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Big Question: Why is it ok to hate redheads?

Amber-McNaught.jpg Amber McNaught stands up for the "gingers" of the world...

Jeremy Clarkson told me I was ugly last week. Well, sort of, anyway. The fact that he was actually talking about Prince Harry is totally irrelevant because you see, Prince Harry and I have something in common, and it's this something that makes the public at large tend to either sneer at us or pity us. No, it's not our shared habit of making a fool of ourselves when drunk (although there is that, obviously) - it's our hair.

Yes, Prince Harry and I are both what is commonly (in the UK, at least) known as "gingers". I know, it's awful, isn't it? It's this "affliction" that people like to poke fun at - sometimes gently, sometimes not – and so for today's Big Question I'd like to ask, "why?" Why is it considered OK to mock the redheads of the world – and why do people even dare to do it given how hot tempered we're all supposed to be?

Of course, I get the theory. Here in the UK, red hair is generally considered to be ugly, and let's face it, no one likes a minger, do they? What always amazes me, though, is how ready people are to talk about how much they hate us. Of all the prejudices in all the world, redhead-hating is pretty unique in that it's almost totally acceptable to voice it. It's the hatred we're all allowed to have, and gee, it sure is fun to share a hatred, isn't it?

When you're the one with the "affliction" though, it can all be pretty hard to stomach. When I was a baby, people would regularly tell my mum how sorry they were that I was "ginger" (because every new mother likes to know that you think her baby is ugly), or try to reassure her that "it might go blonde! Or you could dye it! Yes, dye it! Dye it a more acceptable colour, so that the ginger child will not offend mine eyes!" Now that I'm older, they tell me I'm "not bad looking - for a ginger" or ask me if the reason I don't want children is because I'm afraid they'll inherit "it".

As strange as it may seem, these people aren't trying to be rude, or to hurt the feelings of us "gingers": they genuinely think these questions are acceptable because society in general has come to a tacit understanding that red hair is something to be ashamed of, and to poke fun at. Well, it's not like we can make fun of black people/ Jewish people/ disabled people any more, so we need someone to be the underdog, don't we?

Luckily for the redheads of the world, we tend to be pretty hard-ass, and we're getting used to the abuse. We know you don't mean it when you crack jokes about "gingers" or make comments about how if you had a redheaded child you'd probably have to kill yourself, by gosh. And let's face it, I'd rather be red than dead a prejudiced idiot. I just can't quite get used to the fact that I have something in common with Prince Harry...

Amber McNaught is a freelance journalist and Shiny contributor. Don't call her a "ginger" or she'll unleash that red-headed temper on you. No, really...

Posted by on April 19, 2007

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Hi Amber. Well, I think your hair looks lovely and cannot understand the prejudice - also, your name fits! It's such a pity that most people in the world are cursed with basic insecurity so they have to pick on someone else to make themselves feel good. I was ginger-born but then turned to some indeterminate brown colour which I regret to this very day.... wear your hair with pride! It suits you no end.

Posted by: Maz | April 19, 2007 4:21 PM

Wow, I had no idea red hair was so looked down on in the UK. At least here in the US I think a lot of women aspire to have red hair. I know I've dyed my hair shades of auburn and red more than once. And by the way, I think your hair is lovely!

Posted by: allison | April 19, 2007 10:05 PM

I absolutely DETEST that word "ginger" because it is sooo over used, and there are many types of red hair. I'm quite lucky because I don't get that made fun of, but the odd time you get someone shouting ginger and i always shout back "THAT'S REALLY ORIGINAL". B*****ds.

Posted by: Gee | May 16, 2007 11:41 PM

Hello there,
Being Irish-Canadian been raised with my familly having red hair but not I. Every time I see a NATURAL redhead I envy her/him. Many times I dyed it a nice red, it only looked good because I have very pale skin and some freckles... Point is, I looove red hair in general and don't understand why people would hate you for it.

Posted by: Lucy | July 5, 2007 6:01 AM

oh I love red heads. They look better than blondes.

Posted by: babyjesus | July 30, 2007 5:30 AM

I almost never comment on blogs or people's sites, but i was moved by your words and i understand exactly what you mean. I was born and raised a natural redhead. Firey red with spiral curls down to my lower back. I'm norwegian, though i live in the states now. I've spent time in the UK however, and nothing makes me more annoyed then being called a "ginger". and you're right on target that redheads as the world's true minority at less the 2% of the world's population, we are the last group to be openly discriminated against. If people aren't asking me if the carpet matches the curtains, i'm getting stereotypes about my temper, or my "wild" sexual habits. We've been burned as witches, and thought to be evil. In the UK i've felt the intolerance more then anywhere else i've traveled in the world. It's sad that someone's hair color can determine so much, but history proves it can and still does.
But here's my take on it. You're a lovely, articulate young woman. Being a redhead is something you should be proud of. You're unique, blessed and you've risen to the challenges of life. People hate that which they don't understand. They're ignorant and it's their loss. Keep the faith and you'll go far.

