The UK has one of the highest population percentages of redheads in the world, but words like ‘ginger’ and ‘ginga’ still roll off the tongue towards those gifted with this follicle rarity. Is it all just a bit of red-blooded fun or has Britain got ginger phobia?
The persecution of those with red, auburn or ginger hair is not a modern condition and has persisted throughout history and around the world. Just as often as redheads have been discriminated against they have also been upheld and praised. Socially, redheads have been stereotyped as being fiery, hot tempered and overtly sexual, and although it is clear that the way we act is not attributed to hair colour, history’s most famous ‘gingers’ have helped to promote these ideas.
As early as the ancient Egyptians there is evidence of Cleopatra dying her hair red, continuing to impress redheaded stereotypes upon all those aware of her volatile nature and political prowess. A more recent and recognisable redhead is our own home grown Queen Elizabeth I who popularised red hair throughout 16th Century Britain. Even modern media has been affected by the recent influx of redheaded style icons such as Lily Cole, Axl Rose and Nicola Roberts inspiring people across the world to reach for the dye bottle.
However, whilst many famous redheads have inspired us, the everyday redhead on the street still faces some ridiculous and shocking challenges. In 2003 a 20 year old was stabbed in the back for being ‘ginger’ and in 2007 a family of redheads in Newcastle were forced to move home after being targeted by neighbours for their hair colour. In a world preoccupied with political correctness and protecting the rights of people regardless of race, age or size, it is shocking to see a form of discrimination such as this overlooked by organisations like the Commission for Racial Equality, even though most people with red hair will experience anything from timid taunts to full blown violence throughout their lifetime.
The question is why are people with red hair targeted? The simple truth is that only 1 to 2% of the population is born with red hair, making them a minority. Throughout history society has victimised minorities. In other words, we, on a subconscious level, fear what is different and will victimise those who are different in any way to make ourselves feel better. As well as this, the victimisation and discrimination of redheads is still a crime largely beyond the reach of the law and until such time as it is recognised as unacceptable it will continue to be an issue.
Hate shouldn’t be a follicle matter and only we can stand up for the rights of those different to us, not just redheads but anyone who is born a little different to the norm - and isn’t everyone in their own way a little different? If we were all the same life would be horrifically boring so why not praise the differences between us? Red hair is rare and beautiful and anyone who targets those with it are most likely expressing a form of jealousy or, at the very least, showing that they have low self esteem that can only be improved by attempting to bring others down. So next time you go to use the ‘G’ word ask yourself, have I got ginger phobia?
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