Do redheads need to be a protected minority?

I was born with light red hair. Back in the day it was called strawberry blonde which I never really understood, because strawberries are actually really red!  Sometimes and more ostentatiously I was a Titian blonde. Apart from the odd building site worker yelling “Hey ginge”  from time to time, I was never subjected to any sort of name calling, teasing or harassment that many redheads are now subjected to. In fact it was generally a source of affectionate banter.

Old wives tales

Like all the old wives tales associated with this colouring, I am inclined to be a little hot-headed. I bleed profusely when cut and I am easily anesthetized. I break away from the curve as I have fewer freckles (angel’s kisses) than most redheads. Should I decide to grill myself like a vegetable on the beach, I could sport a sun tan –  if I wanted one. I know I am a higher risk for skin cancer, so always wear a hat and factor 50 sunscreen. Over the years like most with my colouring, I haven’t gone grey, merely faded to a sort of sandy blonde. I counteract this with some assistance from my dear friend L’Oreal. To the best of my knowledge I have never turned into a vampire.

So I was surprised to learn that there is a growing move for redheads to become a  “protected minority” as a result of the increased incidence of bullying and discrimination. This is not only in schools where only the quickest search will reveal horrendous incidents reported. It is also been part of a comparable growth in workplace bullying, ranging from corporate settings to the NYPD.  I found a plethora of web sites set up exclusively to report  such incidents and to offer support to this minority.

The ginger gene

In 1995, Professor Jonathan Reese discovered that mutations of the gene MC1R on chromosome 16 were responsible for red hair (known as the “ginger gene”). The gene mutation responsible for red hair in humans probably arose 20,000-40,000 years ago. It occurs naturally on approximately 1–2% of the human population more frequently (2–6%) in people of northern or western European ancestry, and less frequently in other populations.

As with any minority, throughout history reactions have varied from admiration, suspicion to ridicule. Redheads were burnt at the stake in medieval England as witches. Aristotle was said to have called them “emotionally un-house broken” although that has never been substantiated. Across the globe, proverbs and warnings are centred around the negative aspects of unfortunate encounters with persons of red hair colouring.

Unprotected minority

But why in this day and age this sort of prejudice exists is a mystery. One explanation offered by a social historian contact, is that with all other sorts of blatant discrimination now outlawed  or considered politically incorrect, (colour, gender, physiology, sexual, nationality) the bullies amongst us have been left with few targets for their vicious invective. Are redheads therefore becoming one of the last unprotected minorities?

Let’s find out!

Joel, 29, works in Sales Accounts for a U.K. based insurance company. He has very short hair which he keeps in a number 5 buzz cut. To  you and me this is street speak for extremely short hair, but I suppose on trend with today’s fashion. It doesn’t seem out-of-place in the centre of  business London. Joel’s hair colour is naturally what you and I would call chestnut, a rich brown. But when the sun shines on it some copper tints and glints are visible. Don’t people pay fortunes to have such highlights put into their hair I mused?  Not Joel. He cuts his hair every two weeks. Why? “To avoid teasing and bullying. I got sick of the comments and I also worried that my hair colour would be an issue for promotion

I should add that Joel is over six-foot and a rugby player, built like a tank, so unlikely to be physically abused, but clearly took to heart the verbal jibes.This is in stark contrast to Alex Kosuth-Phillips who was attacked and his jaw broken in Birmingham, U.K. simply because of the colour of his hair

International scope

However  this is not a British phenomenon, although with the nature of the gene it is more likely to be found in certain ethnic groups and therefore geographies. Incidents are widely reported in Canada, Ireland, Australia and anywhere Northern Europeans are based or have migrated to. It is almost impossible to believe that the U.S. has a “Kick a Ginger Day” a follow-up from the T.V. show South Park.

Marilyn, a Washington based lawyer with Irish heritage, spends over $100 every month colouring her naturally red locks, brunette. “This is not because of  anything that has happened in the workplace, but because of the trauma of growing up with red hair and the scars it has left from bullying in school.” 

On a more positive note according to a Clairol Color Attitude survey, with 71 percent of redheads saying they feel the word “bold” describes them — 24 points ahead of blondes; 80 percent say they are self-confident — 25 points ahead of blondes. We also have a head start in the health stakes survival game surviving many debilitating illnesses it would seem at a better rate! Gentlemen may prefer blondes, but redheads have more sex, or at least they do in Germany. Some of the most prominent  literary figures and leaders in history from Mark Twain,  Cleopatra, Cromwell, Vivaldi, Van Gogh  and George Washington were all redheads.

So should redheads be placed in a protected category or should they dare to be different? What do you think?

26 thoughts on “Do redheads need to be a protected minority?

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    1. Eddy

      Me as a red head or a ginger boy if you will, have been “Made fun of.”, in a sense but I do believe we may need protection. I mean after all we are a smaller minority then the ones in public outcry like black people, or “People of color.”, I’m the one being called “White boy.” In a derogatory sense. So for all that yes I do feel we need to be protected just like people of color we are preety much the smallest minority in the world after all!

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  6. Veeger

    I don’t believe that redheads are any more of a minority than NATURAL blondes are. Speaking of which, aren’t BLONDES the ones who get stereotyped as “dumb airheads” and “bimbos” all the time? . .. they were last time I was aware.

    1. DorothyDalton Post author

      Good point about natural blondes! I’m not sure if they are physically bullied simply because of their hair colour. Take the poll!

