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Ginger people don't need your sympathy, we're doing just fine thanks

There’s a ginger convention on this weekend, and far from settling scores it’s going to be a giant party writes Paul Hosford.

Paul Hosford

A COUPLE OF days ago, after I pitched the idea of writing a column about having red hair, I saw a picture on Facebook.

It depicted a man on another man’s back, holding his head up as a trophy. The caption read something about “hunting gingers in there (sic) natural habitat”.

It wasn’t particularly funny or well written, but it was interesting insight because the two men were north of 40. It appears that ginger hair never becomes unfunny to some people.

I have, as you can see, red hair. I have done since I was born and I’m praying I will until I die because my head is a weird shape that won’t look good bald.

Having red hair has always marked me out – I’m the only one of my siblings with a carrot top – but I’m not sure how much it has impacted who I am.

Granted, I have a decent amount of memories related to my hair – the Japanese tourists taking pictures of me as a child near Christchurch or a group of kids chanting “Hossie, Hossie, Hossie’s on fire” on the way back from a school tour – but being the highlight of a family from Osaka’s trip to early 90s Ireland would stick out in anyone’s head.

Red alert

On occasion, the issue of red-heads comes up in the media, where commentators will po-facedly suggest that redheads need to be protected from the sharper words of those who find hair an amusement.

As the most ginger person in the office, my opinion is often asked on the matter and the truth is: I don’t have one.

join The good and the bad of gingerdom: wrestler Sheamus (l) and Simply Red's Mick Hucknall Source: PA

Having red hair is a physical trait over which I have zero control and which doesn’t imbue me with special powers, aside from the ability to get sunburned on a cloudy day.

I don’t feel a kinship with ginger people any stronger than I do with white people or people with glasses. Did some kids target my hair when I was young? Absolutely, but one of the biggest bullies in my area was also a red-head. Do people make tired jokes about redheads? Yeah, but they do the same about blondes, Kerrymen and northsiders.

This isn’t to be a rallying cry for copper-tops, a clarion call for gingers. I’m not here to tell anyone that being ginger doesn’t mean you’re not the same, because it never made me feel any different.

So, when I see well-meaning columnists asking if the term ginger is offensive or if there is actual discrimination against redheads, I cringe. Comparing a few jokes or childhood bullying to the real struggles of the world shows not only how far the world has gone in search of something to be offended by, it makes the author look silly.

You can’t protect people’s physical differences from those who find fun in trying to make others feel bad about them. You can’t point out to the bus full of 14-year-olds that chanting “Ginger! Back in your biscuit tin!” at me while I’m driving is juvenile, because they are juveniles.

You can’t stop the people who equate every ginger person in the world – I have been told I look like Ed Sheeran (fair enough this was at an Ed Sheeran gig), Ron Weasley (I am far more like Bill), Mick Hucknall (this one grates because fuck Simply Red) and Prince Harry (my girlfriend wishes) – because they’re dumb people with a limited world view.

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Conventional wisdom

This weekend, thousands of redheads will gather in Crosshaven in Cork for the annual Redhead Convention. There’s a music festival called “Foxygen”, a redist beard competition and ginger speed dating, among other things.

The convention is the perfect answer to those who still find ginger hair funny. It’s not a crusade, it’s not an equality march, it’s a party. And some ginger people are a lot of fun. And some aren’t.

Being ginger is a hair colour, not a prescriptive experience.

So don’t make ginger jokes because they’re tired, worn out and a bit shit, not because you fear trampling someone’s human rights.

Except Mick Hucknall. Call him whatever you want.

Paul Hosford is a journalist here at TheJournal.ie. His favourite ginger people include: Bonnie Raitt, Mark Twain and the wrestler Sheamus.

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