There’s a simple way for redheads to combat ‘gingerism’

Having had the good fortune to wed a Scottish fellow who looks like a kindly Viking, I rather hoped our children would have red hair. How lovely it would be to nurture and perpetuate this rare and precious recessive gene, I thought.

Then my friend admitted that when she walked down the street with her two little boys, their coppery heads glinting in the sunshine, cars would pull up and windows wound down so the occupants could yell: “Oi, gingers!”

It didn’t put me off – although, in the end, neither of my daughters resembles Princess Merida of DunBroch, the heroine from Pixar’s Brave.

According to Chrissy Meleady, CEO at at Equalities and Human Rights UK, children with red hair need protection against “gingerism”.

“Bullying red-haired people is one of the last socially accepted forms of prejudice against people for a trait they were born with,” she says, emphasising that belittling, demeaning and abusing children over their appearance was “not just harmless banter”.

Too right. But might I suggest anyone so egregiously unpleasant as to belittle or abuse a child will find an excuse regardless of hair colour?

My husband never thought of himself as different until he went to boarding school in Yorkshire, where he was immediately approached by three boys who all had red hair and who announced: “You’re ginger, so you’re one of us now.”

I’d like to recount how the fiery four (my epithet, not theirs) took down the school bullies, solved mysteries and were rewarded with George Crosses and lashings of (what else?) ginger beer. But, disappointingly, that is the whole anecdote in its entirety, with just one coda.

“If someone called you ‘Carrots’, you just called them ‘Spotty’ or ‘an English git’,” my spouse adds, helpfully. “You’ll always find ammunition.”

Quite so. I’m not sure any of that ought to be enshrined in school policy – but, on the other hand, having a robust verbal defence system in the playground does build resilience.

On the subject of ammunition, however, my other half is on the money; social media in particular can be a hostile place, where any physical attribute can be weaponised.

We need to promote decency and respect across the board, not according to a hair care colour chart.

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