      1. Terry Gilbertson

        I always believed that because I had red hair, I was singled out. Although, the redheaded boys got bullied worse than I did, my brother especially. I felt so different that I sought out the only black girl in my class because she understood what I was going through. I was teased for having skin one could see through. I was chastised by the girls for not being able to tan. I was picked on for fights because who would defend me? I was beaten senseless many times for my appearance. I was told by two different blind dates that they really didn’t like redheads because of our temperament, so sorry I can’t date you. When it came down to not being placed in the groups of minorities for college scholarships I was rather offended. I was poor and could have used the money. Was I not the most rare and picked on of the people in my school? We are ostracized and bullied for our lack of color and stereotyped. It is sad because I love all people regardless of appearance,culture, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, etc. I wish people would feel the same way about us.
        I was thankful my son was not born a redhead because he is not going through the same torture I did when I was younger. Now that I am older, I have accepted the fact that I am different and embrace it. I did not feel the same way when I was a child, battered and laying on the sidewalk wishing someone, anyone would understand me. How can you explain it to a child?

        1. DorothyDalton Post author

          Terry – I’m really sorry to hear that. I have heard from many sources that yours is not an uncommon experience.

          1. vfp

            At nearly 60 yrs now, my hair now white, thank heaven, I experienced all the atrocities described here. I often wondered why I was so different than others from an early age. While so many classes have become protected, including baseball team names, I witnessed Black people finally gaining their rights, women recognized for their ability, gay and lesbians get their rights, native Americans, too. We however have suffered the slings and arrows of society without even a bit of sympathy. We did not ask to be born this way but often are left out of promotions or other societal perks, or at best offered a tag along option. Even here one commentto says we should man up and take the abuse. Brother let me tell you that maybe you need to have your tail kicked on a regular basis just to toughen you up the way we had to do. That alone is evidence of the discriminatory attitude and behavior we had tolerated.

    2. RedHeadedRat

      The fact that this person went to multiple “red head minority” blogs and posted his exact same comment, just goes to prove that people go out of there way to antagonize and belittle the Red Head. And yes, the name that I have used here is the name that I was called all throughout my childhood. I would be picked out of class full of kids as by the teachers saying I was the one acting out, or being loud, or misbehaving of any sort, and typically it had nothing to do with me. Constantly bullied and called derogatory names. Even now, at my job in a local municipality, I’m called derogatory names that I can’t even type here. Hispanics make us 17.7% of the U.S. population, African Americans make up 13.2%, Asaisn make up 5.6 percent, meanwhile, Red heads may up less than 2% of the entire US population! TWO PERCENT!!!! We are the largest unrecognized minority in the world!

      1. Dorothy Dalton Post author

        I’m sorry to hear your problems – it has become more common than certainly I personally ever experienced.

      2. Zara

        Great article and Same, i was viciously bullied by a teacher and singled out all the time by kids/adults, used to be blond but now i embrace my colour and while everyone my own age is going grey, im not! thats my little bit of revenge! my hair colour is actually quite gorgeous, deep dark red and wavy, get stopped by kind strangers sometimes just to compliment me, have a chat about my hair, really are some red head lovers out there!

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  8. They call me Big ? racist F@€Ker's

    I was the only redhead in my school and was jumped on, verbally lashed, picked @, ect…
    Even by family

    Had zero help from ANY adult or anything that resembled a human.
    Although it is not as bad as when I was a child I am 44 years old and it still continues. I was a very quiet gentle person and it effected me greatly. Redheads fly solo there entire life typically and are not connected directly to their like individuals via a community. They are a huge minority and are in my case treated quite poorly, which makes me quite sad as I have a beautiful toddler young boy.

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  10. Krill

    Hm… I’m kind of in the middle? I was bullied in school and some of this was directed at my hair colour, and I believe that bullying for any reason is awful and should be dealt with…

    But at the same time, I’m also a gay woman. And I certainly feel more singled out for that than I have for my hair. I think what red-headed people face isn’t as major as other minorities? In the west, I doubt people are now killed solely for their hair colour, but people can certainly be killed for being a certain race, gender, or sexuality.

    So in my opinion, we should have a bit more awareness, and always discourage bullying. But I think making redheads a protected minority is kind of unnecessary.

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  12. Nic

    It’s actually the other way round. Us redheads need much more anaesthetic than anyone else and we have a much lower pain threshold. Also, I grew up in the 80s and was bullied mercilessly at school over my hair! Had a horrendous time, so I don’t think it’s to do with what decade it is. I would say yes we should be seen as the persecuted minority that we are!!

  13. Paul

    I can’t say I’ve experienced what everyone else has here but I will say that I use it as a badge of honor. I’m proud to be a redhead. They may say i’m soulless. I use it. Watch out ya know. I might take your soul. (I’m not religious) But I grew up on a reservation and our plight is not like an American Indian. Not like Hispanic, or African. I do find it odd but I like to jokingly point out that we are one of the smallest minorities on this planet. And kick a redhead? Well you won’t want to do that to me as a product of Norwegian heritage. (American) Idk, but I find it pretty easy to hit criticism and bullying head on. A fiery brand. It’s all about character. Don’t give an inch and by that red head badge of honor I’m not challenged. And if I am, it’s the last time. But we are a minority. I like to point that out. Stay strong my fellow “gingers”. We’re a force.

  14. DB Cooper

    Where are you getting your genetic/bio data. Redheads (of which I am one, with white eyebrows and silver graying hair now at 40+ YO) are more sensitive to pain (greater number of nerve endings per sq/in) but much HARDER to anesthetize and we dont “bleed more when cut”. 20 year Paramedic/Firefighter/ER RN. Lotta bad info on what Redheads “are”.

    1. Dorothy Dalton Post author

      Hi it does say “old wives tale” I can only recount my personal experience where I lost more blood than usual in child birth and other surgeries!


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