dimanche 9 juin 2013

On being ginger in England and Wales

I never imagined that there would be such a stigma attached to being ginger in England and Wales. Life can be really difficult for ginger people living in England and Wales.

Sure, redheads are teased in Canada too. But it's nothing like what I've seen in England and Wales.

When I lived in Wales I had a part-time job to put me through university. There was a ginger man working there and he was everyone's scapegoat and the butt of all the jokes. If something went wrong at work, he was often blamed for the problem. 

My supervisor annonced one day that her daughter was pregnant. I'll never forget what she said.

"If he comes out ginger, I don't know what we'll do. There's no one in my family who is ginger, but I think the father's grandmother is ginger. Here, have a look at his picture." I stare at his picture. "Do you see any ginger in him?" she asks in desperation. "We're all praying that he won't come out ginger." 

This conversation was repeated over the next following months. I was really susprised with how she spoke about being ginger, with such scorn in her voice.

One day I went to work and she exclaimed in front of everybody, "My daughter had her baby and he's not ginger!" she exclaimed. I think she was more happy about her grandson not being ginger than the fact that she had a grandson. And all this was within earshot of our ginger colleague. "He's lucky to have a girlfriend," a lot of my colleagues said whenever they spoke about our ginger colleague.

Rhossili, Wales. Author of photo: Den Nation.


I remember watching a programme on the BBC about what life was like for ginger people. They interviewed a few gingers and two interviews stuck out in my mind in particular. These two ginger men talked about how much they wanted to get married and have children. Despite having excellent jobs and being highly-educated, they were unable to find partners. And they weren't bad looking either. So what did they do? One moved to France and the other to the United States where they found partners. Can you believe it? How drastic is that?

In the second part of the programme, the BBC decided to place a couple of dating ads on the internet. Some of the ads specified that the person seeking a partner was ginger while others said nothing. All the people involved in the test were ginger. For the men whose ads stipulated that they were ginger, almost all of the responses were from ginger women. And for the others... 

The men would not reveal that they were ginger. A lot of them really hit it off with the respondents; some of them even shared personal details with each other. When the respondents asked for pictures the ginger men would dye their hair before taking the picture to be sent. When it came time to meet each other...

Over.

I can't believe how hard it is to be a ginger man in England and Wales. Nobody wants to date you. A lot of people think you're daft. I wonder if gingers are discriminated against in the workplace. Well, in my workplace the answer to that was kind of obvious.

Look at this site to learn more. http://beingginger.co.uk/

If you want to be shocked, watch the second video. Don't say I didn't warn you. This girl is serious. "Just try and limit the ginger," she says to the ginger man. And that's not the worst of it. I just can't believe it! 

I don't understand where this scorn comes from. Can somebody explain it?

Edit: Now that I've read the comments, I'm beginning to realise that maybe this scorn is a form of discrimination against Celtic people. Let's face it, when the Irish immigrated to England, there was a lot of discrimination. And since a lot of Irish people have red hair, well, it's not hard to put two and two together. 

23 commentaires:

  1. My sister in law was ginger as a kid, she seemed to suffer a great deal at school, "poil de carotte" and so on and she wasn't even that read- headed. I think in France it must hard to be ginger too. I've heard "they smell", difficult to deal with. What a shame. Your post cracked me up, but I think it must be a suffering to be picked on because of their hair. BTW, have you read poil de carotte, by Jules Renard, tough times for gingers.

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    1. I've just looked up the book you recommended. Wow, that's an old book! Redheads had it hard even back then. I never knew it went back that far.

      "They smell"? What the? Of what, I wonder?

      All this has really made me curious, I want to know more about how redheads are treated in France.

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  2. That is so weird! I don't really get it either. People like to pick on those who are different I guess... Come to think of it, there is a stigma for the "roux" in France too but I have never "witnessed" it. Quite the opposite actually, back in school in the 90s we all wanted to have red hair and dye it with henna!

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    1. Yeah, I've never heard anything about there being a stigma attached to being a redhead in France. Of course there must be some prejudice and I am curious to find out more about it.

      When I was in primary school in Canada it was cool to be a redhead. There was a boy who had red hair and all the girls had a crush on him. I was in awe of girls with red hair.

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  3. Can I just pick you up on your use of "the UK" here? Ginger prejudice is mostly an English thing - in Scotland, kids might get teased in the playground a bit, but it's also such a marker of national identity that you can buy hats with ginger hair attached to wear to rugby matches when you support the Scottish team!

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    1. This is a really good comment, thanks. I couldn't really use the words England and English because most of my first-hand experiences with this prejudice were when I was living in Wales. That's interesting that despite sharing the Celtic connection, Wales and Scotland have a different stance on being ginger. I often see Wales and Scotland as sharing the same culture, but I see that in this case, they are like night and day!

      I was wondering, is there a particular link with the colour red and the Scottish culture? In Wales they love the colours red and green.

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    2. Interesting! I would have thought Wales would be like Scotland too!

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  4. I was going to say something similar to Canedolia -- in southern Ireland and Scotland, the Ginger prejudice isn't as big a deal as in other parts of the UK. My grandmother is Irish and my grandfather is Scottish (he has red hair) and my Dad has red hair as well. Red hair is a almost a trademark of being "really Irish" or "really Scottish" and they've never received any kind of teasing. It might be a generational thing as well because my Dad grew up in Canada and was never teased for his red hair! (for being tall and very skinny, yes, but never for his reddish afro funnily enough!)

