This may seem like a silly post to some, but bare with me. With the match.com controversy going on in the UK, I thought it would be a good time to address something. (Despite what it sounds like, this is not just a post for redheads). This is what it is like being ginger, and what we can do to recognize and appreciate differences in others rather than tearing them down.
A few months ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix called Being Ginger. In the film, Scott P. Harris is an american red head living in Scotland searching for love. What becomes apparent over the course of the film is that the bulling he received from an early age affects him now as an adult. The reason for bullying: he has red hair.During the film, he encounters a ton of people who either like redheads or don’t. One of the interviews that stuck with me most was a woman he speaks with who tells him he would have no chance of dating her because she would never be with a ginger. She said
I don’t like freckles, they are associated with being unattractive… there are no hot people with freckles. It’s like the gingerness is all speckled across your face… Everyone finds the ginger thing a bit funny…they [gingers] just get used to it because they accept that they are ginger.
It is crazy to me that a grown woman would have such strong opinions about the color of someone’s hair or their skin pigmentation. While I appreciate her honesty, it was disappointing to me that this is not something someone grows out of. I understand that people have features they find attractive, but it is
when we start classifying certain features as “unattractive” we set up an impossible standard of beauty.
We disregard groups of people just because they have a physical quality we are not a fan of.
Growing up a red head
Did you know that less than 2% of the world’s population has red hair? Even more rare…red hair and blue eyes. Like, Scott, I was teased growing up for having red hair (or being ginger). There were only a couple of redheads in my entire elementary school, and I was one of them. I stuck out like a sore thumb. Unlike Scott, I can’t recall a time I was made fun of and bullied to the point of not wanting to go to school (I do remember asking my mom to dye my hair blonde so I could be pretty). Scott’s stories made me cry because the kids were so mean to him. I was called names like “strawberry”, “cherry”, “tomato” (insert any red food here) and”french fry” (because I was white with red on top like a french fry with ketchup) more times than I can count. These may seem like petty names, but the can really hurt the self-esteem of a little girl when heard over and over. Like Anne of Green Gables, I believed my red hair would be my “lifelong sorrow.”
Not to mention, no one in my family has red hair so I was always questioned by strangers if I was a “milk man” baby. I probably demanded to see my birth certificate 50 times growing up because I was convinced I was adopted.
The media also did a terrible job of making redheads pretty. My red head role models as a kid were an orphan (both Annie and Pippi Longstocking) and a mermaid (who was very pretty, by the way, but let’s face it… a fish).
I blocked out most of the teasing in junior high, and by high school, the redhead jokes were primarily about how pale I was. Rarely did I ever wear shorts or skirts in high school because I was so self-conscious about my pale skin and the names and jokes that would be made (“gah, Jessica! You’re legs are blinding me!”) Fortunately, I had great friends (a group of us that were redheads: 2 natural and 2 adopted) that helped me to feel more confident with who I was and made it cool to be a redhead.
What can we do about it?
As an adult, I rarely go anywhere with my hair down without receiving a compliment from a stranger about it. This, along with a summer full of America’s Next Top Model Reruns (Tyra always tells the girls that their differences are what stand out most and make them beautiful) has led to the realization that
Beauty is found in the unique differences in each of us.
I teach that to my kids at school every day. “Wouldn’t it be boring if we all looked the same?” We read books, watch videos, and play games together that encourage them to appreciate others’ differences. It’s funny that as adults we forget. Children have an excuse, they are afraid or don’t understand differences due to a lack of life experience. Adults do not. Adults should have the experiences and wisdom to know better.
As adults, we should:
- Encourage our children to not tease others because of a difference (hair color, birth defect, language, ethnicity, habit…the list goes on and on). This seems like a no brainer, but believe me, parents often forget how their children absorb the things they hear.
- Make it a point to acknowledge these beautiful differences in others. Tell someone they are beautiful or have a beautiful quality.
- Celebrate our differences! Acknowledge the beauty we see in others in ourselves.
- Catch ourselves before making fun/making a rude comment about others (in front of our children or even by ourselves)
- Stand up for others. This can be on a small scale (correcting someone else for making fun of someone…”I think that’s beautiful”) or by petitioning and standing up for them (like the people who were offended by Match.com’s ad did) on a larger scale.
This isn’t just about being ginger. This is about being ______ (insert your difference here). It is about embracing your own uniqueness and loving and appreciating others’. Unlike 8 year old me, I am no longer self conscious being the only redhead in a room full of people. Now, I accept my rarities like a unicorn. Tan is beautiful, but white as snow skin with freckles is beautiful too. My unique differences are part of what make me beautiful.
Embrace your own beauty. What makes you beautiful? Leave a comment with what your unique trait is.
Check out my experience with The Redhead Project too!
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