Don’t Touch Her, She’s Ginger: Britain’s Problem with Redheads

You’d think that the baby’s ridiculous name would be a greater cause for alarm, but Jordan‘s more concerned that her newborn daughter Princess Tiaami is a budding firecrotch. “I don’t mind, though. I love her anyway, even if she’s a ginge,” she told OK! Magazine. “Actually I think when people are horrible about people with red hair that’s as bad as being racist.”

Jordan has good reason for concern: anti-redhead sentiment has a long history in the UK. We may laugh when we see comedienne Catherine Tate lampooning “gingerism” in Britain with skits in which red-haired families become refugees, but as it turns out, her parody isn’t far from the truth. Just a month ago, a ginger-haired family in Newcastle, England claimed they were forced from their home because of repeated threats and violence from thugs. Even Prince Harry says he was bullied for being ginger and suggests he needs counseling for the emotional wounds.

The BBC recently did a special report asking, “Is gingerism as bad as racism?” In this interview, several people came forward with stories of hatred and persecution:

Photographer Charlotte Rushton has been chronicling the UK’s redheads for a book, Ginger Snaps. Of the 300 she snapped, only two have been spared bullying because of their hair. She herself has suffered verbal abuse from complete strangers.

“I was on the Tube, pregnant, and I was really humiliated by this drunk yob. He was shouting ‘do the cuffs and the collars match?’ He got right up into my face. You don’t do that to other people.”

An American interviewed in the article says, “There is nothing like this in the US, where having red hair is not a precursor to having someone abuse you. Red hair is considered glamorous.” So what’s up with the Brits? The BBC gives a possible explanation: “Some claim it could be a throwback to anti-Irish sentiment from the 19th Century and before when the Irish, with a greater prevalence of red hair, were regarded as ethnically inferior.” Currently, redheads in the UK lack protection under discrimination and hate crimes laws; thus, many bigots may consider it open season.

One Brit who is unapologetically ginger is actor Damian Lewis, famous for his roles in Band of Brothers and Friends & Crocodiles. When asked by the Sunday Mirror if he liked being ginger, he replied, “Yes. I love being a redhead – always have done. I dyed it dark brown once for a job. Never again. It takes forever to grow out. I feel like I’ve done it. I have no plans to go black, bleach blond, or any other color for that matter.”

Say it loud, he’s ginger and he’s proud:

Watch a couple sexy tributes to Damian Lewis on YouTube:
A Damian Lewis clip show set to “I’m Too Sexy”
Photo Slideshow

In other news:

  • Firebrand Geri Haliwell is training to get her Ginger Spice bod back.
    (Daily Mail)
  • The Mirror‘s Sue Carroll accuses Kate Middleton of manipulating the press. “Is it just me who is baffled by this young woman who, having whinged, moaned and stamped her feet over the press attention heaped upon her as potential bride-in-waiting to a royal, now seems driven by the oxygen of publicity?”
  • Kate Middleton’s parents, who own a party favors company, have signed a lucrative deal to sell Harry Potter-brand party accessories.
    (Evening Standard)
  • Arctic Monkeys have a “soft spot” for David Beckham.(Mirror)
  • Where’s Beckham?: Fans hold angry signs in the stands protesting Becks’ absence from Galaxy matches.(Daily Mail)
  • Malcolm McDowell and Helen Mirren will provide commentaries for the DVD release of the notoriously sleazy 1979 film Caligula. (Page Six)
  • Comedian Russell Brand will trace Jack Kerouac‘s path across America for a documentary.(Chortle)
  • Ricky Gervais has signed on to the comedy Early Retirement, about a “husband who quits his job to spend more time with his family.”
    (Coming Soon)

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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