Posted by: Maiya | September 6, 2007 12:24 PM

im ginger and hate it, im so p***** off with it now beacuase everyday, some chav or tramp will shout "ginnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnger" and it makes me want to run em over, but hey life moves on, sadly your hair colour dont. Maybe one day the hair fairy will come and change my hair colour. doubt it. i kinda lost my faith 10 years ago because there will always be some prick with a high pitched sqeaky voice shouting "ginger".but im gonna try and ignore it. glad to see some people on the forum think red hair as a colour not a sin.

Posted by: unlucky kid | September 10, 2007 5:01 PM

Well, I've always wished I had natural red hair. Instead I have to dye my hair red every month. I personally think you all are lucky people!

Posted by: WannabeRedHead | September 18, 2007 10:50 PM

Hey, I have no problem with red heads, some of my favourite Movie Stars have red Hair past & Present,Rita Hayworth, shirley Mc claine,Nicole Kidman, Lindsy Lohan, My wife's also one of the most beautiful woman i know and she's got red hair,so there ya have it, Red is beautiful!!!

Posted by: DEANO | October 13, 2007 7:35 PM

i was truly appauled at what you wrote, i cant beleive ppl in world are actually that cruel. I am 15 years old and i have red hair. When i was in elementary school no one ever made fun of me, but i hit high school and oh my goodness i get made fun of about every day b/c of my hair and peole dont know how much it hurts i litterally HATE my hair and wish every day i could change it, i ask god sometimes why me...? I HATE when ppl make fun of me i just cant take it anymore, ppl think its funny, but ITS NOT! Some of the people who make fun of me are either fat or really stupid, and if i say "well shut up ur fat" the whole school would turn on me, but they can say "i hate gingers...or "oh gingy" but if i say "oh fatty" its like oh my god i cant beleive you called me fat. Its really hell living as a red head i hate it soo much, but ur hair is pretty, so dont worry.

Posted by: Kris | October 19, 2007 3:28 AM

Hey Amber,
I know EXACTLY what you mean, it sucks huh? I'm scottish and have red hair, freckles and blue eyes.. the very textbook "Ginger".

Sigh.. it never get's better... I have been to 4 primary schools, two high schools and now I'm in University, and there is still the fake blonde girl or guy (who probably HAD red hair) who makes "funny" comments about gingers during lectures.

I had a boyfriend who wanted me to go blonde.. why would this make me any more attractive? I'd still have the same face and skin.. What happens when somebody goes out with a blonde girl and thinks they're hot untill her red roots start to show through? Is she UGLY all of a sudden?

Me and my current boyfriend are both red-heads and both of us suffer the abuse we get from chavs on the street. I punched a girl in the face in my high school for saying that no guy would want me cause I'm ginger... funnily enough I HAD a boyfriend at that time. I hate it when I hear chav girls talk about how ugly my boyfriend is ... HE'S HOT! ahhh... anyway.. Sorry.

I feel the pain of being a read head, and the only reason gingers have "bad-tempers" is because people keep ripping them.. anyone would do the same if, Day in day out they were bullied.

If you gave black people abuse like that your likely to get lifted.. so what makes us any different? (By the way, I actually think that dark skin is so beautiful, I love african-skinned people, they look amazing.)

I also love the fact that there are people that LIKE red hair.. it makes me feel so much better and that I might one day have a chance to accepted in the world.

Have a nice day guys x

Posted by: Rebecca | October 27, 2007 9:12 PM

i will fix the problem for all of you
with a poem

in my early years i thought i might catch it
this disease that made hair red
fear caused me to keep a safe distance
for, if it was airborn it could take over my head

now that i am older, this explanation takes the cake
when god created red heads, it was simply a mistake

Posted by: cmk | November 22, 2007 7:51 AM

Hello there,

I'm a red-head from America, but I have a habit of googling late at night when I cant sleep, and I frequently look up things concerning red heads. Almost all of the hateful things about about redheads that I find come from Britain... and it's just astonishing to me! Americans take heat all the time for being intolerant and hateful, but I'm starting to learn that Britains are even worse! I've never really been made fun of for having red hair, but in junior high I was told a couple of times that I would be prettier as a blonde, but ever since then it has never been an issue. (And I have a really difficult time staying single!) The idea of hair color even being something worth degrading someone over is so strange! You might as well make fun of someone for having brown eyes! If a Brit ever came to America and called some one a ginger or asked "if the cuffs match the collar," there's a good chance he'd get beat up.

It really is a shame that people think this way. It's ugly ignorance and a fear of difference. I don't understand why people can hate so freely... America definitely has it's own problems with this... the entire world does! It's a shame for me to learn that school yard bullying has become a widespread, accepted hate in England. I do agree with sentiments that this is the same as racial or sexist discrimination, and I it is my hope for all my fellow red-heads across the water that someone recognizes this problem. I personally do not really want to travel to Britain because of my red-hair... but I am an American woman and I don't take s**t from any one! I wouldn't have a problem knocking the front teeth out of any one who makes a smart remark about my hair. It's gorgeous - I'm gorgeous! Intolerance is ugly and it doesnt look good on anyone.

Posted by: J. Renee | December 18, 2007 12:31 PM

a ginger? you are frickin HOT!!! if youre not likng it out there, come to los angeles and look for me... i would be honored to be seen by you...


Posted by: Arthur Gonzalez | February 15, 2008 11:23 AM

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