My next door neighbour when I was a kid was the ongoing object of my envy. For one, she was a star ballerina. And then she had loads of siblings, including adorable baby twins. But most of all she had long, wavy, dark red hair. “Auburn,” my mother called it in a tone of respect. LUCKY.
All the heroines in the books I read had the same thing – Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking... two long fiery plaits that the author would stress denoted a feisty, independent, special spirit. I studied my boring brown hair in the sunlight – at the right angle it was actually a little bit red, wasn’t it?
Needless to say I was slow to pick up on the supposed stigma of being ginger. One night I was at a teenage party with a friend who often got into arguments with strangers. That night was no exception. I came in on the end of a heated exchange, as a guy walked away yelling insults. “I called him a ginge,” she explained. “A what?” A ginge, you know, ginger...” “And he didn’t like that?” My eyes were opened. People were mean to redheads! But why? It’s the coolest colour. And how, in this century, can we corner one group based on their pigmentation and make them the repeated target of dumb breakfast radio humour?
We can’t. Redheads are fighting back. See page 10.