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Gingers have souls!

September 23, 2016


Following last week’s post on reverse racism, I want to talk about gingers.


We heard a few years back, to our utter astonishment, that gingers have souls. All through high school we were led to believe that this was incorrect.

I hear a lot that prejudice against red-haired people is not real prejudice. Ostensibly, this notion feeds off the old anti-reverse racism line that only “oppressed minorities” who face “systemic discrimination” can possibly be subject to any form of prejudiced derision.

Actually, I think this is an excuse. People in certain institutions, like high school or particular pub friendship groups, like having people to insult, and refuse to think of themselves badly for having done so.

Who didn’t occasionally look down on or make fun of someone for who / what they were in high school? It was epidemic. People used it as a defence mechanism to deflect attention away from themselves, since a bit of digging would have almost certainly have exposed an “abnormal” attribute ripe for mocking.

The justification for insulting fat people has always been victim-blaming. It’s their fault they’re fat, so what do they expect? Inconveniently, anything anyone doesn’t choose isn’t subject to that rule, so we hastily have to concoct some reason why it’s OK to make fun of them. At a stretch, you could say that the ginger minger should have died her hair, just like the hairy bitch should have shaved her legs.

A claim that anyone who isn’t slightly brown doesn’t have a claim on prejudice informed by evaluations made on their appearance – that will do nicely. It’s a major problem with the “Your problems aren’t big enough to be concerned about, and you using the terminology of the really oppressed is a gross appropriation,” stance – it gives ammunition to people who are not moral-minded at all, but just mean spirited.

Notice that when describing the victim-blaming of prejudice, it was the female pronoun that immediately sprang to mind. It’s worth pointing out that many appearance prejudices effect women worse than men, making them feminist issues. It’s red-haired women who most often dye their hair, and only beautiful red-haired women are given a pass for being red haired.

We forget the prejudice exists when the only gingers we hear about are our friends, who in adulthood face little adversity due to it being so obviously juvenile, polite society forbids it. Get drunk in a pub, though, and it’s like a factory reset for all latent, repressed and cultural preconceptions. People who have a “thing” for gingers, phrasing their preference as though it’s decidedly odder than wishing to put your most noodly appendage in someone else’s poophole. Ah, culture.

The most important point in time is the school environment. Quite a lot that is actively looked down on at school is accepted publicly in the adult world, but this unfortunately doesn’t make life any easier for the teenagers in question. It falls on adults to make different rules for schools in regards to this behaviour, just like they do for other kinds; the last time I checked, you couldn’t be held against your will in a room for fifteen minutes for the misdemeanour of not finishing your work or talking over the top of the boss. In the adult world, that’s illegal.

Teenagers are judgemental and take their judgements into the adult world, to a lesser or greater extent. I think we can all agree that the lesser extent is better. Less sophisticated people take the prejudices of their teenage years with them into their thirties and beyond, and they are the ones who make for weird comments at parties, because no one ever gave them the stick for being terribly inappropriate.

They’ll end up with bad social lives. The kindest thing to do would have been to stick them in detention for yelling “Ginger pubes!” at a passing acquaintance while they were at school. That’s if you need a reason to discourage discriminatory behaviour, beyond the fact that it’s discriminatory.

I heard a comedian the other day make the point that it’s ridiculous to think of anti-ginger rhetoric as being racist, because gingers don’t face any adversity, they just can’t go out in the sun, which isn’t a big deal. The irony of that statement was clearly lost on him; unbidden by any outside force, he chose to focus not on the societal elements that make up prejudice, such as irrational objection to physical characteristics, but on the physical characteristics themselves.

Focusing on physical characteristics that have no bearing on someone’s deepest nature is a classic feature of traditional racism. If you were a black person in slave-owning times, it didn’t matter if you wrote twelve operas and invented the particle accelerator, you’d still only be as good as the best Negro; inherently inferior to whities because you’ve got a bit more melanin.

Now, here we are, years later, saying it’s OK to insult gingers because the only thing wrong with them is they haven’t got as much melanin as the average whitey. Can we get off the melanin, please?

Racism isn’t what it used to be. We do tend, now, to judge people on their merits once we know them, even if we continue to make presumptions and stereotypes before that point. Therefore, the angle of racism and its effect has changed.

It is no longer a question of who has human rights and who doesn’t; now it’s a question of who can walk down the concourse of their campus without being molested for the colour of their skin, or indeed, hair. By that judgement, high school is a dreadful institution for ginger people.

Who we protect from insult is not entirely arbitrary, but is far too preoccupied with history. In Britain today, it’s impossible to say anything remotely questionable about trans people without a tonne of bricks falling down upon you. I remember that as recently as 2005, you never caught a whisper on transgenderism unless someone was deriding it; by 2015, this had flipped 180. You scarcely hear about transgenderism these days unless someone’s talking about how brave it is, as if we’ve all become firefighters or something.

What did I do to deserve this sudden reverse of fortunes? I have an officially recognised condition and my hormones and surgery are on the NHS. I can get my passport and birth certificate officially changed with minimal bureaucracy. I have all the support I could possibly ask for from all manner of institutions on my doorstep. There are statutes that protect my rights in every conceivable context.

I would say that I’m pretty far away from being subject to institutional discrimination. Yet now, it’s become tremendously important for everyone to adjust their language down to every pronoun, and for people like me to be represented on the television once every two weeks. I’m not complaining, but it seems to me that this is a classic example of: “When we do, we do it all. When we don’t do, we actively try our hardest to do nothing.”

There’s no justification for any kind of derision for harmless attributes – particularly, but not exclusively, ones which are present at birth – and the ones that refer to physical appearance strike me as being particularly backwards. We dealt with this already. We called it racism. When the attribute in question doesn’t concern race, it’s just some other form of equally stupid prejudice. What you call it is irrelevant.

Gingers don’t need to see My Redheaded Summer on C4. What they do need is for someone to stick their neck out for them when their peers are giving them a knock, and all their non-ginger elders can say is: “Don’t be so wet behind the ears. You’re not black!”

I wonder what black equal rights campaigners think about their struggles being appropriated to justify this idle and callous disregard of casual cruelty, which – irrespective of cultural context or lack thereof – unnecessarily worsens the quality of people’s lives. Not much, I should think.


From → British Culture

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