A Rare Breed - Gingerism

Red hair in close-upImage via Wikipedia
Rumoured to be heading for extinction, redheads make up only two percent of the world's population.  while the pre-Raphaelites marvelled at their beauty, the ancient Egyptians persecuted those with ruby locks.  Gingerism remains the last acceptable prejudice. 

Isn't it just hair colour?

I was nicknamed many things at school - Duracell, Rooikoppie, Copper Top, Ginger, Carrots and adolescent boys always wanted to know if the curtains matched the carpet.

I got teased all the time and I hated it.  I guess it makes us redheads tougher.  I detested my ginger eye brows and eye lashes.  I did everything in my power to cover up my freckles too.  Kids can be cruel and they tried to terrorize and bully me just because of the colour of my hair?  I didn't understand it but I kicked against it.

In 15th century Germany redheads were seen as witches and 45 000 were tortured and murdered.  The Greeks reckoned we turned into vampires when we died.  

At least in art redheads have often been given their due:  for the 19th century pre-Raphaelites, the only true beauty was a ginger beauty.  Redheads were transcendent, evoking lust, wealth and godliness.

But back to my school days, and it so wasn't cool at all to have titian locks.  I used to wish I could just "blend in" like everyone else and not stand out like a fucking beacon.  

After school, I was finally allowed to tint my eyelashes and eyebrows which made me look less pasty and ghost-like.  I also dyed my hair dark brown. 

Oh bliss!  How lovely it was to finally blend in and be "normal".  My silky, shiny auburn hair was now dull and falling out in clumps because of all the chemicals.  I eventually gave up when my hair started to resemble horse fodder and I had a few bald patches.

My red hair slowly returned and since then I have given birth to two redhead girls. 

I remember when I was pregnant with my first and praying that I wouldn't pass on my ginger genes to the little life growing inside me.  I hoped it would skip a generation and that she would have dark brown hair just like My Boerewors.  I didn't want my little girl to go through what I went through and constantly teased for being different. 

So during labour, my midwife peered deep into my private passage and announced happily "I see a bush of dark hair!" I sighed with relief.  Och, it wasn't 10 minutes later and she said "Oh wait, no, its definitely a red head like her mum".  My heart sank.  I thought to myself "Are you fucking colour blind woman?" or was it just really dark down there in the depths of my Vaginator?

My second daughter came along and she was also a ginger but by the time she was 2 years old she was blonde and has been getting blonder and blonder  since then...lucky her.

I have now learned to celebrate my gingerness.  I'm part of that 1 to 2% of the population that are unique.  I now like being different and standing out.  I like to have the shine back in my hair and have strangers point and compliment me wherever I go.    

Every time I go to the hairdresser the stylists gather around ooohing and aaahing over my hair colour and make me promise never to colour my hair.  They always mention that dozens of people come into the salon and PAY big dosh to get my colour hair.  So, I'm a cheap date when it comes to hairdressing bills.  Its a cut and blow job and thats it.  No sign of grey hair yet either and it generally known that redheads go grey quicker than others.  I guess I'm just lucky...nearly 40 and no sign of grey hair yet.

I've taught my redheaded daughter to celebrate her red hair - to not listen to those bullies and stand up for herself to taunting and teasing.  I hope I've at least given her the tools to send those bullies to the next girl who wears glasses or walks with a limp.  We all have something we wish we could change.

I don't anymore.

Red-haired New York photographer Julian Baum has a blog dedicated solely for portrait series on redheads.  I can relate to her story growing up as a redhead and getting lots of attention because of her hair colour.  People used to stop my mum when we were out and about and comment on my red hair, when I had my little copper tops, they did the same to to me.  Its like living in the spotlight

I still find it facinating how people either admire or abhor redheads.  We even have a phobia dedicated to us - Gingerphobia (a fear of redheads) or Gingerism (a prejudice against redheads).  I shit you not!

The stigmas and negative spins attached to our personas - the fact that we're all fiery tempered and have sharp tongues.  The general consensus is that we're all highly sexed, mischievous and have a higher pain threshold than most.

Well, I detest all forms of generalisation but I guess is only natural for society to want to put us in a box and label it.

Screw of you that don't like redheads.  I'm a redhead and proud of it.


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