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Strategies to Counteract Prejudice Against Ginger People

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An investigation into whether a Zine can promote a positive message counteracting ginger prejudice

For my EPQ, I have created a Zine to promote a positive message about redheaded people, as I believe that abusing people for their hair colour is not and should not be an acceptable form of prejudice.  The majority of my project contains primary research, this has been formed from my own and others’ personal experiences.  Moreover, I used a variety of websites to gather information, however there were not many scholarly articles or books written for my topic, therefore I needed to consider the level of bias in publications that I researched. Furthermore, all the work I researched argued in favour of not accepting ginger prejudice, and there was no website that provided a counter argument arguing that gingerism should be accepted.  I was able to show that prejudice against redheads was a real issue in today’s society through my anecdotes in the articles for my publication.  I also highlighted gingerism in the media which influences the younger generation, my target audience’s, minds, again, showing how many people still believe in this negative stigma which surrounds ginger people.

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What drove me to write about gingerism was an article that I read from the online newspaper, The Mirror, about a young girl who was playing outside her house when a male in a car driving past shouted obscenities at the child because of her hair colour.   What I found shocking was that this event didn’t surprise me.  Last summer I was walking home and a similar event occured; a teenage boy leant out of his window, whilst his friend was driving, and shouted something at me.  The only part of the comment I heard was “ginge”.  I stopped listening as soon as he said this, because as a redhead, you become numb to this sort of language.   You shouldn’t have to though.  This idea of carrying on and ignoring the abuse ignited in me the idea of my Zine, as ginger prejudice should not be an acceptable form of prejudice.

Jake Wood, an actor, said in an interview on ‘Good Morning Britain’, that “bullying people because of the way they look shouldn’t be socially acceptable”.  Kate Garraway then went on to likening abusing people for their hair colour to racism, and how if we shouldn’t be racist, we should not be gingerist as the hatred is towards a characteristic that the victim cannot change, “If jokes about the subject are made as adults it somehow gives a sanction to kids to take the mickey out of red-headed people at school, in a way they wouldn’t about the colour of someone’s skin”.

Ginger prejudice is the only acceptable form of prejudice in the United Kingdom.  If people are physically or verbally attacked in the UK because of their hair colour, a hate crime will not be filed by the police.  With my publication, I will not be able to make national change.  I may be able to change some people’s opinions, which is what I hope to do.

I wrote six articles for my Zine; my main feature highlighted the positives of having red hair, as my whole project is meant to embrace the mutation of the MC1R gene, and therefore not dwell on the negative aspects of being ginger.  From my research I discovered the myths about redheaded people, and the real medical deficits of having the ‘ginger gene’.   The articles I wrote were directed by my research.  When I first started my project I knew that I wanted the main feature to be on the positive aspects of having red hair as the aim of my project is for the public to look at those with red hair in a positive light, not only that but to raise awareness of ginger prejudice.  I also wanted to acknowledge the counter argument of the negative side of having ginger hair, not just the verbal abuse, but physical abuse people have faced. In this article {the one at the beginning of my publication, ‘Gingerism’} I really honed in on specific cases of ginger prejudice and their outcomes.  Following on from this, my other articles were prompted from my research into my topic.  The medical deficits article, came from the first website I visited, where it presented the fact that “gingers also feel pain and respond to painkilling agents differently than their blonde and brunette counterparts’ ‘.  I thought this was fiction rather than fact, however after further research I discovered that redheads do have a lower tolerance for pain than people with other hair colours.  These facts then led me on to research further unknown medical deficits that ginger people face.

Initially, I did not set out to write about redheads in the media, because I did not believe that some celebrities would promote, as such, gingerism.  Through my research I discovered that many media stars and people in the public eye have openly made negative and stereotypical comments about people having ginger hair, like Katie Hopkins and Robbie Williams.  Thus, to counteract this negativity, I created my Zine to promote a positive image of redheads.  Although only on a small scale, compared to the large media coverage these stars get, I believe that my Zine will be able to change a minority opinion, which could then, hopefully, lead to a majority reform.  Moreover, one of my aims was to raise awareness of ginger prejudice in society, and this article highlighted gingerism in the media, promoted by celebrities.

