"Overcoming Gingerism"

January 9, 2010
By , riverside, IL
“Gingerism” is defined as the prejudice against redheads. Ginger phobia is a fear of
redheads. This is a setback that I have had to deal with for 17 years. This affliction is exacerbated by
the fact that I live in a family with 5 other red-haired people.

“Hey carrot top!” “Ha, ha you’re a ginger. How does it feel not having a soul?” “Do you know your hair is on fire?” These are taunts I hear on a regular basis. Sometimes I actually feel like an alien. “Why do I have red hair,” I ask myself, “it’s so weird.” Only four percent of the whole world has red hair. What’s worse? Only two percent of people in the United States are natural redheads. One of the challenges of being part of that 2% is during Halloween. While my friends had a plethora of characters to choose from, I had to recycle the costumes of Annie, Pippi Longstocking, and the Little Mermaid. And then there is the stereotyping, like redheads have a quick temper. As Russian tradition declares, red hair is both a sign that a person holds a fiery temper and craziness. A Russian Proverb adds “There was never a saint with red hair.”
Not only do I have to deal with the alienation, stereotyping and teasing, but it’s actually proven that redheads feel pain more easily than other people. Tara Parker from the New York Times reports, “A 2004 study showed that redheads require, on average, about 20 percent more general anesthesia than people with dark hair or blond coloring. And in 2005, researchers found that redheads are more resistant to the effects of local anesthesia, such as the numbing drugs used by dentists.” This I can confirm because my dentist will only schedule my appointment when no one else is in the office – for fear that my screaming might impact his practice. Another study done by the University of Louisville anesthesiologist Edwin Liem shows that redheads bruise more easily, and get cold quicker. Redheads may have yet a further challenge, as urban legend tells that bees prefer redheads.
Although there are many hardships of being a redhead, the truth of the matter is that I thoroughly enjoy the color of my hair. The teasing that I receive is countered with compliments. “Do you know how many people would kill to have your hair color?” “Your hair is beautiful.” “You stick out in a crowd.” In terms of the pain, I do my best to brush my teeth and avoid the dentist. And regarding the quick temper, at my job at Starbucks I have had customers change their orders 4 or 5 times and not once have I turned into the Tasmanian Devil.
In the future if I am ever feeling particularly alienated I know a place I can always go to fit in. It is in the historic city of Breda in the Netherlands, where on a September weekend every year they celebrate Red Head Day or Roodharigendag. I can also look to history to see the impact that red-haired citizens have made in the world; discovering America (Columbus), painting beautiful landscapes (Van Gogh) and making Macbeth a household name (Shakespeare) to name a few. This makes me proud to share a physical trait with such a prominent group. There are some struggles to being a redhead, but by embracing my innate uniqueness the teasing, alienation, stereotyping and pain become endurable. I now celebrate National Ginger Awareness Day on February 22nd. Go Red!

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dkrug said...
Jan. 15, 2010 at 11:32 am
I inadvertently pressed 1 star and meant 5 stars. I loved this fun article.
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