Being a ginge myself, I was bound to write about this and post it somewhere at some point.
Just a few bits and pieces that have been hanging around in my brain recently…
If you have red hair, don’t lay into other redheads. I read some comments on YouTube (yes, I know, never read the comments) and one thread that stuck in my mind started with a young boy ranting about how ginger discrimination is mean and the jokes are mean etc. One reply told him that bullying happens and “to man the f*ck up” and another reply was from another redhead telling him to get over it, “I’m ginger and I find ginger jokes hilarious.”
Firstly, ginger jokes are not funny. They don’t make any sense. I hate being pressured to laugh at them because if I don’t then it means that I’m the idiot who can’t take a joke. Which, to anyone who knows me, is ridiculous because I laugh all the time.
(Alright, maybe the short tempered jokes catch me out sometimes because I certainly have the stereotypical temper!)
Secondly, laughing along with everyone else is a very good way of protecting yourself. I did that for a bit, too. But that doesn’t make other bullied gingers’ feelings invalid. The jokes suck and there is nothing worse than being singled out and laughed at.
Everyone knows how that feels, of course. We all experience it at some point.
Which is why this incredible poem exists.
These lines from the poem are what this blog is thinking around:
are they just the background noise
of a soundtrack stuck on repeat
when people say things like
kids can be cruel?
They can. And it can really mess up people’s lives. So how do we make bullying stop?
It’s probably all to do with retraining our brains. We shouldn’t be thinking of ways to cope with bullying but rather ways to stop bullying from happening in the first place. Actually, that’s the same pattern as the rape awareness campaigns that are going on at the moment.
Don’t get raped.
Avoid being bullied.
Close to every day that I was at secondary school, someone called me, “Ginger pubes”. Of course, it was just a joke. Like how people call each other “Dick” or “Bitch” or the c word, you know, funny, light-hearted, just joking around.
Sorry, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but how would you feel if you heard a 14 year old girl being called, “Ginger pubes”? Isn’t it crude and isn’t it sexualising? Even if the insult came from another 14 year old, does that mean it should be seen as just “kids can be cruel”? Kids grow up. Some of them carry on with bullying because why would they stop? Society has learnt to accept it as something that happens which ensures that it will always continue to happen.
There are people who actually appear to really dislike “gingers” and feel like it’s OK to think and speak about it like that’s acceptable. This documentary comes across a particularly great example of an actual person who actually thinks that if someone has ginger hair, they are disgusting.
When people have tried to comfort me in the face of being bullied for having ginger hair some say, “Well, you’re hair isn’t really ginger anyway, it’s more of a strawberry blonde”.
It’s ginger. The fact that I have ginger hair isn’t the issue. The issue is that is that people think that ginger hair is like a disease or weakness, anything that means that somehow makes the redheaded person inferior.
Other people have said, “Just dye it.”
The easy option is to cave in to this silly prejudice and do what you can to match what society perceives as normal.
The hard option is standing your ground.
You don’t have to argue or fight but it is OK if bullying upsets you. It’s not a sign of weakness, especially when you’re a child. It’s OK to get fed up with the same old jokes when you’re an adult, too. There’s only so much “you have no soul” you can pretend to laugh at.
Oh yeah, so South Park. When all the Kick a Ginger day and gingers are soulless stuff started up, all I could think was how everyone had missed the point. A lot of people miss the point with South Park.
For example, they discover in South Park that the cure for AIDS is to inject people with money. Has there been a rise in money injecting? Noooo, because it’s obviously not going to cure AIDS, it’s meant to be a hilarious joke.
Now apply the same reasoning to the ginger episode and we’re done.
But I don’t have the answers for what we should do to combat discrimination.
When I was bullied at school I got angry which ended up helping bullies isolate me. I called another kid ginger. I pretended like the jokes were funny and I made them, too. It made me strong in a lot of ways; I have never dyed my hair and the jokes don’t get in my way. But it has also left me insecure, anxious, paranoid and with very low self esteem. And that was just a bit of name calling and alienation. Imagine how physically abused as well as mentally abused children turn out. If they seem to have grown up into well-rounded individuals, think of what they had to go through to get there. When we’re children, we have no experience around what is happening to us that we then spend the rest of our lives reflecting on. Some of us couldn’t just man up because what the hell does that even mean to a child who is constantly bullied and hated and never given a chance to prove themselves? It wouldn’t have mattered whether I manned up or not, I would have still been the verbal punch bag and kids would have still pressed my eyes closed just to laugh at my ginger eyelashes. Isn’t that ridiculous? I can hardly believe that it happened myself!
Actually, the person who dealt with bullying the best was my best friend at secondary school. She defended me but in a way that was quick-witted without being aggressive.
Like, say we were fighting for animal rights, I’d be the one all red in the face and saying, “How do you guys sleep at night? You’re cruel and don’t deserve to live, rawr!”
Whereas she would say, “Well, we all know that animal abuse is bad so how do we stop it from happening?” She would say it better though, with a few jokes and no one would feel attacked but she would win them round to her way of thinking anyway.
Basically, don’t give up fighting against discrimination but remember that discrimination is all that it is. Not truth, not acceptable, not clever or amusing. Discriminating.