Don’t Call Me ‘Ginger’…
“At least it’s not a ginger,” said the comment on the photo of my newborn son. “That must have been a relief.”
“I have a total aversion to ginger hair,” someone told me on Instagram when I posted a selfie there recently. “And those stupid light eyelashes to boot!”
It’s 2023, and people are still hating redheads — to the extent that they’ll actually take time out of their day to tell us our babies are ugly and our pale eyelashes “stupid”.
“Ginger” is the word they normally use when they do this. Not “red”, but “ginger; a word I’ve had yelled at me from car windows and otherwise used as an insult so often now that it creates an almost visceral reaction in me; a full-body cringe that takes me right back to high school, when I was called a “ginger minger” too many times to count.
Because of this, I’ve never referred to myself as “a ginger” — and neither do any of my redheaded friends. We’re always simply redheads, and while we probably won’t correct you if you refer to us as “ginger” — more on that later — it’s what most of us wish you’d call us, too.
Does it really matter, though? Isn’t it just auburn hair, after all?
Well, yeah: you would think so, wouldn’t you? Hair colour isn’t something we choose; it’s something we’re born with, and the fact that mine has been such a source of controversy, and sometimes outright hate, for as long as I can remember, is an absolute enigma to me. I genuinely can’t even imagine seeing someone on the street, say, and wanting to screech “Brunette!” at them, or scrolling through Instagram and stopping to earnestly tell every blonde I encounter that I really hope their babies don’t inherit their hair colour.
People routinely do these things to “gingers”, though; and always using that exact word.
Over the years, I’ve been called ‘firecrotch” and “carrot top”, as well as other, much less ‘polite’ names. I’ve been told that I’m “not bad looking … for a ginger,” asked repeatedly if the carpet matches the curtains, and compared to Ed Sheeran so many times I’ve started to feel like I know the guy. When I was pregnant, I was subjected to endless, anxious questions about whether the baby was likely to also be “a ginger” and assured that it was okay, I’d still love it, even if it was. (Only if it was a girl, though. If it was a boy ginger, people seemed to think I’d be too ashamed to show my face in public ever again. And can you imagine the Ed Sheeran “jokes” if I did?”)
“But you could just dye it,” say the people who think it’s no big deal to be routinely abused for your hair colour.
Well, yes. I could. But why should I have to? Why should I change my appearance just to stop people abusing me over it? Why is the answer to “gingerism” always that I should change my appearance, instead of other people changing their attitudes?
Everyone has their preferences, and that’s fine. It’s not fine to actually hate someone because of their hair colour, though; to bully and ‘other’ them over it — and, given that society doesn’t tend to deem it acceptable to bully any other group because of their genetics, I’m at a loss to understand why it’s okay to do it to redheads.
But gingerism is the last acceptable prejudice, and the only one I can think of where the victims are told to get a sense of humour, or grow a thicker skin. And this is why, when you call us “gingers” we probably won’t correct you; we know you either mean no harm, or that you’ll just roll your eyes at us for not seeing the “joke”.
But, honestly, we’d rather not keep being the butt of everyone’s so-called “jokes”, all things considered. So if you care about your redheaded friends, then please: don’t call us “ginger”. You really don’t want to get on the wrong side of those famously fiery tempers of ours, after all…