More can be done to tackle the bullying of ginger people in schools, but being picked on for being ginger isn’t the same as experiencing systematic oppression.
Hair getting yanked was a common occurrence and one time some brat even tried to staple it. There was even a rendition of “what’s that coming over in the hill” in my honour, although it wasn’t so much of a flattering ode to the ginger hair. Bullying of ginger people is common throughout school, and it can even extend to adulthood. There are some shocking incidents that have been reported. However, campaigns to treat “gingerism” as a form of bigotry completely miss the point.
Targeting people for features deemed not beautiful is different to systematic discrimination and oppression. It cannot in any way be compared to racism. Racism is engrained in society. There’s a long history of white countries kidnapping people of colour, and stealing from countries. Slavery may have ended but the legacy of racism endures. Racism occurs in many forms, from not having equal access to opportunities (including education and jobs) to less protection under the law. There are many racist slurs out there, but they’re said in a context where people of colour are deemed second class citizens. Ginger people endure horrible words too, but they simply don’t hold the same power or connotations as a racist word.
“Targeting people for features deemed not beautiful is different to systematic discrimination and oppression”
Some racists have even tried to use ginger people to prop up their neo-Nazism. Being ginger has been (in some far right quarters) seen as to be more ethnically pure, particularly with the idea that being ginger will actually die out in several decades. Racists use this to try to say that “purity” is diminishing. Ginger people are not props to uphold racism, but it does show that white ginger people do also have white privilege. Being ginger isn’t a free pass, and it isn’t anywhere near the same as experiencing oppression based on race.
Ginger people do often face either remarks on supposed ugliness or are oversexualised. Our red hair apparently makes us either amoral and ready to sleep with anyone, or akin to witches. There’s a misogyny that comes with being ginger. It’s not seen as something desirable. Red headed men aren’t seen as masculine enough and red headed women are a failure to women – either by virtue or by supposed lack of beauty.
More can be done to tackle bullying against ginger people and the stigma of red hair. In schools, there should be an actual zero tolerance policy. Sadly, many schools would rather pretend bullying doesn’t exist than deal with it. MC1R is helping smash stigma and is sharing empowering stories of being ginger. Projects like that can make a huge difference.
We can tackle bullying of ginger people, while acknowledging that it is different to bigotry and oppression. We shouldn’t be trying to co-opt the experiences of marginalised people who live under oppressive laws and systems as well as experiencing hatred. Ginger is beautiful, and we don’t need hate crime laws to include us.
Follow up: only ginger people are allowed to call each other gingers though or they’re wankers.