Friday, September 22, 2006

Being Ginger

NB: Since writing this, I have blogged about being Ginger a few more times:

I stumbled across a VERY interesting post on blogger, from a lady called Forever Amber. It's about the terrible disfigurement she suffers. Being ginger.

Okay, Amber. You might be ginger, but in case you haven't looked in a mirror lately, you're also disgustingly attractive.

Anyway. Her post got me thinking about something I think about a lot.

Being Ginger in Britain is a miserable thing. I spent my childhood getting picked on and being called names merely because I had ginger hair - quite commonly by teachers as much as fellow pupils. At University I had a girlfriend who told her parents that her new boyfriend had 'light auburn brown' hair because she was ashamed of going out with a ginger (you know who you are!!) In pubs and clubs, I got cat calls for being ginger or looking like Chris Evans (one of the reasons I got contact lenses.)

It's not as bad these days, since I lost the glasses and put on a bit of weight. But I'll still slyly turn around when I hear people laughing in the street in case - just in case - they're laughing at me. Since I moved back to England, they never have. But the doubt's still there in the back of my mind. Things like this don't help. Ginger Kids.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but it's the way it is. It was one of the major reasons I left England in the first place. In France or America, I never ONCE got picked on for the colour of my hair. In fact, the French found it unique. In America, the most offensive nickname I picked up was "Red."

I loved living abroad. It was like, after being so self concious for such a long time, I'd suddenly become invisible. Even now, I'll feel more tranquil and alone sitting at a busy cafe in Paris than I ever could in the UK.

I just don't understand what the British mentality is about ginger hair. It's the only minority you're still legitimately allowed to pick on. The ginger characters are always portrayed as gormless, social pariahs on television. No newspaper can print an article about Chris Evans, Robin Cook or Mick Hucknall without using the term "ginger" in a derogatory way.

In Amber's article, she takes a verbatim chunk of dialogue from an online forum and changes to the word "ginger" to the word "black."

It's quite shocking.

In this day and age, if you got into a fight with somebody from a different enthnic background to you and you yelled out some reference to it, you'd be banged up with a 'hate crime.'

Why aren't attacks on people with ginger hair treated the same way?

People from an African background have black skin and curly black hair because of their genetic ancestry. I have red hair, pale skin and freckles because I have Scottish roots. It's all genetics. I am a product of my racial heritage as much as any black or asian person. So how come people like myself aren't protected from hate crimes in the same way?

It all stems down to the same reasons. Ginger haired people are the only minority you can still legitimately harass. No civilised person would hassle a black guy just because of the colour of his skin. But those same people, so desperate not to be accused of being 'racist,' would spill my pint in a pub and call me "copper knob."

I hate it. It's permanantly put my back up living in England. And while I've had very little trouble since moving to Winchester (which is, after all, a highly civilised place to live) I will still always feel slightly uneasy living here.

I think that's one of the reasons I made Adventure Eddy ginger.

It wasn't so he could duff up the people who picked on him, or come up with witty retorts when he was insulted in a pub. I didn't want to make him a 'Mary Sue' character who managed to accomplish all the things that I'd failed to when I was put in situations like that.

I just wanted to write about it so people knew it happened.

The irony is, of course, that the section of Adventure Eddy in which he gets picked on for being ginger was one of the first sections I deleted when I started trimming the story down to a managable size.


Amber said...

Hi Roland, excellent post, and thanks for the compliment!

It's interesting how Britain really is the only country that appears to tolerate this kind of prejudice (or the only one I know, anyway). I know a few red-headed Americans, and they're always totally bemused when I tell them about the kind of comments that are "the norm" here. It really is the "acceptable" prejudice. A very sad state of affairs..

Archduchess Maria Carollton said...

Roland, would you believe I absolutely adore ginger haired folks! I know you'll say its only because I am american, but I truly do! Love your blog! I'm very attracted to your editor. Is that bear single?

Roland Hulme said...

Indeed he is! And he's bugging me for your email address now!