious minority. The highest concentrations of redheads are found, not surprisingly, in Ireland and Scotland, where redheads make up 20 to 30% of the population. In countries where red hair is not as common, and even in countries like Ireland, things that set certain children apart from what is seen as “normal”, like having ginger red hair, are often excuses for being bullied.
Common ginger hair jokes include the assertion that ginger kids don’t have souls, that they can’t go out into the sunlight, and that they are either clownish or hot-tempered.
Regardless of the reason, it is not remotely okay to bully someone because of the color of their hair. Anecdotal evidence abounds with stories of children and adults alike being harassed to the point of having to move, switch schools, and seek counseling and medical treatment for injuries sustained from bullies.
My sister-in-law, a beautiful girl with red hair and freckles, has remarked that she wants to marry “a man with brown or black hair and brown eyes” so she will have a better chance of not having children with red hair. This is the same girl who is constantly ask what color she dyes her hair so others can try to get the same hue at the hair salon. Regardless of whether or not others see her hair has beautiful or unique, she sees it as a disadvantage and a curse due to the teasing she heard as a kid. Even her family members would call her “little red” or make comments like “don’t make her mad, she’s a redhead!” My sister-in-law’s family wasn’t trying to hurt her feelings, but when you’re a kid, it seems like any deviation from the norm is bad.
What Do I Do, Dye My Child’s Hair Brown?
Before you start bringing your 12 year old to the spa for a complete makeover, it’s important to realize that bullying, while a concerning epidemic in today’s society, is also something that is being confronted more directly than in the past. There are more resources available for parents and children who are the victims of bullying than in the past. This website includes articles, facts, and advice on how to combat bullying that may be applied to Gingerism.
Talk with your child about how he or she feels and try to develop strategies for what to say and do if and when bullying occurs. Most importantly, reiterate the fact that everyone is different, and often it is the insecurity of the bully that leads him or her to bully others.
Your child should not have to change his or her appearance to “fit in.” Helping children learn to embrace their differences is one step toward eliminating bullying. Across the world, groups are banding together to fight bullying directed toward people with ginger hair.
Being Ginger and International Redhead Day
In 2014, a documentary, Being Ginger, was first screened at International Redhead Day in the Netherlands. Yes, there is an International Redhead Day, and it started in 2005 when a Dutch painter decided he wanted to paint 15 redheads in a picture. The documentary is critically acclaimed for its examination of childhood bullying – specifically bullying of gingers.
The conversation has started regarding ginger hair and bullying. We need to keep the conversation going so that every child and adult understands that discrimination against another human being due to the color of his or her hair is ignorant, wrong, and there is no place for it in society.
In the meantime, here are some facts about redheads you may not have known:
- Due to paler skin and eyes, redheads have trouble absorbing Vitamin D. To compensate, redheads are naturally able to produce more Vitamin D than brunettes and blondes.
- Redheads rarely go gray as they age, and if their hair does turn gray, it does so slower than others.
- According to legend, the first redhead was Prince Idon of Mu who, upon discovering Atlantis, was imprinted with the island’s stunning red sunset and leaves in the form of red hair and freckles so future generations would be reminded of Atlantis’ first sunset.
- Redheads are more sensitive to the sun than others, but interestingly, they can also be more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures.
- Redheads are more likely to be left handed than others.
- Rupert Grint (aka Ron Weasley)
- Prince Harry (fourth in line to the British throne)
- Ron Howard (actor, director, producer)
- Emma Stone (American actress)
- Donald Trump
- Chuck Norris
- Christopher Columbus
- Galileo Galilei (the father of modern observational astronomy)
- Simon Pegg (British actor)
- Thomas Jefferson (the third President of the United States of America)
A Call for Swift Action
If your child is being bullied because he or she has ginger hair, consider bringing it to your school’s attention. With anti-bullying programs being implemented world-wide, there is more attention focused on accepting others’ differences. Sexual orientation, disabilities, economic status, and other stereotypical “weaknesses” that are zeroed in on in schools are being talked about in anti-bullying campaigns, but not as much attention is placed on the bullying of gingers or other lesser-known, but no less severe, bullying triggers.