Thursday, August 16, 2007

Gingerphobia: An Update

Over the past week one of the most popular posts on here has been one I ran on July 29th, about an increase in bigotry directed at redheads in the UK.

Well, I am nothing if not a whore where this blog is concerned, and so I am once more into the fray. Anything for a hit, a page view, or a comment...

Clearly this is a divisive issue. Like many divisive issues, it's one which was never known to me (since I am not red-headed), and might have remained unknown, had I not stumbled across the original article by accident.

It doesn't surprise me that humans have an almost limitless capacity for hatred, at least not anymore. What does surprise me is the seemingly modern phenomena for how small and narrow these prejudices are getting. Some day I fully expect to read about how the coppers are discriminating against the auburns, and/or vice versa.

In the old days a Catholic would hate a Protestant, and that I could almost see because that's a big deal. I don't agree with it, but I understand it. Our forefathers were ignorant and superstitious, and so their religion meant everything to them. Less obvious was how one Protestant could hate another Protestant; I guess I just put it down to the nature of Christianity, which is a kind of bigotry in itself on my part.

Lately, though, identity politics has made everything a potential battleground. People with brown eyes often get coloured contact lenses because they feel discriminated against. So is theirs an actual discrimination or just a matter of perception, like a neurosis? And in the end, does it matter?

I was under the impression that this bias against redheads went out of style at about the same time people stopped fearing black cats and eclipses. It's a funny thing about bigotry, though: you can't kill it. As a minority (or even as a majority, in the case of brown-eyed people) you may think that the matter has been settled, when all of a sudden it's back, only this time it's got a website.

Yet despite reading all these articles I can't seem to find one concrete instance of gingerphobia, only people's impressions of having been discriminated against. Could it be that redheads are simply using their genetic gift as an excuse? Or is that - horror of horrors - merely blaming the victim?

Maybe because one of Canada's pop cultural heroines - Anne of Green Gables - is red-haired, the situation isn't as bad here as it is there. It could also be the vast numbers of Irish-Canadians and Scots-Canadians in Canada, whose mark can often be witnessed still, and vividly at that.

Clearly, if this issue is going to linger in the public debate, I'm going to have to do more research. More reading, more enquiries. Maybe I'll even have to find some redheads and conduct some interviews. In-depth interviews, lasting until the wee hours, involving candlelight and soft music...

Anything for my readers.
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Daniel said...

As an Englishmen (of Welsh/Irish descent, but we care far less about such matters) I feel i should pipe up to say that gingerphobia is taking it a little far. Granted, redheads get grief at school. Primarily because they're easy to spot from a distance. Bullies and other morons had to get a little closer to me to realise I have ears similar to the BFG (or Prince Charles, as I used to get occasionally). And yes, 'gingers' may receive some light fun-poking amongst friends in the pub. But discrimination? I find that a little hard to swallow. That said, i discovered that if I grew my hair a bit, not only did I look like any number of indie-rock stars, but it also covered my elephantine ears. They're not such a problem anymore but I'd still rather not take the chance, as it seems the taunts from childhood echo on for a considerable time. I imagine it's much the same for carrot-tops.

For the record, I'm guessing I'm one of your daily readers whom you don't know (curse this bloody spyware) and I can safely say that your blog is consistently the best I´ve read. Funny, informative and not overly self-indulgent. Plus I´m a sucker for On The Buses... I´ll getchoo, Butlah! and so forth. I shudder to think you´ve read my myopic attempt.

Keep up the good work, I say!

michael sean morris said...

Now that's what I call feedback!

Like I said, none of the articles I've read (about ten) said anything terribly concrete. So I've had my doubts. Yet, as a concerned Gingerphile, I felt it my responsibility to investigate the matter.

(Yes, around here, this is investigative journalism.)

And at least now I know whose email is coming from Groningen. You watch, there'll be a post about the place soon! I'm a such a hoor.

Glad you enjoy it, Daniel.