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    1. I'm not surprised about your dad because when I was in school, it was cool to be a redhead, for both boys and girls. Being a redhead was considered sexy in the schools I went to. As an adult, I've never heard anything negative about being a redhead in Canada (but of course there is some prejudice).

      The prejudice I encounted in England and Wales was really shocking for me. In my Canadian brain, having red hair is something to be proud of, not something to be scorned.

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    2. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par l'auteur.

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    3. I know! I'd love to have red hair. I know a lot of women (myself included!) who have spent tons of money dyeing their hair all shades of red.

      I bet if I ever did have a child, he or she would be a redhead and subject to French scorn all of his/her life :/

      (Had to delete my previous comment because of a horrendous typo...I wish Blogger comments could just be edited by the poster instead of having to be deleted and redone.)

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    4. Oh, I know exactly what you mean about finding errors in comments. It bothers me so much, especially as I work in a profession that doesn't allow for such errors (so do you!).

      I am really starting to wonder life is for redheads in France. What does Max say?

      I think that in France it could go one of two ways: either you are cool at school for having red hair (based on what Zhu said about her experiences) or you are teased because everyone is France is taught to conform to a common cause.

      I think I should find some redheads to interview when I get back to Bordeaux, although something tells me that they won't be easy to find down there.

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    5. You might have more luck finding some in Bretagne ;)

      I'll ask Max what he thinks about this and get back to you!

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  5. Yup, we seem to have an innate dislike of the gingers. I really am unsure why. I remember when a boy rang me up to ask me out, a family member picked up the phone and said 'you're not ginger are you?' Fortunately though this stigma only usually follows most red-heads through school. The majority of people then grow up and in adult hood, red hair is seen as fiery, Celtic, dramatic. It is similar to racism though. It really is crazy. It is a huge difference that I have noticed too, since living in Canada. I have always assumed that the English dislike of gingers was aesthetic, similar to the bullying of overweight people or of people who wear glasses (me) etc, but in other part of the world redheads are revered as the ultimate sex-icons! It just goes to show that beauty is only what is perceived to be fashionable at that time.

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    1. When I was growing up in Canada, it was sexy or cute to be a redhead. Is this the kind of thinking you have noticed?

      I think that what Crystal said is right. People in Canada associate being ginger with being Irish and in Canada that is a positive thing. I think that if a redhead in Canada receives a comment about having red hair all they would have to say is, "I'm Irish!" and the other person would say, "That's so cool!"

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    2. That is what I have noticed too, definitely. In England it is associated with being Scottish most of the time. It is only the school children and uneducated who taunt people, but sadly...that seems to make up a majority!

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    3. I imagined that it would be mostly uneducated people who have a problem with gingers. But you are right, it seems that even educated people discriminate against gingers. I'm not blaming you, though!

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  6. Ok, so I'm kind of ginger, or strawberry blonde, as we say in America. In the US you get "carrot top" comments but it wasn't so bad. I was really shocked in France when a dyed redhead became Miss France that they made these "redheads smell" comments. I mean, really! There were some comments about her being a redhead, but honestly I agree with some of the comments that beinb a redhead, especially for women, is considered sexy. In France, however, a young teen recently committed suicide because of the constant teasing from classmates. So it seems that male redheads have it harder than women.

    I also saw a talk show with Donna from the second to last Doctor Who season, who is ginger, talking about them getting a kitten at a shelter. The woman at the shelter said, well, at the moment we only have a ginger cat. That's ok, said the actress, we ARE a ginger family.

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    1. I just don't understand where the idea comes from that redheads smell! Have you had any problems in France due to your red hair?

      I can't believe that woman's comment (even though it wasn't real, it could happen!) about the ginger cat. It makes me think that probably black cats and dogs have low adoption rates as well. What do you think, Crystal?

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  7. Popping over from Holly's Blog I am so sad at reading this, I live in Canada and I love seeing little red haired boys and girl's My Grandma was Irish and she did not have red hair but I always wanted to have it. I have white hair:) you can guess my age at that.
    I loved reading your comments. This is the best thing about blogging it shows you what is going on in the real world not only what we read and see in the news. Real people real opinions and views. It is something I would truly never have thought of. Great post. B

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    1. Thanks for reading my blog!

      I have a Canadian friend who is visiting me here in Copenhagen and I showed her the videos on beingginger.co.uk and she was shocked. She agreed with me - being a redhead in Canada is much easier than being a redhead in the UK.

      I wanted to create this post for people like her who are interested in travel and are from and live in North America. I had no idea about this prejudice against gingers before living in Wales.

      I wanted to "teach" other North Americans about culture in Britain. Of course British people can do that, but I do it from a North American perspective instead of a British one. What may be normal for a British person, may not be normal for a North American one.

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  8. People get teased here in Australia as well for being ginger (or a ranger - pronounced Rangah). I never really understood it. ICs family is always like "thank goodness IC didn't inherit the red hair" or "that poor cousin got the red head"
    ...

    I've always wanted to be a red head, and died my hair red for years! which I think stems from my love of Anne of Green Gables. I don't get it. I really don't.

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    1. Your comment is really interesting. Canada, like Australia, is a commonwealth country. I wonder how it is that Britain brought over this prejudice to Australia and not to Canada?

      I always admired redheads back when I lived in Canada. These comments like "thank goodness IC didn't inherit the red hair" shock me soooooo much.

      Thanks for teaching me a slang word in "Australian".

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