What’s up, Red Lightning?

This post is going to be my own ruminations on the bizarre compulsion so many (often not even “real”) red-heads have regarding self-congratulatory self-identification and self-promotion. If this is going to bother you, don’t read it. Further, I am starting this post with three clear caveats:

1. One of my cousins is a redhead. She is a six-foot, willowy stunner with gorgeous skin, radiant hazel eyes, and truly red hair. I have known her since she was born and I have never, ever, even once, heard her self-identify by her hair color, or really even give two shits about it. She doesn’t need to. It is clear she is amazing.

2. This is not a new curiosity of mine, but there is some current personal relevance.

3. As it is bound to come up, I was born a complete toe-head. Bright blonde hair in a sea of brunettes. I have never, ever, even once, uttered the phrase “Blondes have more fun.” My hair eventually got darker (insert joke about my personality/sense of humor here, if necessary) and then began to grey and I do color it now. I have dyed my hair a variety of colors from dark brown to light blonde, but never red. I still do not self-identify in any way by my own hair color, natural or not. I may have more fun, but I can assure you it has nothing to do with my hair color.

That said, what the hell is the deal with red heads constantly having to self-promote? Like, did you think we did not notice your hair color? Seriously?

I never really though much about red hair as a characteristic beyond short, tall, skinny, fat, light, dark… it was just another of the myriad varieties of humanity. [I did take note when Paris Hilton started calling Lindsay Lohan “Fire Crotch”, and admit somewhat sheepishly, it made me laugh. But, I mean, Lindsay Lohan! Come on!] Then, one day in 2006 I was reading the South China Morning Post and there was a little tidbit about Wayne Rooney talking about how gingers (pronounced with two hard Gs in certain British vernacular varieties) were facing what amounted to racial discrimination simply for being… well, ginger. I had to laugh a bit not just because it was the SCMP – a notoriously crap paper, but because, really? Was this serious? Was one of the most well-paid English soccer stars complaining about discrimination based on his hair color? (There are so many other more rational things to tease Rooney about after all, and in an interesting twist, he is now nearly bald anyhow…) But really, discrimination cases based on hair color insults? Could this be serious?

I thought back to all of the offensive (really, really offensive in many cases) jokes I had endured about blondes. Interestingly, I am unable to find a single lawsuit on behalf of a maligned blonde person, and those jokes could effectively be used in numerous sexual harrassment cases. What was the difference? The first obvious difference is that the blonde jokes are only ever aimed at women, so I suppose that makes them more acceptable. Or something. The “ginger-vitis” phenomenon seems to have more gravitas because men are equally – I would say actually substantially more – put upon for being red-headed.

So, is the hair color discrimination thing, just an extension of sexism? And would this explain the need of red heads to self-identify with their hair color in what another one of my cousins (a brunette) says must surely be a deep insecurity?

Hard to say. But, from my empirical experience, I have never heard a red-headed man talk about how he is so amazing because of his red-headedness. On the other hand, red-headed women, save for my cousin and some very dear friends (hello Phoebe, Rose and Nancy C.), I am constantly hearing red-headed women talk about how “sexy”, “feisty”, “hot”, “unique”, “special”, “blahblahblahblah…….” they are by virtue of their hair color. [There is interesting history behind the association with sex and hair color, which is not something I want to get into, briefly introduced here.]

The whole thing has me looking in with some degree of curiosity for several reasons. I certainly have seen the trend in bottled red heads with the popularity of Mad Men, Emma Stone, and Julianne Moore. It is the hipster chick color du jour, to be sure. And living in the Mission, I would know. So there is that.

Secondly, as a general rule, I find discrimination appalling, particularly when it seems arbitrarily placed, as hair color discrimination would obviously be. [It brings to mind the discrimination activity we used to do in school where we discriminate against the blue-eyed folks to demonstrate the ludicrous nature of discrimination based on such characteristics.] Therefore, I am uncomfortable with having a general distaste for redheads on that basis.

Lastly, there is the Remora Fish who calls herself Red Lightning. Really. Awkward, isn’t it? So, the ex-girlfriend has resorted to relying on her hair color to distinguish herself. I imagine if she looked at it in a more objective context, even she would be embarrassed, but my question is, really… why would you do that in the first place? 

I leave the question open-ended because you can be sure I have no answer, though the Google certainly has its share. I kind of like this take on it. It is like the author says: “I’ve always used my beautifully fake, bright hair as a way to stand out, and wrapped inside that was a fear of not being seen.” 

So, really it is no surprise that the redheads I am close to feel no need to talk about their hair, they all stand out on their own for being the people they are. Maybe that is the answer… those who talk about their hair color, whatever the color, have not got much else to offer. Looking at it that way, I suppose those folks who need to self-promote on hair color should.

I mean, I’d hate to take away the only thing you’ve got left, Red Lightning.

About Amanda

I am repatriating expatriate trying to work it all out. Well, to work some of it out anyhow. I am writing here for sanity, focus and general over-sharing.
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