When you type “redhead” into Google, two of the suggested autocompletes are “redhead jokes” and “redhead hunting.” My fellow redheads and I have always been the butt of jokes, but who’s hunting us? Do I need to buy pepper spray to ward off people attacking me for my hair?
I’ve been getting “gingers have no souls” comments for years: Despite having outlived its humor, the phrase seems to have permanently entered the lexicon. (Thanks, South Park.) I’ve had redhead fetishists creep up to me on trains and ask me questions. I’ve had friends ask me, or my boyfriend, if the curtain matches the drapes, as if that’s a normal thing to ask someone. As a kid I was teasingly nicknamed “Big Red,” because I was so scrawny and, well, redheaded.
All of this I can tolerate. All of this is the redhead’s due. But what I cannot tolerate is the idea that redheads aren’t genetically attractive, which is now apparently such a burden on humanity that we need scientists to explore why, exactly, everyone hates gingers so much. For a recent study, researchers had male and female participants wear different colored wigs to a nightclub and record how many times they were approached. They found men in redheaded wigs fared the worst, and blonde women the best. Scientists have suggested that having red hair, the result of a recessive gene, indicates one’s genetic background is less mixed than others, something we’re evolutionarily biased against.
To this I say: Science is dumb. Sure, tall, dark, and ginger doesn’t quite have the ring of tall, dark, and handsome, but Thomas Knights’ “Red Hot” photography series does away with any notion that redheaded guys (and redheads in general) aren’t sexy. I get infinitely more compliments on my hair than any other feature. Random women on the street and in stores compliment me on my hair all the time, and are usually surprised to find the color is natural. “I would kill for that color,” they tell me. Hairdressers warn me not to dye it, because I’ll never get this color back. Dudes unequivocally love my hair and, when I was single, “It’s the hair” became a running joke to explain whenever a guy developed a crush on me. Samson-like, my hair gives me power. Without it, I’m just another white girl living in Brooklyn, but with it, I am something rarer: not less beautiful because of my red hair, but more. With a different hair color, I’d be a little plainer, a little more ordinary, a little bit more like everyone else. Why would I choose that, unless I had to pull a Bonnie and Clyde and go on the run?
It’s even more strange that everyone thinks redheads aren’t attractive when we are surrounded by hot celebrity redheads: Mean Girls-era Lindsay Lohan, Amy Adams, Rose Leslie, Ewan McGregor, Lily Cole, Isla Fisher, Christina Hendricks, Prince Harry, Julianne Moore, Paul Bettany. Hollywood, not known for being particularly accepting of diversity, has welcomed these gingers with open arms. Some stars, like Emma Stone, only saw their careers begin to ascend after going red. There’s something to be said for not being just another blonde girl in LA.
There’s a disconnect between how redheads are mocked in the media and how people actually react to my actual hair. I get a lot of jokes about being a daywalker, but no one has ever told me that my hair was unattractive, or that they found me unattractive because of my hair. Maybe this is some screwed up form of politeness, and a redhead joke sent my way means they think my hair is ugly. I doubt that, though, based on the significant evidence I have that points towards people finding my hair attractive.
Odds are, whoever is joking isn’t very imaginative. Red hair makes for an easy and socially acceptable target, as redheads make up only one percent of the population, after all, and humans are always deeply suspicious of anything or anyone that is different from them. When someone tells me gingers have no soul, they aren’t telling me I don’t have a soul. They’re just not very funny. And maybe jealous.
Image via Veer