I grew up knowing I was different. This led to feelings of alienation. I heard names, stereotyping, taunting chants in the schoolyard.
I belong—I realize this is a sensitive topic—to an oppressed minority: we who have red hair, who are called carrot top, copperhead, Woody Woodpecker.
Few groups have been treated with so little understanding. We’re accused of being hot-tempered—and, boy, does that make me mad!!
Also, wildly lecherous. I won’t comment, since we’re also said to be untrustworthy and devious. . . .
Who was I supposed to identify with—the villains in Charles Dickens’ novels? Bozo the Clown?
In England, the red-haired are victims of violence; they even have a name for it: “ginger-bashing.”
According to my extensive and paranoid research, this prejudice stems from the Vikings, who spread red hair wherever they pillaged—Florence in Italy, Russia, Scotland, and certain bars on the Upper East Side.
No other group is singled out this way except, of course, blondes—who are often accused of having more fun.
You may think I’m looking for sympathy, but no: along this difficult journey, I have found there’s a positive side. There are those who find red hair very attractive, sometimes to the point of obsession—or, in fact, perversion—but, hey, you take what you can get.
There’s even a loving term for a specific region of body hair: “fire bush.” If you need a definition, we can show you.
Despite centuries of vilification, we of the fiery fraternity are gracious and welcoming. All you need to join our colorful cadre—Vincent van Gogh, Sarah Bernhardt, Henry VIII, and the current Prince Harry—can be found at the drugstore or your hairdresser.
So stand with me in expressing ginger pride.
You won’t be sorry—you know what they say about us.
Story Slam video – from the 2014 Woodstock Writers Festival – inside, at the bottom: