A Personal Essay On ‘Being Ginger’

Words: Alex Grindle
Feature Image: Gabriel Silverio

The Redhead Revolution

Two things can’t be missed when processing my exterior for the first time; I’m 5”11.5 and a redhead. The former is one I still have yet to find self-confidence with (nothing ever fits!), however being ginger has slowly become my superpower.

I never used to admit it. In fact, in comparison with other flame-haired friends of mine, I still don’t consider myself a true ginger. However, if there are no other redheads in sight and with no auburn tones to compare, my friends will tell you I am a ginger. My carroty-toned locks received a lot of attention at school and I never understood why. Yes, we’re outnumbered but we are by no means a minority. I felt quite discriminated against. Friends of mine at the time would often say “Why don’t you just dye it?” and I never really had an answer for them, I just knew I wouldn’t. Not because I was happy with my hair, for certain when I was fourteen I was not, but because I was too young to know or care what I was doing with my appearance. Instead, I embraced life as the ginger giant I was and my hair looked (and still does) look a different shade of red every day… and I love it.

What I never understood is that red seemed to be everyone’s favourite colour. Red for passion and for blood, for love and for danger; red expresses almost everything. So, what’s the beef?

On the 12th January, I received a private Instagram message from my now boyfriend with a ‘National Kiss A Ginger Day’ post from the reputable banter source LADbible (lol). While this was his first and, I’ll be honest, pretty successful attempt at chatting me up, I looked into the origins and reasoning behind such an innovative post. I discovered it was established by fellow redhead Derek Forgie to countervail ‘Kick A Ginger Day’, the day in November set aside to discriminate against and, I guess, physically harm such genetic rarities.

It was set up as a joke as a result of the backlash from South Park’s controversial episode “Ginger Kids” in which the derogatory character Eric Cartmen targets those with red hair, pale skin and freckles, saying, “they creep us out and make us feel sick to our stomachs […] I’m talking of course about ginger kids.” While it definitely sent lots of gingers literally burning red, one cannot be oblivious to the trivial nature of the episode and it certainly succeeded in bringing the whole ginger thing into popular culture, as programmes like the Simpsons also thrive in doing.  Ginger’s began speaking up and making their presence known on social media individually for the first time, for example CopperCab has received 46 million views on the infamous ‘Gingers have Souls’ tape he uploaded to YouTube.

I do love how things have been changing in the media and popular culture has completely altered its perception of redheads. There are growing numbers of gingers in Hollywood lead roles and, more recently, copper-maned cartoon characters like Anna in Disney’s ‘Frozen’. Photographer Thomas Knights undertook a mission to empower men inhibited by their ginger gene and created his Red Hot series, displaying to the world the strength and sex appeal of the copper-toned community and confessing most of the models “struggled with their identity, and have struggled with their self-image and learned to love being a redhead.”

It’s the more ignorant and unprovoked comments that seem to make more of an impact on me.

Liam Gallagher shot into music magazines in 2010 when he was recorded saying “I’m not having someone with ginger hair making music”. He was referring to working with Florence Welch, the titan-haired goddess and vocalist for the multi-award-winning English band ‘Florence and the Machine’. The former Oasis singer supplemented this comment saying, “I’m sure she’s a nice girl, but it sounds like someone has stood on her f**king foot.” (The Sun). For the record, redheads are up there as some of the most accomplished and popular musicians in the industry… Ed Sheeran and Paloma Faith to name but a few. And secondly, I would choose her empowering music over his any day. What a lesson to teach people, that because of your DNA, you’re not fit to be making music?! Since when did appearance decipher what you’ll be good/terrible at? I love how she finds her own emotional power in her voice and I stand with her as she says, “My red hair is for life.”

Gingers generally have a paler, frecklier complexion. Lots of gingers have curly hair. In the sun, they will most probably be carrying a tube of factor fifty sun cream, and, they have probably experienced minor bullying at school. Sure, you can dye your hair and cover it all up but as the old saying goes, why would you fix something that isn’t broken?

I will never dye my hair, because I understand now what it means to be ginger. Less than 2% of the world’s population is a redhead and it truly is something to be cherished. In some countries, you will find yourself swarmed in crowds of people dying to get a snap of you for your rare sandy mane, something they won’t have ever seen before. I’m not trying to say gingers rule, even though I’ll admit Prince Harry waves our flag very well. I’m trying to say that we have been teased for too long and our #gingerproblems are blessings to be embraced.

Apple needs to hurry up now and make us a ginger emoji, our time has come.

Keep pale and freckle on.