Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Are you offending red heads without even knowing it?

Gingerism.com exists to raise awareness of red head prejudice. It's a problem red haired people suffer on a near-daily basis (and definite-daily if you're still at high school). It's easy to find examples of red head prejudice (commonly referred to as gingerism) within mainstream society and the media. What's more difficult, however, is educating non-red heads of their own use of gingerism.

When the Royal Navy commissioned a recruitment advertisement focusing on the job of a weapons engineering technician, I'm certain they had no intention of insulting red headed people. The reality is somewhat different. See if you can spot it.



Did you hear it? If you're a British red head you probably did and you're likely to have made a mental note of it. Non-red heads will probably miss it, or hear the comment and dismiss it as a friendly greeting. Still don't hear it? The Engineering Technician asks "Keeping busy, ginge?" to his red headed colleague.

"Ginge", - or to give its complete form - "ginger" is commonly used as an informal greeting to a red headed friend. It is also the most likely word in any verbal attack. On an insult scale of 1 - 10 it's around a 6 or 7, with ranga, fanta-pants and the god-awful ginga (pronounced with an almost silent second g) occupying the top spots.

The problem is, non-red heads don't seem to realise that calling someone ginge or ginger is actually very insulting. When you call someone ginger, even if it's entirely innocently, they will be reminded of the thousands of times in the past that the word has been used as a jibe.

An individual's use of the word ginger may be innocent, but the connotations tacked onto it by modern society are not. When Tim Minchin recounts ex-girlfriends asking him "can they call me ginge?" in his brilliant song Taboo, he replies in a fast paced, nip-that-one-in-the-bud tone "And I say I don't think that's appropriate!"

Or to hammer in the point more strongly, when my Grandmother's 90 year old friend stated "I don't mind the niggers" she wasn't trying to be offensive, not in the slightest.

2 comments:

Ginamonster said...

I followed a link from my red headed sister. personally? I don't understand the prejudice against red heads. But then, there are some pretty slanderous things said about blondes too...

Dane said...

I'm a ginge and have no problem. My son had "ginga" on the back of his football shirt as a kid.

Some people will try and take offence, it's just in their nature.