UK vs Germany: experiences of being “ginger” | World | Breaking news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 20.11.2014

Visit the new DW website

Take a look at the beta version of We're not done yet! Your opinion can help us make it better.

  1. Inhalt
  2. Navigation
  3. Weitere Inhalte
  4. Metanavigation
  5. Suche
  6. Choose from 30 Languages


UK vs Germany: experiences of being “ginger”

When the Life Links team sat down to discuss #dealwithme, onliners Gianna and Lou struck on the topic of ‘gingerism’. Both have gorgeous red hair - but had very different experiences of it when they were growing up.

Lou’s story: being a redhead in the UK

Growing up “ginger” in the UK is hard - kids are bullied and adults fear attack.

Long red hair, freckled cheeks and fair skin - as a young girl at school, I was a target for bullies. “Ginger”, “Ginger minger”, “Duracell” - think the battery with the orange top and black body - and “carrot top” were just some of the names I was called while I was growing up.

And away from the playground there were other comments. “Oi, are your pubes ginger, too?” someone once yelled at me, referring to parts of my body I wouldn’t even discuss with my closest friends, let alone a teenage boy surrounded by a group of his friends, who all sniggered as they crowded outside my local shop.

Feeling humiliated, I blushed bright red - another trait that comes with being a red head - and walked away, praying they wouldn’t yell at me again.

As well as the names and comments, for me, there was also the more physical abuse. On the bus, I heard a couple of boys sniggering behind me before they pulled my hair and hit the back of my head. A shy, young teenager at the time, I quickly got up and jumped off the bus at the next stop, eager to get away.

Louise Osborne (Photo: Louise Osborne)

Louise Osborne

During my time at school, I begged my mum to let me dye my hair. “But it’s such a beautiful color,” she and my hairdresser would say together, “I’d love to have red hair.”

As I reached adulthood, the insults I received for my red hair largely stopped. I do still get the odd drunken remark, but now, years on, I have learned to appreciate my unique hair color - and even like it.

Abuse of redheads

I realise that, compared to others, I was pretty lucky to only receive the comments I did when I was younger.

In the UK, the word “ginger” has taken on an almost accusatory tone, like you’ve committed an offence by being #link: of the estimated 10% of the nation’s population# daring to have ginger hair.

Many children or teenagers suffer to the point of #link: to change schools# due to bullying or even worse, #link: themselves# as a result of the harassment.

Even adults have been physically attacked for their hair color. In 2012, a man was #link: up# after two men took offence at his ginger hair and last year, a 23-year-old suffered a shattered jaw after #link: set upon# outside a pizza takeaway for the same reason.

“Gingerism”: a hate crime?

The bullying of redheads has led to some calling for “gingerism” to be made a hate crime. The UK government #link: the term# as a criminal offence “motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic” including disability, gender identity, race, religion or sexual orientation

#link: argue# that “prejudice is prejudice” regardless of the characteristic that leads to such reaction, #link: others say# that being a redhead cannot be seen in the same way as the oppression and prejudice levelled at other groups.

I’m torn. While I would struggle to put the prejudice of redheads at the same level as that of race or disability, where discrimination can extend to not being able to get a job, or being racially profiled because of your skin color, it is clear that the name calling and abuse often goes too far to be written off as simple child’s play.

#link: Page#: read about Gianna’s experience of being a redhead in Germany...

Pages 1 | 2 | Full article

WWW links