The fairy-model Lily Cole claimed redism -- or making fun of redheads -- is as bad as racism! I joke about that a lot on this blog, and I, like most redheads, was made fun of growing up for having red hair. The worst of it for me, was being called "Firecrotch" as early as 5th grade. I'm not sure, but I think that might constitute as sexual harassment.
This lowered my self-confidence quite a bit. I longed for blonde hair or even brunette so I wouldn't feel so "othered". It felt like no one would ever want me -- or even want to be friends with me -- because of my red hair. I was embarrassed by the changes my body was going through for an extra reason than most.
I wonder how much this experience, which is so unique to redheads, hurts us deeply and stays with us through the rest of our lives. I also wonder if the bullying that affects redheads is really that much more than others, as it seems most of us (red or nonred) have been made fun of in our pasts.
I read somewhere that bullying, words (and not just sticks and stones) in our youth don't actually make us tougher when we're older. Instead, they make us more insecure. I can't say I don't agree with that at least slightly.
It's the reason, according to the article, (and of course, not the only reason), kids who were bullied when they were 12 bring guns to school when they're 18. These things eat at us; we don't eat them as fuel to make us tougher like we're told we will.
However, it does get better. Red hair turns from an automatic name-calling target into an automatic head-turner. I still get called Firecrotch sometimes. (Ask my friends about the time I thought I was going to beat up 3 large black dudes by myself who clearly were not students at a university block party or the time I walked into a bar and nearly smacked some genius who got in my way while I was trying to get to the bar.) But, more often than being called names by people I don't give a damn about, I get head turns and stares and compliments. And I write this blog. That's gotta make my hair and all that bullying I withstood worth something.
Words hurt. If you're a redhead, it's 99 percent certain you will be bullied. For the young redheads, remember, it gets better. For the older redheads, ginger philes and apathetics alike, please note bullying against redheads is a real issue. We need to do what we can to instill confidence in children and take it seriously when redheads are bullied -- a teacher once laughed in my face when I told her the name I was called. I hope that teachers and others who spent a lot of time nurturing children are more sensitive and aware and have realized "kids just being kids" leads to kids with low self-confidence, depression, suicide attempts and sometimes, guns in schools.
I'm not sure if redism is as bad as racism, at least here in the US, but there is a problem when "Kick a Ginger Day" is more than just a funny joke on Facebook.