My tone of writing was similar to that of an ‘agony aunt’ column in a magazine.  My target audience was sixteen to eighteen year olds, so I believed, being a similar age, that my readers would benefit more from a conversational tone as they would not like to feel as if they were being lectured and made to feel guilty if they have made gingerist comments.   Additionally, my target audience, when I gave them the first draft of my project, said that they liked my style of writing as it was “engaging” and “worked well with the purpose of my project”.   I took inspiration for my tone of writing from the websites and articles that I read, as I found their conversational tone was extremely engaging.  In addition, I read magazines like “Hello!” and “OK” as their tone is similar to an agony aunt style, which is amusing and interesting for people aged sixteen to eighteen.   Whereas, publications like “Vogue” and articles that use complex language are not enticing for people of my age group.

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I researched two different photographers and artists, and used their work as a stimulus for my own photographs, which I took myself.   The first artist I researched was Gilean Wearing and her work entitled “Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say”, which she created in 1992-93.  Her work, similar to Ruddy Roye’s, is extremely thought provoking.  For my project I intend to, or at least hope to change the minds of the readers of my publication, on people with red hair.  Furthermore, I want my Zine to provide a new positive light for the public to view redheads in.  Wearing’s intentions were similar to this, she aimed for her work to allow strangers to express their inner emotions; Wearing’s “series examines the relationship between public image and private identity”, this is what I found particularly interesting about Wearing’s work.  This is because in our society people make assumptions on others due to their appearance, for example ‘ginger people are hot-headed’, but no one takes into consideration, the type of person they truly are.  Therefore I used Gilean Wearing’s work as inspiration for my own; I asked the models to write down their favourite name they have ever been called for being ginger and then to write “is it really such a bad thing” on a piece of cardboard, like Wearing did.   I used this quotation because I want to promote the idea that having red hair isn’t ‘such a bad thing’!

I also used Ruddy Roye’s work as inspiration for my own images.  When I clicked on Roye’s website, I was met with single images, that were on rotation, of black people in many different situations.  The images made me question the backstory of all of these people that I was seeing.  The one that particularly caught my eye was an image of a child whose face was pushed up against glass that had been broken, as the image invoked so many thoughts and emotions; I could not help but feel great empathy for the child.  I also loved Roye’s use of colour in his photos, and the pigmentation of the yellow suit against the dull background, inspired me to think of the location of my photos, as I aim to have the main focus of my images as the models hair colour, not the surroundings, which Roye captured as with most of his images, your eyes do not wander, you are completely captured by the person/people in the picture.   Roye wished “that every image I photograph reexamines and redefines the image of the black man, the black woman, and the black child. My photography is first and foremost a catalyst or reason to motive human action. Every picture I take asks the questions, “Who am I and what is my role here on this earth?” It is my way of seeing. It is my way of saying this is another way of seeing me.”.  I thought that this idea of provoking human action, and that the pictures are “another way of seeing me”, were incredible motives.  Thus, I used Roye’s work as inspiration for my own project as I would like my readers to go away with a more positive view of red headed people, and view ginger people in a more positive light, instead of as hot heads!

The most important question I believe is whether my project has been and will be successful.  I hope that my publication will go on to inspire others to embrace their natural hair colour, or those with red hair.  If I can fulfil my aim, even with only one person, I would have been successful with my project.  My feedback from those within my target audience suggests that my project had a positive effect on them and the publication was thoroughly engaging.  Therefore, I hope that my Zine creates change within people, and personally, I would have been successful with my project if even one person changes their mind on redheads.

Bibliography

  • Ailes, E. (2013). Seeing red: Does ‘gingerism’ really exist?. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-23648041 [Accessed 10 Sep. 2019].
  • Chearúil, E. (2017). 8 Historical Facts about Redheads and Witchcraft – Redhead Halloween. [online] How to be a Redhead. Available at: https://howtobearedhead.com/8-historical-facts-about-redheads-and-witchcr [Accessed 4 Oct. 2019].
  • Grant, R. (2015). ‘Gingerism’ hate crime incidents revealed by police. [online] mirror. Available at: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/gingerism-hate-crime-incidents-revealed-6200149 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2019].
  • Lafuente, C. (2018). The truth about redheads. [online] TheList.com. Available at: https://www.thelist.com/129859/the-truth-about-redheads/ [Accessed 10 Sep. 2019].
  • Milton, N. (2016). I too have ginger hair. Abusing us is not acceptable prejudice | Nicholas Milton. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/10/ginger-hair-edward-watson-gingerism [Accessed 17 Sep. 2019].
  • Quinn, A. (2019). Eastenders’ Max Branning actor appears on Good Morning Britain to defend bullying of people with ginger hair. [online] MyLondon. Available at: https://www.mylondon.news/whats-on/whats-on-news/eastenders-max-branning-jake-wood-16666670 [Accessed 30 Oct. 2019].

 



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